I have studied Spanish at four different language schools in Central America, but for only one week each during my spring break. I have had a variety of language learning experiences. I was looking for a Spanish language immersion experience in Costa Rica and found Nosara Spanish Institute.
This January and February I studied Spanish for a month at Nosara Spanish Institute. Nosara Spanish Institute is located in Guiones where most tourists are surfers and yogis and speak English so that is the language you hear in the streets. During that time, I had two different teachers for two weeks each with distinctly different teaching styles. Ana carefully planned each lesson integrating listening, speaking, reading and writing activities at the group's level. I appreciated her attention to detail and explicit explanations.
The school provided a variety of cultural activities in the evenings and on weekends. Sometimes transportation was provided at a cost. Other times the students needed to figure out their own transportation.
Volunteer activities were limited. I had emailed the directors before coming to Costa Rica to set up a volunteer experience prior to my visit, but I was encouraged to wait until I arrived. After my first week, I emailed the directors again looking for volunteer opportunities. They sent me two names, and I started working with one of the nonprofits teaching English in the evenings in Nosara which is a 20 minute ride in a tuktuk on a very dusty road. The cost is about $10US round trip. Even though I was teaching English, I was also learning Spanish from my students. This volunteer experience was one of the highlights of my trip.
Accommodations in a Spanish immersion setting are limited here. There is a group homestay about 20 minutes walking from the school. While I was at the Institute, the students that stayed there spoke English together because most were at a beginning level. While the host prepared delicious meals, the family did not join the group to enjoy them. Consequently, little Spanish was spoken there. One fellow female student had a homestay in a fishing village and had a great immersion experience, but had to hitchhike to and from Guiones to the Spanish Institute each day. Hitchhiking can be a risky form of transportation especially for women.
Nosara Spanish Institute is located in a beautiful beach setting, and the teachers work hard to provide a good language learning experience. The directors need to find ways for the students to be more immersed in the Spanish language through volunteer opportunities and home stays. Providing transportation options for students would be a start.