Alumni Spotlight: Leila Ginsberg


Leila is barista in Chicago, currently working on her application for graduate school, where she plans to study social work.

Why did you pick this program?

I picked the Tico Lingo program because I was very serious about learning Spanish and thought it would give me an edge on my graduate school applications. I didn't want to study in a beach town for fear that the surrounding environment would distract me from my studies, but I wanted to be close enough to the coast and other tourist attractions to enjoy my time off in Costa Rica. Located in Heredia, north of San Jose, Tico Lingo was the perfect option for me. The area wasn't touristy and my homestay family spoke very little English, which provided immense opportunities for practicing my burgeoning Spanish language skills.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Do it! Travel has always been a rewarding experience for me. I find that I grow the most when I push myself outside my comfort zone. Costa Rica was definitely outside my comfort zone. I learned to adapt, and best of all I learned the language (I'm conversational) with tons of help from Tico Lingo and my homestay family.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open to new experiences and relax. Take it day by day. Learning a new language can be a frustrating experience. You need to trust in yourself and you need to exercise patience. The language skills will come, I can attest to that. Immersion is the absolute best way to learn a new language.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Every chance I got I would visit a big market in Heredia to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, plus my favorite coconut water straight from the coconut. And every time I went I would stop at my homestay mother's stand and chat with her as best I could. It was so rewarding that as the days and weeks went by, these conversations were easier and easier to have. She was so patient with me, too. I am so grateful to her, her family and to Tico Lingo for giving me this opportunity and providing such a wonderful experience.

Leila's Safety Suggestions for Costa Rica:

Costa Rica is a safe country, but you should exercise caution, especially when traveling alone. Be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables, like your phone, out of sight as much as possible when in public.