Laura’s December Blog…
“This month I thought I’d write answers to some of the more frequent issues that students have before coming. I hope they help you in making your decision.
WHERE TO START, HEREDIA OR SÁMARA?
I would recommend starting in Heredia. It’s close to the main airport, SJO, and probably more similar to what you’re used to in terms of weather, standard of living and available activities, so it will give you some time to acclimatize gradually. Heredia also has fewer tourists, so you can request to be the only foreigner in your host family and you will get lots of individual attention and extra Spanish practice.
The city is small, manageable and very friendly, from host families to the locals you’ll meet. The fact that there aren’t very many tourists there means people are always curious to talk to you and learn more about you and where you come from.
While you’re there, take advantage of the many activities the school and the Central Valley in general has to offer. The daily newspaper “La Nación” is a great source of information for what’s going on about town, as are our teachers Marcelo and Jesús, both of whom love to go to see theater, dance, music and other local offerings.
Once you’ve been in Heredia for a couple weeks, you might be ready to hit the beach: there you will enjoy the beautiful sunny days and lots of outdoor activities. Accommodations are typically a little more basic than in Heredia, but are equally close to school, and of course, the beach.
And remember you can always switch back and forth between the two campuses if you prefer. You can even change your mind once you’ve arrived if you decide you want to stay the whole time in Heredia, or vice versa. Just be aware that you need to let us know with 2 weeks’ notice, to avoid the change family fee (which goes directly to the family) for last minute cancellations. If you do decide to change last minute, that’s fine too, we just ask for a $50 donation for the family to cover any lost income.
WHY BOTH CAMPUSES?
Because by going to both, you will get a well-rounded view of the culture, as well as the language itself. The contrast of city and beach is an ideal way to see both sides of the country… one is populated almost exclusively by Costa Ricans (Ticos), while the other has a fair percentage of foreigners, which creates a different dynamic. Also different are the foods, the customs, the music, the dances, and people’s hobbies. Life at the beach is more outdoors, slower-paced, and hotter. In the city you have more cultural activities, a cooler climate and access to a wider variety of people to meet and places to go.
Often people tend to prefer the beach, with the idea of combining study with a classic tropical beach vacation, but in truth, you can have just as much fun, or more!, in Heredia… Take at look at some of our former students’ personal opinions about why they loved the Heredia campus: https://www.interculturacostarica.com/about-us/why-heredia
WHAT IF I CAN ONLY DO ONE WEEK?
Ideally, of course, the more weeks you can do the better. However, from my personal experience doing a one week trip several years in a row to learn German, it really helped as long as I continued studying upon my return. My classes here were only 5 hours a week, but it was enough to keep my progress going, and twice I skipped a level (2 months here) after my one week abroad. So yes, in my opinion one week is definitely still worth it!
As to which campus to choose in this case, I would probably say Heredia, as the temptation to speak English or other languages is less there, given that there are fewer tourists in general. Also, definitely request a homestay family that has no other students, and that enjoys interacting a lot with the student. Although it’s hard to share your space as an adult learner, the linguistic benefits and the pleasure of getting to know someone from a whole new culture in such a short time, far outweigh any possible awkwardness. “