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One school, many cultures, and two unique locations

Published on Thursday, March 23, 2017

It has already been a month since I have started my adventure in Costa Rica. After a long flight with a stopover at Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen (Panamá), where I had already been able to get used to the somewhat higher ambient temperatures, I arrived at Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, Costa Rica. There, a friendly smiling lady holding a name sign, was awaiting me. This lady was my host mum, named Xinia. After a pleasant first encounter she drove me to her house in Heredia. During the ride she told me about her life in Heredia, her two daughters, her help at home Patricia, and her beloved dog Tony.

During my first week in Heredia, I started off every day with a delicious breakfast with my mamá Tica Xinia, after which I'd go to the school to start my four hours a day classes. The classes were always well organised and entertaining. The teachers at Intercultura make use of many alternate teaching methods such as showing video clips, museums visits, and analysing the lyrics of well-known Latin American songs. Classes are generally small and never bigger than five. After classes, I usually stayed at the school to have lunch with other students or to do my homework. In the afternoon I usually spent time with other students in el Parque Los Ángeles or visited the sights of Heredia.

On Wednesday, I joined a day tour organised by the school to 'Las Jardines Catarata de la Paz', a nature park with waterfalls, many animal species and nature. The road to the park was breathtaking. It's striking how after only a short drive uphill you can encounter a completely different landscape. Due to Heredia's favourable location in the Central Valley it's very easy to make day- and weekend trips.

I've really enjoyed my time with the host family in Heredia where I felt right at home. Every day I enjoyed delicious food and by spending much time with the family, I've been able to improve my Spanish a lot. After my first week in Heredia, I travelled to Sámara on Sunday; this was an approximately five hour lasting journey. The first thing I was confronted with upon arrival, was the warm climate in the province of Guanacaste. During my stay in Heredia the average temperature was about 25 degrees, while the temperatures in Sámara usually vary from 30 to 35 degrees. In addition, one is immediately confronted with the fact that Sámara is a serene, rural area with a small city centre, while Heredia is a big city with parks, a lot of shops, restaurants and heavy traffic.

Once I had arrived in Sámara, I and a few other future students walked to the school within five minutes, where we were picked up by our host families. In Sámara, I´m staying with a host family during eight weeks. It is a lovely family consisting of my mamá Tica Adoración, her son David and their dog Calí. They live in a house with a patio within three minutes walking distance from the school. Also in this family, I feel very much at home; I have a neat room with a mosquito net and a big fan. Adoración has a big family and knows a lot of people in Sámara, so there´s always something going on in the house. During the weekend we often make short excursions in the area or we visit her family. In addition, Adoración is a very good cook. She surprises me every night with a new local dish, and also breakfast differs from day to day.

The school in Sámara is located on a wonderful location, directly on the beach, and within two minutes walking distance from the small city centre. Just like the school in Heredia, the school disposes of many facilities such as computers, lockers, WiFi and big classrooms with so-called ´smart-boards´, which offer the teachers many different possibilities to explain the students the teaching materials. Additionaly, the school in Sámara disposes of a big garden with hammocks, outdoor showers, a big study area and a roofed outside space where the weekly yoga-, Zumba- and Latin Dance classes take place. The school is opened daily for students from 07:00 till 22:00, also during the weekends. During these hours there is always surveillance staff present to make sure that only students enter the property. The school in Sámara also offers a Spanish & Surf programme which enables students to combine their Spanish classes with surf classes. 

Both campuses offer free activities. In Heredia these activities for example include the ´Intercambios´ with Tico students, watching a movie in Spanish and Latin Dance- and cooking classes. In Sámara the activities among others include Latin Dance-, Yoga-,  Zumba-, handcraft-, and cooking classes. Both campuses also offer tours and excursions, which students can participate in against payment. Thanks to Heredia´s central location, it is easy to reach other venues quickly, which is why the school also offers a lot of daytrips to other locations. In Sámara, a lot of weekendtours to other venues are offered, but also daytours which take place in Sámara, such as a coffeetour, paddle boarding or a snorkelling tour.

 I can advise everyone who is planning on taking Spanish classes at Intercultura, to combine both campuses and to live with a host family. In this way, you´ll get a good picture of the culture differences within Costa Rica. Whereas the living conditions in Heredia are generally very comparable to the living conditions in many European countries, the living conditions in Sámara are more basic and the houses are built in a manner which is typical in tropical areas. There also exist many differences in the field of eating habits and the way in which the families make their money. In addition, you´ll spend a lot of time outside or on the beach during your stay in Sámara, while in Heredia you will spend more time indoor with the host family.

I´d like to recommend anyyone who is considering studying Spanish in Latin-America and who´d like to have a culturally and socially enriching experience, to take classes with Intercultura. The teachers are professional and at the same time very friendly and you´ll be amazed of how much progress you will make in a short amount of time, especially if you would decide to stay with a host family.

Finally, I can only say, I hope to see you all soon and Pura Vida!!

By Josje Leijdekkers, Netherlands:former volunteer

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