After being desperate to travel to somewhere new and exotic, I started to look online for Spanish speaking countries where I could learn but also see a new country. Travelling alone meant that I wanted something to occupy my time and a Spanish speaking country meant I could continue to improve my Spanish.
I stumbled across ´Go Learn To´ who had a listing on their website for a Spanish and Photography course in Costa Rica. I booked months in advance and proceeded to spend months planning my trip and making sure I had all the necessary vaccines. This is when I found out that the institute offering the course was ´School of the World Costa Rica´ and so I did some research online and found rave reviews.
Having decided that I wanted to try and get some sun during the UK winter, I decided to fly to Costa Rica in December of 2013. I was greeted by scorching sunshine and a fair amount of humidity but was so thankful to be avoiding British weather. The locals told me at this point that they couldn´t wait for summer to arrive despite it being well over 30 degrees!!
I chose to stay with a homestay family who could not have been more welcoming and helped me so much with my Spanish and helped me to feel at home more than I could have imagined. They were a family who didn´t have very much except each other and a few belongings but they offered me their time and attention and gave me an insight into their world and to me, they seemed richer and had more to offer than anyone I know because of it. Admittedly, the only thing I missed during my homestay was hot water but a cold shower every morning reminded me of how much we take our home comforts for granted.
I began my school week bright and early the day after arriving in Jaco, Costa Rica. Everyone at the School was welcoming and everyone was treated the same regardless of whether you were staying for one week or four months. I had one photography and one Spanish class a day and feel like I gained a lot of knowledge in both areas thanks to the teachers at the school and how well everything was organised. Classes are also offered in Yoga and Surfing which in hindsight I wish I had also done!!
When I wasn´t studying, the pool area was available to relax in, as was the hammock and lounge area and the kitchen area. It is easy to follow the ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life) motto or mantra that belongs to Costa Rica because the locals (Ticos) have an amazing quality of life because they are so relaxed and live in a beautiful country.
I visited a private beach for photography class, zip-lined through the rainforest, woke up at 4.30am to see sunrise and help baby turtles take their first swim in the ocean, visited Manuel Antonio National Park which was the most beautiful place I have ever visited, watched a surf competition and experienced sunset on the beach, saw sloths and crocodiles up close, photographed local fishermen while they fixed their boats, ate amazing tacos, experienced local sodas (amazing local food establishments for really good prices), experienced Costa Rica life firsthand and improved my photography and spanish skills along the way.
My only regret? Not staying for more than one week and not managing to fit in time for a surf!!! I have no doubt that I will return to Costa Rica and discover even more beautiful places because Costa Rica, you have stolen my heart. Pura Vida!!!