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Block plan enables Spanish study in Guatemala

A major benefit of Cornell’s block calendar for Spanish students is studying abroad for a month or longer any time it’s convenient while earning language course credits. Cornell’s Spanish program maintains relationships with two particular schools in Guatemala, and a number of recent students have studied at each of them.

Guetemalan School

Language schools in Guatemala provide one-on-one language instruction, as well as opportunities for homestays, adventures to volcanoes and other nearby sites, and cultural immersion.

Below are a few student reflections.

Proyecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin, Antigua

Jenna Moraski, May 2009

“It’s impossible to not improve upon speaking and listening skills after four 35-hour weeks of one-on-one instruction and full-on socialization with Spanish speakers. Antigua is the heart of Guatemala, and I cannot imagine not having called it home. The streets are alive with culture but still offer American comforts.

Perhaps the best part of staying in Antigua was the link that it offered to the rest of the incredible country. I smelled ripe coffee berries, climbed ancient ruins high above the forest, felt my shoes melt beneath me at the top of an active volcano, and learned more than I thought possible about the history and magic of Guatemala.

I feel so much more confident in my Spanish speaking abilities, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Cornell’s independent study abroad program in Antigua to anyone and everyone.”

Andrew Kinn, Feb. 2009

“Everyone there is so friendly, and it is so easy to make friends and get to know people. The highlights included: climbing Volcano Pacaya, traveling to Monterrico Beach (La Playa de Monterrico), going to soccer games, my amazing host family, my teachers at school who were very supportive and helpful, the awesome friends I made, traveling to Lake Atitlán, trying new foods, learning about their customs, and just being immersed in a totally different culture.

It had a huge impact on both my language skills and on my academic plans. I went to Guatemala planning on just getting my language requirements done, but I loved the trip so much I decided to become a Spanish major when I returned.”

Juan Sisay Language School, Quetzaltenango (Xela)

Kirsten Johnson, Summer 2009 and Jan. 2010

“The experience was unforgettable. The people of Xela were very welcoming and open, even to someone like me coming in unable to understand a lot of what was being said to me. I was able to take classes in Spanish one-on-one with my teacher, Tony. I also tutored a few children a couple of times a week in English, which was very fun and rewarding. In addition, I was able to participate in many excursions outside of the classroom setting, and I also learned to salsa dance.

Studying abroad has changed my life. I am a Spanish major but never knew the extent to which I love speaking and being surrounded by the Spanish language. I plan to do all I can in order to live abroad after college, either volunteering or working. It is much easier for me to speak and understand Spanish now.

I would recommend studying abroad to everyone. Even if you are not planning on majoring in Spanish, Juan Sisay is such a great school in which you are simply free to broaden your horizons. ”

Bobby Boughton, Summer 2008 (student) and 2009 (intern)

“At  Juan Sisay, you will study for 5 hours a day one-on-one with your professor. Aside from this there are a ton of activities that the school hosts. Hiking up a volcano, traveling to a church to study things like religious syncretism, or even going on a cable ride over a banana plantation are all provided by the school.

I would say that the best part about the whole experience comes from the people you meet. People don’t need a lot of experience to teach their native language, and even though all professors at Juan Sisay are university educated, a lot of the professors were around the same age as me. As a result of this, they enjoy hanging out and inviting students to activities when school gets out.

(As an intern) my position was international coordinator. With anyone interested in coming to the school, I would keep in contact with them, helping manage schedules, payment plans, bus transportation while in Guatemala, and answer any question a potential student might have. I also gave translations at all conferences at the school, which covered topics such as the unofficial economy in Guatemala, abortion rights in Guatemala, Mayan culture, and many other things. It was a great job.”