Spanish Immersion Program in Costa Rica

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About

Our Spanish Immersion Program is perfect for serious students who want progress quickly, experience authentic Costa Rica off the beaten path, and make a difference in the local community. We offer intensive Spanish courses with highly-trained teachers, homestays with local families, cultural activities, bilingual events, volunteer opportunities, and more!

In one week, students are able to advance one level and speak with fluency, accuracy, and confidence. The immersion program is available year-round, starting each Monday and ending the following Friday. Students can sign up for one week minimum. There are 15 courses in our program from beginner to advanced, and each course has grammar focuses, conversational themes, TPRS storytelling, and Survival Spanish chapters.

We also offer private Spanish classes at our school in downtown Liberia, on Skype, or in a private home at a beach in the Peninsula Papagayo. Our classes are fun, interactive, and conversational.

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Reviews

9.98 Rating
based on 41 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
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  • Academics 9.9
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Housing 9.9
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 8 of 41
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Dan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Exceptional Program

The class, program and teachers have been exceptionaly helpful, especialy helpful when I was having problems with the study. Gabriela was and is an exceptional instructor. The staffs help with self trips was again excellent. My experience was beyond my expectations. Everyone has been very helpful. The facilities and staff are exceptional and provide every need that I might have had this first week. Andrea Zunigo and her familly were wonderful. The class with Merlyn was my favorita. The discussions were very helpful for my understanding of how to use the language. Having a classmate to engage with in these talks was also most helpful. Merlyn was so great at facilitating the talks while correcting us on the fly. Very, very helpful! The intercambio practice was great. Wish I had done it sooner. Andrea and her familly were, are wonderful to stay and interact with.

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Lucas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Excelente experiencia!

Mi profesora era muy buena e inteligente. Creo que ella me enseno mucho. La clase fue excelente! Todas las actividades eran divertidas y útiles. Los viajes y las actividades eran buenos - especialmente Club A. El personel del Estelar fue muy excelente. Mi familia fue excelente también: doña Iris era muy amable y la comida era suficiente y muy rica.

Beyond my expectations; I'll tell everyone I know how great it is! My teacher is completely amazing...fantastic modeling and gestures. She shows passion in her lessons and compassion with her students.

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Corey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great place to learn Spanish in an authentic way!

Overall, I had a really great 4-week immersion experience here at IEB. I will recommend this place to friends, family, and students hoping to learn Spanish in an authentic way. I had a really great time with profesora Gabriela. One day, the class went from two students to one student, and Gabriela made changes accordingly to ensure that I received the support I needed. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time in this class. I had a great experience learning with profesora Nelly too and appreciate how patient she is with us. Grevin es un buen maestro también! Quiero la manera que Grevin enseña!

At first, I didn't participate in any extra curricular activities, but I fully appreciated that there was a schedule for us. My last week I participated in the intercambio, and it was excellent. Everything has been well organized and the experiences are fantastic. I appreciate the communication which has been quick, consistent, and persistent. Me gusto el viaje a la finca Tree Chocolate.

I am so sad that I have to leave Doña Digna this weekend! She is the best! I had such a wonderful experience with her and her family. I´m thankful to be placed there and to have her full support of my bad Spanish. We´ve had wonderful conversations and experiences thus far and I hope to continue. She is truly an excellent person, hospitable, and kind. I am gracious to have been placed at her house and hope that others will have the experience I had.

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Amy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful 1st time Spanish Immersion experience for our 10 and 12 yrs old children!

Extremely High Quality of Spanish Classes, customization of interactive, instructional courses, organization of homestay, organization of extracurricular activities inside and outside of the school, excellent direct communication from Director/Owner Bethany Kirk - The setting is perfect for one who truly wants to learn and immerse themselves within a Spanish speaking environment! The location of the institute is next to a couple bakeries and we felt safe walking to and from the school. My husband and I "hung" out in the lobby while they kids were in their classes. We enjoyed the excursion to the waterfalls on one the days after class. It is a hot climate, so one should be prepared to pack light and airy clothes. WE didn't find that air conditioners were common in the homes and places within the country. We adapted quickly enough to not let the heat and lack of "refreshing" air to get in the way of our adventure!!

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Bob
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great place for Spanish Immersion

This review is based on a two-week homestay / Spanish course experience in February 2019, taken by a married couple. The Institute has 15 class levels (Beginner 1-5, Intermediate 1-5, and Advanced 1-5). Each unit lasts one week. We enrolled in Beginner 2&3 and Advanced 2&3, respectively. Classes are assigned based on performance on an on-line written test and a web-based video interview in Spanish. We found our placements to be appropriate, neither too basic nor impossibly advanced. Class is four hours per day, five days a week. Anticipate 1-3 hours per day of homework, excluding Fridays. All of our classes were in the mornings. Afternoons and weekends were free time for outings and individual exploration. (There are afternoon classes, but we had none.)

The instructors were uniformly excellent. They were dynamic and focused on teaching us Spanish. Each four hour class typically begins with free discussion at the student’s level. The focus of these discussions is to build confidence in speaking in Spanish. Errors are gently corrected, but the emphasis is on keeping the conversation moving. After the discussion, workbook-based didactic sessions are interspersed with games or videos. The pace is rapid and the courses are demanding, but the instructors did a great job of maintaining a fun, energetic mood in the class. Both of us are in our 50s. We aren’t kids, to be entertained by silly games: the games are sometimes indeed silly, but the intent is serious. We found them helpful both in reinforcing the material being taught and in keeping our attention focused.

The homestay was wonderful. The couple in whose home we stayed, Iris and Johnnie, were just lovely. They made us feel welcome and worked us into the fabric of the life of their extended family. They provided plenty of opportunity to speak in Spanish and were patient with our stumbling abilities. They went out of their way to make sure we had a pleasant stay, giving us advice about how to travel safely on our various journeys and making sure that the --wonderful-- food stayed within our dietary restrictions. (One of us cannot eat preserved food or certain cheeses. Iris did a better job of remembering that restriction than we did.)

Food in Costa Rica is not particularly inexpensive, though of course breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of the homestay. A cheap lunch in a local “Soda”, an open-front café kind of place, runs about $7.50. Sit-down restaurants tended to be much more expensive. Transportation, on the other hand, is quite cheap. The bus to the local beach costs about $2.00. A taxi ride of 3/4 mile or so is about $1.25. Hiring a car and driver for three people to go on an all-day guided beach tour was $150. The driver, Diego, was fantastic, knowledgeable and talkative, happy to give informal Spanish tutoring while filling us in on local history, culture, and economy.

The staff at the Institute is friendly and helpful.

We went during the dry season. It was hot, with lows at night in the 80s and highs mainly in the 90s, sometimes pushing 100. It was not terribly humid, but it wasn’t dry heat. The closest beach is about 20 miles away, a little more than an hour by public bus, about 45 minutes by car or taxi. The Institute was happy to help us arrange travel. The beaches are stunning. Some of them offer opportunities to snorkel. The Institute organizes trips to local rivers and the rain forest, for an additional fee. One of the weaknesses when we were there was that participation in those structured trips was not high among the other students. That was one of the few criticisms we had.

Other structured activities include “Intercambio” during which students taking English and students taking Spanish talk one-on-one or in small groups, alternating 50-50 between the two languages, 30 minutes in Spanish, 30 minutes in English. That activity was a good opportunity to practice Spanish, do a little English teaching, and get different perspectives on Costa Rican (and Nicaraguan) culture and daily life. The Institute maintains an active English program, for students of all ages. Those classes are mainly taught by young native English speakers working on 9-or-more-month contracts. It was interesting to meet those instructors as well.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay tremendously and learned quite a bit of Spanish. We would both go back again, and in fact may do so.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be prepared to work hard in the classes and have more homework than you thought you might. Enjoy the program and Liberia!
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David
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Way to Learn Spanish

My wife and I came to Instituto Estelar to jumpstart our ability to read, write, and converse in Spanish. We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The course of study is intense, but the staff makes it fun and is very encouraging. It’s good to have the program in Liberia, which is not very touristy, meaning that you hear Spanish most of the time even when you’re not in school. We also stayed with a very nice local woman who spoke no English. That made for a total immersion experience. The locals are friendly and helpful, so if your Spanish isn’t good enough to communicate they’ll try hard to understand you.

We studied at Instituto Estelar for three weeks. Beforehand our Spanish was rudimentary. Afterward I was able to have extended conversations with locals in other parts of Costa Rica. Amazing. Many thanks to the staff at Instituto Estelar, without whom that wouldn’t have been possible.

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JL
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Expectations surpassed!

I didn't really know what to expect when signing up for this program, but it has surpassed all expextations. The school's location is great, the program provides a lot of opportunities to connect to Costa Rican culture and the people within it, and most importantly it offers a great environment to learn spanish! My teacher Merlyn has been wonderful. She is so nice and approachable and always keeps thing fun and easy going. She only speaks in Spanish which in the first few days was a bit overwhelming but it forces you to to use what you know to figure it out, so I wouldnt really change that. The only time I would recommend a little English used is when assigning homework just so everyone is clear as to what is expected to be completed to the next days class. All in all very flexible and accomodating. Cooking class was fun and I liked that a traditional Costa Rican dish was made! The volunteering after class sounded very cool, and I would like to try it in the future. The staff is always friendly and helpful, and the institute is always in a very clean condition. Bethany has been extremly helpful, both before and after arriving! I took two weeks of Spanish immersion and really advanced in my Spanish abilities.

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Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Loved the structure of the classes

I thoroughly enjoyed the class at Instituto Estelar Bilingue. I just took a week of the immersion program, but I learned a lot! I loved the structure in which the class was given, and the pace. Have taken several language courses abroad and, so far, this has been the best. Caroly, la profesora, esta muy simpatico. She was patient and kind! The class was fun and very effective...gave me some good ideas for practicing. She answered numerous questions...
Me encanta patacones, which we made in cooking class.... y Club A. The kids are so great! I know that had I taken the class during the busy season, there would have been more to do. Enjoyed Iris and her family very much....our conversations in the morning, her lovely granddaughter, Sophia, her children....y su perro - todos!