An Amazing Family Immersion Vacation
An interview with former student Olayinka Akinola - mother of three children
Olayinka, her 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter recently spent one week at our school campus in Heredia. Both children are at a public charter bilingual school in Washington DC called Mundo Verde. The focus is two pronged, raising Spanish/English bi-literate children and environmental sustainability. Even they only stayed for just a week, Olayinka made progress with her spoken Spanish going from almost nothing to being able to make a full sentence and write a small paragraph which was her goal!
1. What made you decide to go abroad with your children for a Spanish immersion program?
It was this school that moved us to take this kind of immersion vacation and now we are emboldened to do so again.
At the Mundo Verde school the children start out with full Spanish immersion from PK to K then alternate days in English and Spanish in grades 1 through 5 in all subjects. It has been a wonderful experience for us. My 8 year old is very comfortable speaking in Spanish in his 3rd year at school and my 5 year old is picking up so much more in her second year of full day Spanish at school. I am looking to support them and trying to learn to read and speak in simple sentences with them and was looking to deepen my comprehension in a more intensive way. We thought there could be a better way to do so with a family immersion vacation and it was amazing.
We hope to visit Intercultura again in Samara. The schools mission and plan to give the kids a bi-literate education is really in line with the Intercultura mission to learn language "en vivo". The fresh fruits and food made from natural ingredients that we enjoyed while on vacation were excellent and truly appreciated. I have a new favorite dish for breakfast ; Gallo Pinto!
2. You chose Costa Rica as your and your children´s learning destination. Why?
I had been to Costa Rica one time before and remembered its natural beauty. The Pura Vida way of life was evident everywhere we went. I wanted my kids to see that for themselves and experience the lovely way that people live in Costa rica. My memories did not do it justice. Costa Rican's love and know their great fortune to live in amongst such wonders of natural beauty. We knew it would be possible even in our short week to get to some lovely hiking soaces and waterfalls as well as see volcanoes and some lovely beaches. Also the Tico's we met loved children and my children were warmly greeted and welcomed everywhere. They loved having a new "Tica abuela" in our hostess .
3. Even though it was only a one-week program, did you have any learning goals and expectations for you and your children?
We lamented that our stay was so short but in that time I made progress with my spoken Spanish going from almost nothing to being able to make a full sentence and write a small paragraph which was my goal! I learned a lot of grammar and everyday I learned some more practical phrases and conversational Spanish. My host mother in Heredia remarked at how much more I seemed to be able to speak after a couple of days.
For my kids I just wanted them to have a fun time in classes and reinforce their language learning. I wanted them to meet other children in town and practice speaking with them. My kids loved their teachers and they really enjoyed ordering food and other practical things in spanish. They liked to play at the park with other kids and seemed happy to speak in spanish with them.
4. Tell us a little bit about your homestay experience!
Our host Mother Elva was lovely. She made sure we tried several specialties that were uniquely Costa Rican. Our sleeping accommodations were comfortable and clean. She went out of her way to make us feel comfortable and walked around town on our first day to show us the best places to shop and relax. She was very sweet to my kids. She would sit and speak with me after the kids were in bed which helped me practice my Spanish. Her family would come by most nights and very organically everyone ate and socialized together. It was very nice. We hope to keep in touch.
5. What free time activities did you and your kids enjoy?
My kids mostly liked walking around town and chasing pigeons in the Parque Central. We made several pilgrimages to Pops :) We did not do many of the cultural activities but did do a few trips with Jerry the wonderful tour guide at Intercultura Heredia to La Paz and to the beach in Jaco. Although it was brief we are so glad we were able to make a quick trip on Friday to the beach before we had to leave on Saturday.
6. Any advice you would like to share wtih oterh families who are planning on doing a family immersion trip to Costa Rica?
We had a family the year before tell us about Intercultura. Before we left we asked them what they would tell us. I think their best advice was to bring little simple things that can help children acclimatize which travelling out of the states. We brought playdough and slinky's and small toys that were easy to pack. We loved being in the market and buying new spanish language books to read. I encouraged my kids to taste everything even if they did not plan to eat the whole thing. They learned to like new flavors and felt the adventure of some new tastes. Finally I was happy to bring rain jackets for you never know what the afternoon weather will bring. Oh and relax and enjoy the pura vida!
Thank you Olayinka for sharing your family experience at Intercultura with us.
Want to learn more about Intercultura´s immersion programs for families and children?