Language Immersion in Spain through Amerispan
During the summer of 2005 I spent two weeks in Sevilla and two weeks in Barcelona taking language and culture classes and living with a local family in each location. These placements were coordinated by AmeriSpan, an independent language travel organization that calls itself “the bridge between cultures.”
AmeriSpan evaluates language schools and housing options and takes care of the details of enrolling students in schools, matching them with host families if desired, and providing airport transportation if needed. Several options such as smaller class size, extra meals, dormitory or apartment instead of homestay, private bedroom, and airport pickup are available for an additional cost. I heard about AmeriSpan through Transitions Abroad and feel that this organization did a wonderful job making my arrangements in Spain.
Since it had been several years since I had studied Spanish I struggled a lot with the language, especially at the beginning of my month-long immersion abroad. I studied at CLIC in Sevilla and at Enforex in Barcelona. Each language school tested new students in order to place them in the appropriate level class. I found my pre-intermediate classes, four hours daily, to be quite challenging. The classes were intensive and the pace was fast. The instructors were all very good.
The small size of CLIC was appealing, and the heavy emphasis on conversation was just what I needed. José, my instructor, stressed the more practical and immediate elements of speaking and listening. I also opted to meet with an intercambio partner (a local resident who wanted to practice her English) on two evenings so that we could help each other with our respective language goals.
Enforex was not as intimate an experience as CLIC because of its size. There were nine students in my class. Students are taught by two teachers who each conduct daily 2-hour lessons. My instructors, Maica and María, had complementary styles. I was also enrolled in a daily 1-hour culture class, but I quickly discovered that many students either skipped the class or else fell asleep since it immediately followed four hours of language instruction.
I appreciated the fact that the students at both schools were a very diverse group of well-traveled, intelligent, and adventurous individuals of various nationalities and ages. My classmates were from France, the Netherlands, Martinique, Germany, England, Belgium, Japan, Turkey, China, Sweden, and the U.S. In addition to learning about Spanish culture I was able to learn a little about the cultures of my classmates during our daily lessons since we often interviewed each other and had group discussions.
Both schools organized after-school activities such as tours and also weekend excursions to nearby cities of interest. Spending time with other students outside of the classroom gave us a chance to learn more about one another in a more relaxed atmosphere. The real language immersion took place outside the classroom—on the streets and with the host family.
Overall, my study abroad experience was very good. The instruction was of high quality and both of my homestay arrangements were comfortable. The food was delicious, the siestas were much appreciated, and the sights were worth seeing. Thanks to free Internet access at both schools I was able to send several emails to my sister updating her on my experiences as I went along. Despite the summer heat, my first visit to Spain went well. I highly recommend participation in a language immersion program. It is an eye-opening experience.
Sybil L. Holloway is a psychologist at Bloomsburg Univ. in Pennsylvania and a freelance writer.