Spanish Immersion Program Completion

Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya

It is early October, and I am sitting on a plane heading back to Louisiana to visit with family and  friends and am reflecting on the past two months in Guatemala. When I first started my studies in August having arrived with very little knowledge of the Spanish language, I found myself, on a number of occasions, very overwhelmed. The thought of quitting classes and spending the rest of my time traveling throughout Guatemala crossed my mind a few times. I conjured up much patience from the deepest pit of my being to continue with the program, and I’m glad that I did, because by the second month, I understood much more, many thanks to my incredible teacher, Nidia. After a few weeks of studying basic vocabulary and the present tense, my teacher and I worked on the preterite, imperfect, future, and conditional tenses, prior to completing my studies. We also targeted other useful vocabulary and strengthened my grammar by rehashing core rules time and time again. I appreciate Nidia’s patience, as I’m almost certain that I asked her the same questions for days, until the answer finally clicked in my mind. On some days, I could not simply absorb any of the day’s lesson, so I would ask Nidia if she wanted to move our lesson from the garden to a coffee shop or if she wanted to go for a walk to the nearby market, where we could practice Spanish in casual conversation.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Antigüeña Spanish Academy; and this experience is relative to the individual, just as it is with attending a typical college class – the experience you receive is how much time, effort, and work you put in to it. During the eight weeks of study, I witnessed many students from various nationalities and backgrounds come and go, each of whom took a week, two, or several weeks of studies. Many of these students were in their early-to-mid-20s; however, there were older students, such as myself, and much older students who appeared to be in their 50s. Some of these students became quite good friends. I had the opportunity to travel around Guatemala with some of them to places such as: the popular Lake Atitlan in Panajachel; the tranquil, remote lagoon cities of San Pedro and San Marcos; and the ancient Mayan ruins of Copan, Honduras.

Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras

Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras

Mayan statue at the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras

Mayan statue at the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras

I can say great things about the school, but I have noticed a shortcoming. It did not seem that there was a way to gauge a student’s performance as he or she progressed week-to-week. For example, prior to progressing to another tense, there was no written or verbal exam for a student to take that verified to the teacher that the student did indeed understand the fundamental properties of the tense. There were also no tests in regard to a student’s known Spanish vocabulary. Although we practiced these, there was no rigorous test or comprehensive examination toward the end of a student’s study. But, I digress, and although I didn’t have the easiest and smoothest experience, I can say that my experience was comparable to taking several semesters of Spanish in college, and I’m happy with the results I personally received from the school.

I highly recommend Antigüeña Spanish Academy to anyone interested in giving Spanish immersion a try in Antigua, Guatemala.

I’ll leave you with a list of my favorite places in and around Antigua:

Best Coffee Shops:
Fernando’s Kaffee (7a Avenida, Norte No. 43D)
La Parada (6a. Avenida, Norte No. 42)
Moonfish (San Marcos): The best coffee I’ve had since birth. Generally, in addition to freshly brewed coffee, they also sell coffee, which is grown from their own coffee farm, in whole bean form as well as ground. Unfortunately, when I visited, they sold all of their coffee, except for a can of whole beans from the kitchen that they were kind enough to sell to me for a nominal price.

Best Restaurants:
Rainbow Cafe (7ma Avenida, Sur No. 8): Rainbow Cafe receives my personal gold star for awesomeness. The food here is not only good and tastes amazing, it is also healthy. The staff here was also the most polite and friendliest bunch of people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Rincon Tipico (3a Avenida, Sur No. 3): Great local and inexpensive Guatemalan food.
Pitaya Juice Bar (4 Avenida, Sur No. 4): Great healthy wraps and nutritious smoothies near Antigua’s Gym.
Pappy’s BBQ (6a Calle, Poniente No. 21): Some of the best ribs I’ve tasted.
Café Rocio (6a Avenida, Norte No. 34): Although this Thai restaurant never seems to attract many people, the food is very good and I visited it frequently.
Jose Pinguino’s (Calle Santander, Panajachel)
Moonfish (San Marcos): In addition to having probably the best coffee, they also serve healthy burritos and breakfast foods, such as honey and fruit wheat pancakes.

Best Dessert:
Luna de Miel (6ta Avenida, Norte No. 40): Out-of-this-world Nutella sweet crepes as well as savory crepes.

Nightlife:
Tarrito’s (1era Calle, Poniente No. 9): Tarrito’s has probably the best margaritas in Antigua.
Rainbow Cafe (7ma Avenida, Sur No. 8): Rainbow Cafe hosts an open mic night every Wednesday night at 8 pm.
Reilly’s Irish Tavern (6a Avenida, Norte No. 2): Reilly’s hosts trivia (pub quiz) every Monday night at 8 pm.

Gym:
Antigua’s Gym (6ta. Calle, Poniente No. 31): A great local gym a few blocks away from Antigua’s central park.

Best Hostel:
Hostal Antigüeño (1a Calle, Oriente No.15)
Comfort Hostel (17 Calle 14-35 Zona 10, Guatemala City)
Hotel Utz Jay (Calle 15 de Febrero 2-50 Zona 2, Panajachel)
Casa Doña Elena B&B (Avenida Centroamerica, Copan, Honduras)

If you are thinking about visiting Guatemala to take Spanish lessons and would like more information or recommendations, feel free to reach out to me.

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