Who may enroll? Any high school age students (15 - 18 yrs) At least one -year of high school Spanish! Who is this program for? Motivated and responsible high school students excited about experiencing Spanish in a authentic Central American community. This is a vibrant youth focused program embraced by our high schools. Providing visiting students with a fun and easy-going environment to make friends while building fluency in Spanish. You will not believe how much you will learn and experience in community based program. Each student should have the maturity to follow instructions an adapt to changes. Language level is not as important as motivation!
Who should not enroll? Any student looking for a "Cancun experience" involving bars and alcohol. Any student not ready to use Spanish on a daily basis. Each student will need the maturity to adapt to a new environment outside their normal comfort zone. This is not a school tour trip.
How do we help you become fluent? We make immersion afforable so you can stay longer and gain language confidence. We also stand by our Fluency Pledge, which means we support you without any additional program costs if you decide to return for another summer, semester, or gap year. We help and support you, you only pay your costs - no extra charges. Unlike large student travel companies whose business is based on profit numbers, ours is based one thing - helping young people thrive in the bilingual Americas. Since 1998, we've supported more than a thousand students on their path to fluency.
What makes our program so unique? First of all, we are high school only! Our program is fully integrated into the local high school scene giving students endless opportunities to make friends and expand their Spanish skills. We shape our program solely around the interests of high school students. We have developed the program from the suggestions of our students, so each year we continue to evolve and maintain a fresh, and exciting approach to community interaction. We also run our own excursions, fiestas, sports programs, cultural events, school exchange and community service - so every summer something new and exciting is happening. In the summer of 2004 we are proud to have started the first ever girls soccer program in the Granada region, 2010 we started a schools arts exchange program, 2013 we added a regional cooking class. view Program Highlights
Do we offer Community Service? Yes, each student is matched according to their interests and talents to local youth programs. Our volunteer is fun, active and unforgettable! We run soccer programs, teach music, tutor in the schools, share arts and craft projects, play games with disadvantaged children, practice dance, compete and run sports programs, It's really incredible how far a little Spanish will go, when you believe in sharing the experience with local kids. We also invite students to bring anything from home to improve their experience, students from last summer brought frisbee's and started a frisbee frenzy, one student brought his saxophone and joined the local high school band and tutored young musicians. Proceeds from our immersion program go to support local youth programs in sports and the arts.
Will my Spanish improve? Yes (dramatically), and more importantly your understanding of how to use it according to local culture. Many people speak Spanish but alienate local people because they are ignorant of Latino culture. We teach Spanish so your voice communicates respect and because your out speaking and interacting with local people you earn a big "high five" from the community. No doubt about it, this is a challenging program- you are immersed, but you will never regret for one moment joining us.
Will I be isolated in Spanish? Never, students live a short distance from each other. everything is within walking distance, each day we have group activities at the high school and plenty of free-time to mingle.
What is included in each program price? Costa Rica Youth Exchange provides round trip airfare from major U.S. cities, overseas medical and evacuation insurance, program doctor, free phone and e-mail service to students, airport transport within session dates, all lodging and home-stays: including all meals, laundry, purified water, all language sessions and tutoring, all high school, community and cultural events, all excursions, bilingual staff, toll free 24 hr. emergency communication for parents.
We offer flexible dates with a small fee for extra transfer. We understand that other personal events may conflict with our session flight dates, no problem! We want every student to have the opportunity to participate. We make sure all the logistics are taken care of included airport transport and flight times. We charge $125.00 for airport transport outside session dates.
Can I purchase my own airfare? Certainly, we discount the airfare from the total price. Typical discount is $850, we make no profit on air travel.
How do I reserve my spot? Students are accepted on a first come first serve basis. If you’re interested in participating we recommend applying online early since we limit program enrollment. What happens after my application is received? After confirming your reservation in the program, we will send to you our pre-departure information materials. Then we confirm all travel logistics.
How do I learn more about the program? Feel free to send us your telephone number and best time to call so our student coordinator can answer all your specific questions! We also provide on request contact information from returning students and parents!
What is the program background? Created 1998, the program grew out of the Costa Rica / Nicaragua Partnership Program, the program was developed by teachers and community leaders with the purpose of connecting high school Spanish students to family and community life in Central America. In 2018, the program was sponsored by High Schools in Tilaran, Costa Rica community.
Freshman or senior, what age is best? Our experience shows that age is not nearly as important as motivation. The time for immersion is when the student is excited and ready to go for it! Many of our best students were younger with less Spanish skills. The confidence and maturity they gained in the immersion experience carried-over into the next school year.
How do parents determine if their child should join this program? Parents will know their children better than we ever will! Just ask yourself, does my son/daughter show motivation in learning Spanish, what is his/her motivation for joining the program, has he or she been working hard at school, does he or she have the maturity to adapt to changes, to make good judgments relating to personal decisions with their peers, and do they act respectful in your home.
Can parents visit? Yes, however, parents should plan to visit before or after program session dates. Let us know, we can help with logistics and travel recommendations. Who is responsible in-country for students? We pride ourselves on being Latin America's only high school exclusive program, we are accountable to parents and to our community - we strongly believe in appropriate curfews and personal behavior! The Costa Rica Youth Exchange Program is not a place where students are left alone to do as they please. Each student is a guest in our community, responsible for maintaining our high program standards regarding conduct. Students are guided by a friendly, highly trained team of educators, community leaders and former Peace Corps volunteers. Each student receives daily supervision from four sources: Program Director, teachers, host family, and youth coordinator. Program staff members are available 24 hours a day, and live within walking distance of students. Ilba Prego, Program Director can be contacted anytime by students or parents!
Are there medical concerns? No different from anywhere else, our most common ailment is the common cold. A few students each year have a small period adapting to the food and climate. Our food is very healthy, locally grown. We provide at no cost our family doctor clinic for any student. Students are chaperoned on every health visit. We keep parents notified on any health concern.
Do you provide referrals from parents and students who have participated in the program? We certainly do on your request, as well from Spanish teachers and school administrators.
What makes our program safer than others? This is by far the most important question for us, and the answer has several parts. First of all, the safety program was developed through the recommendations of the NAFSA Association of International Educators. Each student participates in our safety orientation. We maintain a very clear set of Safety Rules and Guidelines that are meticulously enforced. Secondly, because we maintain a very strong and personal connection within the community, including the Mayor’s office, the cultural center, school directors and youth community programs we keep well informed of local conditions. Unlike many immersion programs that are run by a foreign staff we are native community members. Thirdly, our program is high school only! For that reason we maintain high school appropriate supervision, behavior, curfews and guidelines. We also maintain a small program in a small city. We limit enrollment to approx. 15 students, which allows us to focus on individual student needs and interests. Thirdly, we maintain a small staff to student ratio, our staff provides supervision during all activities and are available to assist students at any time, day or night. The staff will not be able to supervise students around-the-clock, and it will ultimately be up to the students themselves to respect the program rules and exercise caution and practice good judgment.
Ask this question of every high school program - Who is the in-country director and how much experience? Our director Ilba Prego has been coordinating youth exchanges in Central America for 20 years, a recognized community leader with decades of high school and university program development. Ilba supervises all aspects of the program from excursions to high school sessions, host families to transportation. Parents can contact the director 24/7. Since 1998, every student participant has returned healthy and safe!
How do students communicate with home? Students can easily stay in touch with home through our free digital phone service and email. All host families can be reached via telephone. Many host families also have e-mail. Program Director is reachable 24 hrs a day through our Toll Free Service for Parents.
What is a typical day in the program? Monday through Friday students meet at their high school from 9:00am - 12:00am The language sessions will focus on communication, conversation and cultural skills. Each session is broken up into fun and active intercultural activities within the community and local schools. Students are in small groups practicing real language situations that provide "hands on" tasks, such as tortilla -making, creating refrescos, buying in the market, ceramic arts, adobe arts, asking directions, politeness in speaking, and facilitating school friendships. Students enjoy our siesta lunch break from 12:00pm until 2:30pm, afternoons are spent in community service with local youth and children organizations, evenings include: music, dance, movies, live concerts, fiestas, theater, sports. Weekends we explore nearby attractions such as rain-forest, farms, islands, beaches, volcanoes and Host high school dance nights.
Host Families with children in the schools! Students live with middle -class families, each Host Family provides a comfortable and friendly environment to experience traditional home life in Latin America. All of our Host Families attend our annual training session on caring for a visiting high school student. Host Families are responsible for providing healthy meals, purified water and juice, day time snacks, private secured room, and laundry. Host Families are in close contact with the Program Director in all aspects of the students health and welfare, students are responsible for respecting Host Family home rules and curfews.
How much time will I be spending with my host family? As much as you would like! At the very least, you will have breakfasts, lunch and dinners and weekend free-time with your family. Ideally, you will spend enough time with them to learn about their lives, make friends with their friends and relatives, go on visits and attend family events. A close relationship with your host family will make a world of difference in your summer experience. Students are strongly encouraged to eat with their host families.
Will I have free time? Certainly, each day during lunch/siesta you have over 2 hours of your time, evening activities are never mandatory, and Sunday’s are generally free. Your free time is yours, as long as you stay within the program boundaries. Most students spend their free time relaxing with fellow students or host family siblings.
What are the day excursions like? The excursions alone make this program an incredible value! Expect to explore rain-forests, volcanoes, Latin music,, a day-trip to a relaxing Pacific beach, indigenous arts villages, coffee farm. We go swimming at least once a week! Don't forget our music and dance, high school fiestas! We enjoy your questions!