Spanish Immersion Program Commencement

Contrary to my last blog post, I have decided to provide readers with only a starting and ending blog post in regard to the Spanish immersion program I’m attending in Antigua, Guatemala, rather than provide weekly updates (unless, there’s something worth mentioning as the program progresses).

On my first day of classes, I met with my Spanish teacher, Arely, at the Antigüeña Spanish Academy office. From the office, we walked to a nearby garden: Parqueo Maes – the location where I would continue Spanish lessons for the next two months.

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My teacher, Arely

Our lessons began almost immediately, as soon as we left the office.  During our walk, Arely asked me questions about where I was from, about my family, etcetera almost entirely in Spanish.  My head began to swim, as my Spanish vocabulary was very limited, and all I could do was nod and smile.

When we arrived to the garden, I noticed many other students engaging in lessons with their respective teachers.  You could hear a consistent stream of Spanish being spoken that was sprinkled with English here and there. The students were all at different levels of their Spanish language training.

At the garden, there was a bulletin board that advertised several activities that were scheduled throughout the week, such as: participating in a traditional Mayan wedding or learning how to make tortillas or clothing in the nearby town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes or visiting the Cerro de la Cruz, a large cross on a hilltop overlooking Antigua.  Students were also provided copious amounts of water and coffee free-of-charge. Each day, there was a 30-minute break that began at 10am, and at that time, local Guatemalan cuisine was provided for sale in a snack area both inside and directly outside of the garden that featured nachos, dobladas, and other items.

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My teacher and I would have lessons at a small, plastic table in the garden amongst other students.

Arely and I began lessons that day and continued intensively through the week for four hours a day, where we practiced vocabulary and grammar. By the second day, I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed, and I thought Arely noticed it by the look of frustration on my face. Regardless, she remained patient with me, and our lessons progressed one after the other, inch-by-inch. By the end of the week, I understood much more than I previously had when I first arrived. Various words and phrases on signs, and various words spoken by strangers on the street, started to become clear to me; I started to recognize more and more. It was as if I could see a twinkle of a lighthouse’s light through the thick fog of night, and that light was slowly getting brighter.

As luck would have it, and unfortunately for me, I lost Arely after only my first week of lessons to another student who had a prior reservation with her.  I will be assigned a new instructor this coming Monday.  I only hope the new instructor is just as patient!

In addition to starting classes, I met my host family: Johana and Juan-Carlos, and the other students who were participating in the same home stay program. I can only say great things about my host family and, outside of some of them coming in and out of the house at odd hours of the night and early morning, my housemates, as well.

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The street on which our home stay was located

I was living with four other students from the United States, England, and Australia, who were all in their early 20s into their 30s . The other students and I lived in an apartment in front of our host family’s house, which was near a hillside on the outskirts of inner-city Antigua. The apartment had three levels with a terrace on the top floor. The accommodations were nice for the price of the home stay program. Generally, we each had a private room, hot water, and a shared bathroom. The host family provided us with three meals a day, except for Sunday.

One of my housemates from Australia told me an interesting story that seems to be a common theme with other students visiting or staying in Antigua for Spanish immersion programs. He told me that he initially planned to visit Antigua for approximately two-weeks, and during his stay, he decided to leave his job, presumably enamored by his experience in Antigua, and has been in Antigua now for 9-months.  He plans to return home in November of this year.

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