In June 2019, 13 students and two chaperones traveled to Sámara, Costa Rica for an eight-day cultural immersion trip. Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Sámara was the perfect little pueblo to learn Spanish. With only 3,000 people in the community, host families’ houses were close to the school and it was easy to find restaurants, souvenir shops, and corner markets. The school itself was literally right on the beach! They had half-day classes for five days and during their breaks, they could grab some coffee and head out to the beach to buy a snack, take pictures, or just enjoy the sound of the waves breaking on the beach. In their small-group classes, they met other students from all over the world while reviewing grammar, learning LOTS of new vocabulary, and playing games - all in Spanish!
Not only did they have to use only Spanish at the school, but they also stayed with host families who only spoke Spanish. Their “Mama Ticas” (Costa Rican moms) would make them breakfast and dinner, and after dinner, the students and their families would hang out and get to know each other. The students quickly realized the wisdom of Ms. Sauer’s suggestion of taking showers at night. The days were hot and sticky and the homes didn’t have air conditioning, so a cold shower at night helped them sleep!
School was probably - no, definitely - not the most fun part about Costa Rica, though. When they weren’t taking classes, students got to learn how to surf, make traditional bracelets, volunteer with CREAR (an art and English educational support for students), have a beach bonfire with s’mores, learn to make empanadas, zipline (twice!), learn to dance salsa and merengue, kayak, swim in the ocean and a pool, go tubing, snorkel, go horseback riding, relax in hot springs, and use their Spanish skills around town as they bought lunches and souvenirs. Though the days were packed with activities, the students managed to find some time to relax in the hammocks around the school, making it one of the favorite pastimes, along with surfing and ziplining. However, when asked, Zach Polzin couldn’t make up his mind, saying, “I just loved living in the culture!”
Having taken 5 groups to Costa Rica, with a total of 83 students getting to experience the beauty of Costa Rica and the eye-opening wonder of travel, Sarah Sauer (Spanish and ESL teacher at SCL) absolutely believes in student travel. “Travel gives students an opportunity to practice the global skill of communicating across cultures and changes their perspective of the world.” She believes that travel also helps students become more confident, independent, and aware of others. “I can’t tell you the number of parents and students who have told me how the Costa Rica trip changed them or gave them a new motivation to travel or continue with Spanish. It’s so amazing to see how much they learn (about Spanish, cultures, themselves, the world) in such a short amount of time. I just love it!”