Costa Rica, Otra Vez
Just about six years ago now, I took a leap, left my life as I knew it, and flew out of Chicago for a world trip that would end up being fifteen months of straight travel. My very first country on my journey was Costa Rica. Why Costa Rica? Well, for one, I’d heard wonderful things about it from others that I knew had traveled there. Secondly, it seemed like an ‘easy’ entry-point to world travels and wasn’t to intimidating, and lastly, it was simply geographically inline with the route of my trip (to head south during our winter).
I had decided to also kick it all off with a week of Spanish Immersion and a homestay with a local family. This way, I figured, I’d have some structure to the very first part of my trip – forcing myself to be busy and not have too much idle time during which I might freak out about what exactly I was doing traveling the world by myself for one year. I had some small ‘freak outs’ anyway, but already having a daily routine, kept them at bay.
This time around, I was on a small, group trip which was organized and led by my new friend and fellow Chicagoan, Ann Becker. Ann’s trips are small and personal, as every activity and location has been hand picked and vetted by Ann herself. Leading these trips is so much more than a business to Ann, it’s her passion and pride to help others learn and discover much more about the culture, and even more so, the people of Costa Rica. In fact, it was also as if some of the other travelers on my trip had been handpicked by Ann herself. And in some ways they were. A lot of Ann’s passengers come by way of word of mouth. They are friends or friends of friends and so on and it makes for a very mixed and interesting group of people – something I have come to learn in all my travels, can make or break a group tour. Just like travel itself, it’s all about the people and a good guide and good fellow travelers can create great memories and new friendships. To put it in perspective our group consisted of an astrophysicist, a national expert on financial services for the under banked community, a professor of child development, an ecologist and expert in 16th century English Literature, and a consultant in sustainable development…and then there was me, a TV producer turned world-traveling blogger. Which one of these ‘things’ does not belong? 😉
Spanish Immersion 2.0
Let’s just say my first immersion program back in 2006 was like high school…and this one was more like graduate school and by that I mean the general attitudes and attention to each student. Gaby Cerate founded Personalized Spanish more than a decade ago. She’s been teaching Spanish for more than 20 years and wanted to open a smaller ‘boutique’ school that could really provide the attention each student needed. I personally loved the small class sizes (no more than 3 students), but more than that, I really appreciated how they assessed your skills before you arrived and placed you with students at your level. We didn’t waste time reviewing things we already knew. In the ‘other’ school I attended six years ago, I was ‘stuck’ in class with a beginner, so it was really nothing more than a refresher for me. Here, we were challenged to talk about interesting topics like politics or the environment in Spanish. I loved it. And, most importantly, I loved the teachers. You can tell that Gaby’s attitude and the overall feeling she creates here trickles down to the entire staff. They seemed to love their jobs and really cared. It was amazing how close we all became in just a few days. They really succeed at creating a warm, familial atmosphere.
Personalized Spanish Offers:
- Group (3 people max), semi-private, or private lessons
- Classes for all ages
- Homestays in an upscale neighborhood of professionals
- Cultural Activities such as San Jose Tours, cooking classes, music, and other cultural presentations
- Free snacks (amazingly fresh local fruits every day)!
- Free Airport pickup (nice to not have to worry about this!)
A week-long session starts at just $367 and there are new classes beginning every Monday.
Disclosure: I was hosted by Ann Becker and Personalized Spanish, but as always, all writing and opinions are my own.