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Trip Report Report back on my all-too-short trip to Guatemala to study Spanish

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When I first contemplated going to Guatemala over my spring break to study Spanish, this was one of the first places I posted a query. And, I got lots of helpful tips. so I want to let everyone know what I finally decided and how it went.

This was my first trip to Guatemala, and the sole reason for it was to try to quickly improve my very limited Spanish enough that I could communicate in Spanish. As a single, middle-aged female travelling alone with only eleven days total available, I was a bit apprehensive about undertaking any lengthy or complicated journeys. So, despite the fact that many people warned me that Antigua was so touristy that I’d be tempted to just speak English all the time, I decided to just study in Antigua. I’m happy to report that all went well, and while Antigua is definitely touristy after a fashion, I found it to be a perfect place for me and for what I was looking for. And, I really didn’t spend my time hanging out with other English speakers; I spent my time with my teacher, taking walks by myself, and studying.

After much research, I finally decided upon a pretty new and rather small school—Academia Colonial. It is a nice facility, and my only complaint would be that it is a bit noisy at times because the street in front has buses that go down it regularly. The location is a school during the day and a bar/restaurant in the evenings. I also liked the fact that since the place was open for the bar and restaurant hours I could bring my laptop and sit in the courtyard to use the school’s wifi whenever I wanted. Because of my limited time, I decided to study six days a week for six hours a day. Mornings from 8:00 until noon were at the school site, but afternoons I went out with my teacher to visit places in Antigua or on the bus to surrounding villages to see what was going on. I also was lucky in that my visit was during Lent, so both weekends I was in Antigua, from Friday through Sunday, there were velaciones (vigils), alfombras (carpets of flowers, sawdust, fruit) and processions. Going out into the community was an excellent way for me to learn more about both the culture and the language. Also, one afternoon each week the school has a cooking class (in Spanish) with its restaurant chef for its students. This too was a lot of fun; I learned about cooking Guatemalan dishes, and then we all ate what we’d made.

The school was a good match for me and what I was looking for. Teachers (I had one for weekday mornings, another for weekday afternoons, and a third for all day Saturday because of all the lesson time I’d requested) were good and very experienced. Before joining this school they had all taught at some of the schools that are frequently mentioned here as being very good. While my primary teacher definitely had a plan for what she thought would best help me to fill in my gaps, all were willing to work on what I deemed most necessary to make my learning what I wanted it to be for me. Thus, after about eight hours of verb work with my primary teacher, I said I wanted to spend the rest of my time practicing and improving my conversation skills. And, we did, with some verb reinforcement thrown in here and there.

This was an easy trip for me (just what I was looking for with such a short amount of time) because the school made all arrangements for me. Because my plane didn’t arrive until 9:00 pm, I had the school arrange a private pick-up from the airport. I was then taken to my small guesthouse which was only two doors away from the school. I’d originally thought I’d stay with a family, but the school had difficulty finding a family with availability that matched what I was looking for. So, instead they arranged for the guesthouse and then told me that if I didn’t like it after I arrived we could find something else. The guesthouse was fairly small and actually proved to be what I was looking for; if I return to study, I’d stay there again. I have to say that the guesthouse package was an incredible deal. I can’t imagine why anyone would stay in a hotel instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to have room and board for such a low price (I paid $85 a week for a shared bath.) All in all, it was a great experience. I just wish I had the months of time available to study that it takes to really become proficient. I am contemplating, however, trying to at least keep fresh what I learned through the lessons the school offers via Skype. Thanks again!

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