Kaley Birchfield – 6 weeks Spanish Immersion Experience

“While pursuing a Spanish minor in college, I spent six weeks at CISA in the hopes of improving my conversational Spanish abilities. Although I had already studied the language for several years, most of my college classes had focused more on Hispanic literature and culture than on functional fluency. Aspiring to utilize the language in my future career, I hoped that my time in Costa Rica would give me clarity as to whether I should continue to study and practice Spanish.

My Tico family understood and supported me in this endeavor. As they spoke no English, our dinner tables were filled with Spanish conversation practice, complete with countless mistakes on my part and constant patience from them. More than just a guest, my host parents truly welcomed me into their home as a daughter, always reminding me that their house was my house, too. Although they worked harder than any people I’d ever met, every afternoon they would insist that I take it easy and rest, while they selflessly cleaned the house and cooked my meals. Their hospitality stunned me, and yet, perhaps most surprising, this generosity wasn’t unique to them; over the course of my six weeks, I was similarly welcomed in by other Tico families who, though they might not have much from an outsider’s perspective, were rich in love, affection, and generosity.

Additionally, my teachers genuinely cared about my personal goals and wanted to see me improve in my abilities. In the classroom, they cheered me on and celebrated each little victory. As we reviewed grammar structures and practiced speaking Spanish, we got to know each other, and our hours of conversation led to sweet friendships.

Apart from the incredible people, I could rave for hours about the food. What would a trip to Costa Rica be like without gallo pinto and torta chilena? And my only complaint about the tropical fruit is that it is so fresh that it makes it difficult to return home, where the climate is temperate and the mangos lack that perfect combination of sweetness and firmness.

The country itself, of course, is just as green and lush as one might expect, boasting an incredible variety of natural beauty. With classes only being four mornings a week, I had plenty of time to explore Costa Rica, whether that be via a short bus ride to the nearest ice cream shop or a weekend excursion to the Pacific coast.

While I had arrived in Costa Rica mainly looking forward to the language immersion aspect, I left with not only a better ear and tongue for Spanish, but also with a well-rounded sampling of the beauty and adventure that the country has to offer.”

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