Santa Ana, Costa Rica
We take great care in making class placements. Before you come to Conversa, we ask you to take an online grammar test. This gives us a pretty good picture of your current level. Once you're here, we'll interview you to get a good idea of your ability to carry on a conversation. These two factors weigh most heavily in how we place students in class. In addition to these placements, we carefully monitor class progress throughout the week to make any necessary adjustments.
At Conversa, we are skilled at blending a strong grammar-based syllabus with conversation to ensure that students make make good progress in functional Spanish language skills. Our instructors are experienced in developing their students' abilities by placing them in a series of situations where they can flourish and broaden their communication skills.
Class time is meant to be very dynamic. Students and their teacher are supposed to be interacting on a constant basis.
No. In the classroom, everything happens in Spanish. This is very important, not only in developing speaking skills, but in developing auditory comprehension as well.
We believe in teaching Spanish through constant contact. Both inside the classroom and out, students are engaged in the language. We believe in a dynamic environment that challenges our students and keeps them continuously motivated to learn Spanish.
All of our teachers are native Spanish speakers. In addition, they're very experienced in teaching Spanish as a second language in a small class setting. Some teachers are better at working with younger students while others might do better with the more mature audience. Not only are we careful when hiring and training teachers, we also take great care in assigning teachers to particular groups of students.
Yes, you can participate for as little as one week, and for as long as you like. You can also choose to extend your program if you like.
Yes, just let us know that you'd like one and we'll prepare it for you.
Unless you're taking our program for college credit, there's no final exam per se. However, we do encourage students to take the proficiency test once again upon completion of the program to see how much progress they've made.
On Monday morning, your teacher will outline a series of objectives for the next five days of class. Over the course of the week, you'll cover the material required to achieve those objectives. This gives most of our students a reasonably good idea of how they're progressing.
Additionally, our Academic Coordinator holds a daily meeting with our Spanish teachers before class. During these meetings, teachers share ideas and feedback with each other about their classes. In addition, the coordinator becomes aware of any cases where we can provide additional assistance. More often than not, we'll find out before you do that your progress deserves a little extra attention. Often when this happens, you won't even realize that we've made adjustments to support you. However, if you're not sure how you're doing, ask us.
How much Spanish you learn here at Conversa will depend on many factors. Some important ones are your age, motivation, hearing, language learning background, ability to focus and to absorb, organize and retain information. However, here’s an attempt to answer this question based on our experience:
Take a look at this description of the ten levels. If you begin your four-week program with Conversa as a rank beginner (“zero level”), you can reasonably expect to advance to Level Two four weeks later. More importantly, you will possess a strong grammatical base to support this level, and to move forward to the next levels.
If you begin your program with Conversa at Level One, you can reasonably expect to advance to Level Three four weeks later. Again, you will possess the grammatical foundation you need to continue improving.
We estimate that if you start at Level Two, Three or Four, you can also reasonably expect to advance two levels over the course of your four-week program. We make no guarantees, but we base these estimates on experience over many years, with students of all ages and language backgrounds.
Now, if you join us already at Level Six or higher, you might anticipate advancing just one proficiency level over the course of your four-week program. It simply takes longer to move ahead at the higher levels.
If you can read this, the answer is "probably not". We have a great amount of experience working with students of all ages and all levels. In our experience, regardless of age, students who are motivated can make significant progress.
This is a tough one. Staying on campus will allow you the privacy of a hotel setting while providing opportunities to interact with Conversa's staff. The campus has a 50-foot swimming pool, small gym, trails, spectacular views and great food in our cafeteria. Staying on campus is also a bit more expensive. If you opt to stay with a host family, you'll probably be able to experience authentic Costa Rican culture more closely than on campus. Host families also provide great opportunities to practice. All of our host families live right in the center of town, making it easy to walk from the host family home to the pick-up-point (where you'll catch the shuttle to campus every day), from host family to host family (to get together with other students that might be staying with host families as well) and from your host family to nearby shops/businesses.
This is a difficult decision. However, we pride ourselves in being flexible. If you're living with a host family and decide that you'd like to move up to the campus, we'll be happy to accommodate you as long as there's availability. Similarly, if you're on campus and decide that you'd like to live with a host family, we'll do that as well.
Every day there are several trips going from campus to the town of Santa Ana, and back. Once you're here, you'll become familiar with the travel schedule and how to get to/from town. When taking the shuttle during the normally scheduled trips, there's no cost.
Yes. Our on-campus lodging is just like a hotel. You can choose single, double, triple or quad occupancy for your party.
Absolutely. If you're staying on campus, they're welcome to stay with you in your room. The cost is $50/person/night and includes meals on campus. If you're staying with a host family, we first have to determine if the host family has the means to accommodate them (the necessary bed or beds). There's a $20/night charge for staying with the host family, and there's a $20/day campus fee in the event that they come up to campus. This includes transportation to/from campus and meals.
Absolutely. They would be delighted. If you have any questions about the appropriate way of handling this, or if you'd like some good suggestions of places to go, let us know and we'll be happy to assist you.
Yes, there's no problem with this. However, please avoid having someone over to your home during meals, as this can make your host family uncomfortable. Students are expected to take their meals with their own host family.
We'll make the necessary changes and/or adjustments. We have a full-time staff member looking out for our students' host family experience. If you're not comfortable, LET US KNOW. If you're not sure if you're comfortable, ask us. We've worked with students just like you for decades. There's a good chance we'll understand how you're feeling, and an even better chance that we can help fix it.
YES! You have your own room, unless you're traveling with a friend or family and have specifically requested to be housed together.
There are many different gift ideas we've seen over the years. Among the most popular are T-shirts of your home town (or home town sports club), ball caps, coffee mugs, key chains, local candy (if your state or town is known for this), etc… If you're not sure if a gift is appropriate, let us know and we'll be happy to give you our input.
SJO - San José, Costa Rica
Santa Ana is about 20-25 minutes from the airport.
Beautiful! It's likely to be between 70 and 85 degrees just about every day of the year on campus. The rainy season is from May through mid-November. During the rainy season you can expect beautiful mornings most of the time, and a good chance of showers in the afternoons. The rest of the year (December through April), the sun is shining most of the time...
Our campus environment is very casual. Most of the time, weather permits students to wear shorts, T-shirts, sandals, sneakers, etc… Nevertheless, we recommend packing some light sweaters as well (during January and February, in particular, it may get a bit chilly during the evenings).
If you don't mind traveling with your computer, by all means do bring it along. We don't recommend taking it with you on the weekend excursions or moving around with it much. However, keeping it with you on campus, or leaving it in your room at the host family's home is just fine. Your cell phone may or may not work in Costa Rica. If it's an unlocked phone, you can purchase a pre-paid SIM card here and have a local number.
Costa Rica works with the same electrical current used in the United States/Canada. If you're traveling from Europe, you will need a converter (220 to 110 volts).
We recommend contacting your service provider back home to find out what (if any) arrangement they may have with local companies here in Costa Rica. However, if there's no arrangement (if you're phone won't work here - or if roaming is too expensive), you can buy pre-paid sim cards very inexpensively. Also, if your phone is not an unlocked version, you can purchase an inexpensive cell phone (for calls mainly) for as little as $25. As for Internet service, many tourist destinations (most hotels) will offer Wi-Fi for customers. We also have Wi-Fi on campus.
The majority of our students do not get vaccines before coming to Costa Rica. However, we recommend you contact your primary care physician to get their input. If it's not a hassle, you're probably better safe than sorry. However, in all the years we've been working with students traveling to Costa Rica from abroad, we've never had a case of a student coming down with anything that can be prevented with a vaccine...
If your luggage doesn't arrive with you, please ask the airline to assist you in making a quick phone call to let us know that you've arrived and that you're talking with the airlines to try to locate your luggage (8391-1287 or 8811-6569). This way we'll know that you're here and we'll simply wait until you're done with the airline paperwork. This happens less and less often, but if it does, it really helps us to know that you're here.
If you like, you can do a lot of this online before coming to Costa Rica. However, we're often able to find great deals for our students. You'll also meet other students while you're here, and there's a good chance you'd like to travel around together. This makes for a more enjoyable excursion, and also allows you to share certain costs, like travel and/or hotel arrangements.
When you're here, we're happy to chat about the different activities available, costs and logistics. We also help students make the actual travel and lodging reservations if needed.
There are many places where you'll be able to find souvenirs to take home with you. In Santa Ana you'll find a few good options (we'll show you where these are). San Jose has several places as well. Also, if you're traveling around the country, you'll find plenty of opportunities. Of course, keep in mind that super markets tend to be good places as well (depending on what you're looking for), and they also tend to be less expensive than picking some of these things up at the more touristy locations.
Yes, public transportation in Costa Rica is considered to be very safe. However, you always want to be very careful when traveling. This is especially true in and around bus terminals or crowded areas. Always keep a good eye on your belongings.
As soon as you get to Costa Rica, you'll get a contact info card from Conversa. Anyone you call on that card will be able to help you in the event of an emergency. Whatever the situation, we'll do our best to assist you.
Santa Ana is about a 20-minute drive from downtown San Jose. By public bus, this might be between 25 and 40 minutes, depending on the traffic.
Conversa is about a 7 to 10 minute shuttle-ride from Santa Ana.
Santa Ana is a small town. You can literally walk across town in about 10-15 minutes. There are roughly 5,000 families living in and around town.
NO. In fact, we recommend you do not exchange dollars in the airport either. You'll get a much more favorable exchange rate anywhere else. You can exchange a few dollars easily by paying for a refreshment or anything else with a $20 bill. Once you're here, we can help you find better ways to exchange money.
Different folks have different budgets. We've had students come to Costa Rica and spend no money at all outside of our program, and we've had students come and spend a lot. Keep in mind that all meals are taken care of if you stay on campus, or if you stay with a host family. You might want to plan on around $50 per week to pay for an occasional cab ride, a quick bite to eat while out on the road, a souvenir or a trip to the movies. You'll also need $30 to cover your exit tax when you leave Costa Rica.
As for weekend trips, you can pay anywhere between $75 to $1,000 for a weekend, depending on how fancy you want to go... A good baseline for overnight trips is about $175, including transportation, two nights lodging (including breakfasts) and taxes. Meals at some of the more visited destinations can run anywhere between $10 and $35 (or more if you go the fancy route).
Tipping in Costa Rica is not as much of a given as it is in several other places (namely, the United States and Europe). When you visit a restaurant, a 10% gratuity is included by law. Many people will leave an additional tip if they were very satisfied with the service. This can be anywhere between 3 and 10%. Tipping for other services, such as your excursion transportation or hotel services when you're traveling on the weekends is not going to be different from what you may have experienced elsewhere. It's not obligatory, but it's always very much welcomed.
Just about. However, you don't want to find yourself in a position where you don't have any colones, because you'll be obligated to change your dollars to colones at whatever exchange rate is available should you need to use your dollars as an only option.
There is no cost for any of the on-campus activities; yoga classes, Latin dance classes, cooking classes, grammar workshops, lectures or any other activities organized on campus for our students.
No. If you're living on campus, all meals are provided. If you're living with a host family, your host family will provide breakfast and dinner (and all three meals on weekends, provided you're at home), and you'll have a coffee break and lunch on campus. Of course, if you like snacking, you should feel free to bring whatever you like.
If for some reason you must cut your program short, we'll adjust the billing to the time spent in the program. Unfortunately, if you leave on or after Wednesday, we have to bill you for the full week. However, if it's before Wednesday, we'll prorate the balance.
If you're not feeling well, or if you'd like or need medical attention, please let us know ASAP. On campus we subscribe to an emergency medical service that can get a paramedic on the premises within minutes. If further attention is needed, you'll be taken to the CIMA hospital about 15 minutes away. The CIMA is a very well equipped and modern facility. When this happens, we'll almost always have a member of the Conversa staff accompany the student.
If it's not an emergency, or if you're with your host family, please contact a member of the Conversa staff immediately, and we'll make any necessary arrangements to ensure you receive proper care.
YES. If you're currently on medication of any sort, please bring enough with you to last your entire stay. Also, avoid packing it in the belly of the plane. Instead, try to keep it with you in your carry-on or on your person. This is very important as it's not easy to fill prescriptions here in Costa Rica. Of course, in the event of an emergency, or if you simply forget to bring your medication, we can help get a prescription filled here. However, this usually involves a conversation and some faxes or scanned documents going back and forth between your physician and a physician here in Costa Rica. By no means should you have medication mailed down to you here in Costa Rica - it's virtually impossible to retrieve medication sent by mail.
Yes, the water on campus and in Santa Ana is safe to drink. Tap water throughout most of Costa Rica is safe to drink. However, if you're in the more rural areas, we recommend you ask, just in case. If the water is not safe to drink, folks there will be the first to tell you (this is rare).
Absolutely! We work with all sorts of special diets; vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc... Please let us know of any dietary considerations before you arrive in Costa Rica so that we can plan accordingly.
There are many different types of activities available. However, how you can contribute can be affected by several different factors. Among them, time of year, scheduling constraints, overall time spent in country, volunteer professional/experiential background, etc. We recommend you let us know well before you arrive about your interest in volunteering, and we'll take it from there. That said, here's a link to some information on volunteering and community involvement opportunities we've set up in the past.
Can I stay on campus after class is over if I'm living off campus? [up]
Absolutely. However, please make sure you catch one of the after-school shuttles down to town. Otherwise, you'll have to get a cab to come pick you up, and this will cost you a few dollars.
We have a 50-foot pool with a spectacular view, hammocks, short nature trails (with some great info on Costa Rican history) and a gym. There's plenty to do around campus after the bell has rung.
Not really. The sooner we know you're coming, the better. However, if you're looking to lodge on campus, we do recommend making your arrangements and paying the deposit fairly early. This is because campus lodging does indeed fill up quickly.
Here's more or less what you can expect. In addition to the basic activities listed here, we offer a series of out-of-class activities throughout the week. These can be academic, cultural or recreational. Our goal is to keep students engaged on our campus as long as we can, while ensuring that you're exposed to the language and have plenty of opportunities to practice.
We teach Spanish - really well. We do this through our full immersion Spanish program, as well as in our online Spanish program. Both are top-notch Spanish training programs, and we've built our reputation around the quality of our academics. However, there are a few other things we do pretty well as well, such as helping students with their weekend planning, setting up volunteer work with different organizations, ensure that you're comfortable while living here on campus with us, as well as making sure that your host family experience is going smoothly. Finally, we run a pretty decent cafeteria!
Conversa is at 3,550 feet above sea level. The town of Santa Ana, just 10 minutes away, is at 2,950 feet.