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Trip Report Looking for a Spanish school? I had a good experience here

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I recently returned from a very rewarding, and very intense, two week stay at la Mariposa Spanish School and eco-hotel near la Concha, Nicaragua. I was busy (in a good way) all of the time and came home physically and mentally exhausted, but I was also invigorated. This is quite a small school, and as a solo female traveler this was a good fit for me since there were opportunities for me to be by myself or to interact with the other students and to participate in a number of different activities. As far as the mix of students when I attended, there were several of us in our 60s (we referred to ourselves as the old people), one guy in his forties, and the bulk of the students were in their mid to late 20s. It made for a comfortable and interesting mix of people from all over the world.

Classes run every morning from 8:00 to noon, with a break between the two classes; they were all one-on-one and were excellent. Each student works with two different teachers at a time—one for grammar and one for conversation. La Mariposa has a set grammar curriculum that students go through, and in the conversation class the conversation teacher tries to introduce topics and questions that will also reinforce what the student is working on in grammar. I was told that for a student who is coming in with no knowledge of Spanish, it takes an average time of two months of study to be exposed to the entire grammar curriculum. You notice I say to be exposed; this does not mean that the student will have actually absorbed and incorporated all of this. If, however, you don’t want to do the typical curriculum, that’s okay too, and the school will customize what you want.

Afternoons offer different types of optional opportunities, but they are all included in the set price that covers activities, tuition, room and board. One afternoon a week there is a lecture (in Spanish) on current events in Nicaragua. Since I was there during the national presidential election, this made for some very interesting topics. Another afternoon each week there is a lecture (in Spanish) on Nicaraguan history. These are informal lectures with lots of time for questions and answers, and there is an interpreter available for students who don’t know much Spanish. For me--I’d say I am at the low intermediate level-- it was a nice way to reinforce that I’d actually pretty much understood what was being said. Other afternoons there are also field trips to local areas of interest—nature parks, markets, towns, the school’s organic farm etc.

Weekends offer further opportunities for longer field trips that take an entire day. And, there is also an option for trekking with a Spanish-speaking guide to local farms and a nature sanctuary to see the howler monkeys. I liked this so much I did it twice; if you go to la Mariposa and intend to do this, take your real hiking boots and trekking poles if you have them. I also went on the field trip to Mombacho, a nearby national park in a cloud forest but passed on a very long day trip to Leon because I felt I needed to study and I’d already been there. And, every Sunday there is a chance to go horseback riding through some very beautiful areas adjacent to the school.

Nicaragua is off the radar of most people because it is not nearly as developed and marketed as nearby Costa Rica. The school is in a lovely, hilly rural area about an hour away from Managua. For an additional fee they will provide roundtrip airport transportation—makes it very easy. The school is set in about two acres of beautifully planted property on the outskirts of a very tiny town that is about two block walk away. Meals are served buffet style at set times, and the food is primarily vegetarian, flavorful and delicious—we had a bit of fish twice while I was there and some rice with some chicken bits once. Rooms are fine, but nothing luxurious, with private baths; local homestays are also another option. There are lots of different places around the hotel to sit and read or study in private. However, there are lots of animals on the property—dogs and chickens, rescued parrots and monkeys, so if you aren’t comfortable with these, this might not be the best place for you. And, earplugs are a necessity for trying to sleep in the early mornings once all of the birds get going.

My husband was envious of my experience there, and he is actually considering going back with me sometime. This is quite the recommendation because he is someone who just couldn’t quite grasp learning foreign languages when in college.

Let me know if you have any questions.

http://www.mariposaspanishschool.com/

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