Who may enroll?
Any high school age student (14.5 - 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 not ready to use Spanish on a daily basis. Each student will need the maturity to adapt to a new environment and culture This is not a teen tour trip.
What makes our program so unique?
We are a truly geniune immersion experience. Our program is fully integrated into the local high school (non-academic) cultural, offering visiting students endless opportunities to make friends and expand their Spanish skills. We shape our program solely around the village culture and its youth development needs. We strongly believe in bringing youth together to build trust and share common ground through the simple things in life that we all value. Healthy outdoor activities, local food, art, music, familiy get-togethers, with opportunities to share talents and contribute to the good-will of local villages and people. Come to experience a new perspective and explore the richness of untouristed Costa Rica.
Do we offer Community Service?
Yes, we focus on mutual engagement! We follow and contribute to our Summer of Youth leadership experience. Our exchange is about interaction and not just about "volunteer hours", being yourself and making connections is the most rewarding and thoughtful way to open yourself up to new people and new ways of thinking. We coordinate programs, teach music, tutor in the schools, share arts and craft projects, play games, practice dance, and participate in sports. It's really incredible how far a little Spanish will go, when you believe in sharing the experience with local kids. We also invite visiting students to share their talents.
How do we support your Spanish skills?
Confidence through social interaction not "Spanish study" will bring joy to your second language journey! We augment your program with individual tutoring, you choose how often (daily or weekly), a friendly local teacher will focus on your specific needs and challenges - there's no additional cost. 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 bilingual America. Since 1998, we've supported more than a two thousand students on their path to fluency through friendship.
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. Also many local students are struggling with English, you can use your language to inspire fun conversations.
What is included in each program price?
Costa Rica Youth Exchange - emergency health insurance, program doctor for minor health visits, airport transport, lodging and home-stays: (includin meals, laundry, purified water), Spanish tutoring sessions, high school, community and cultural events and service projects, all excursions, bilingual staff, toll free 24 hr. emergency communication for parents. We also document service hours for students.
We offer flexible dates.
We want every student to have the opportunity to participate. We make sure all the logistics are taken care of including airport transports.
How do I reserve my spot?
Students are accepted on a first come first serve basis. If you’re interested in participating we recommend enrolling online early since we limit program enrollment. After enrollment, we send out our first pre-departure information materials in January. A second final departure email confirms all logistics, homestay contacts, overseas health, and program safety guidelines.
How do I learn more about the program?
Feel free to send us your telephone number and best time to call so Director Ilba Prego 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 2017, the program was sponsored by High Schools in Tilaran, Costa Rica village 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 using Spanish, what is his/her motivation for joining the program, is he/she ready for more responsibility, does he/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 one of Latin America's true high school immersion programs 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, team of educators and community leaders. Each student receives daily support from four sources: Program Director, teachers, host family, and youth coordinators. Program staff members are available 24 hours a day, and live within walking distance of students. Ilba Prego, Program Director is on-site, and can be contacted anytime by students or parents.
Are there medical concerns? What about Covid?
The rural areas of Costa Rica have had little Covid impact, and schools are open. The Mayor of Tilaran and School directors gave us a green light to restart our exchange. Presently the community has already recieved vaccinations. Our final payment is not until May 10th, there is low financial risk to enroll. We will keep you up to date with any travel concerns for the upcoming summer.
To particpate each visiting student should be in excellent health. We provide at no cost our family doctor clinic for minor illness. We include overseas health insurance for emergencies, which includes Covid.
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?
We are family first! Visiting students are part of our family, they are not travelers.
We are not profit driven. We take no short cuts with our students! Our program pays salaries, brings income to families, funds youth extra-curricular programs, and covers transport and excursion costs.
We maintain a very clear set of Safety 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.12 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 boundaries 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 25 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 home healthy, with a wealth of life experience.
How do students communicate with home?
Students can bring cell-phones, we limit use during youth programming, families also have e-mail. Program Director is reachable 24 hrs a day through our Toll Free Service for Parents.
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 rural Costa Rica. All of our Host Families attend our orientation 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 the majority of meals 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, going to central park or hanging out at local town spots with friends or host family siblings. Tilaran is active in sports and cultural traditions.
What are the day excursions like?
The excursions alone make this program an incredible value! Expect to explore local rain-forests and waterfalls, hidden swimming spots, eco- farms and villages. We go swimming at least twice a week! Don't forget our music and dance, high school fiestas!
We enjoy your questions!
Tilaran, Costa Rica
Director - Ilba Prego
Do you know?
We offer flexible dates
Our high schools are in session.
100% of program costs stay in our village
We are Central America's oldest
high school exchange.