How can I make the most of language immersion and the experience of spending a month in Guatemala?
May 21, 2010 11:54 AM Subscribe
What can I do (before, during and after I go) to make the most out of a month of language classes and immersion? And what else should I know about traveling alone for the first time and/or about Xela, Guatemala to help me enjoy my time there?
posted by EmilyClimbs to travel & transportation (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In a few weeks, I'm going to be leaving for a month in Xela, Guatemala, where I'll be taking Spanish classes and volunteering. I'm traveling alone (female, age 28) and I've never been out of the country for more than two weeks before or traveled alone in a foreign country for any length of time. I'd definitely appreciate any advice on making the most of this experience. I'm especially interested in the following:
-- How can I be most effective in improving my Spanish? (I'm currently at a low-intermediate level-- I studied Spanish in school years ago, and have retained a pretty decent vocabulary such that I can get the gist of most written Spanish, but I have a hard time following spoken conversation unless it's at a slower-than-average pace, and my grammar is lousy.) Would it be wise for me to spend time brushing up and preparing before I leave, and if so, what kinds of things do you think would be most helpful? And then once I'm there, do you have any particular advice on what might help me learn more and retain it better? I'll have 5 hours a day of one-on-one classes and will be doing homestays with families while I'm there.
-- If anyone has any recommendations for particular language schools, it would be appreciated. I have two weeks reserved at PLQE but I'm on the wait list for the other two weeks so I need to choose another school. Besides good teaching, what's most important to me is that the school tries to provide an economic/social justice context and perspective (and attracts students who're interested in those things) and that it has a good offering of lectures, activities, and trips. Suggestions for good organizations in Xela to volunteer with/visit/learn from would also be great-- particularly ones with a social/economic justice, organizing/empowerment focus-- I've found several but would appreciate learning about others and/or hearing personal experiences.
-- Any other advice about Xela or Guatemala more generally is definitely welcome-- places to go (within Xela or suitable for a weekend trip), things to try to experience, things that surprised you about the city/the country, safety tips, advice about what to pack for Xela in June, etc, etc.
-- And advice more generally about traveling alone in a foreign country for a semi-extended period of time would be really terrific, too. I'm both excited and nervous about it, and I definitely feel like there's all kinds of things I'm not thinking of. From the mundane to the profound, are there things you wish you'd been told or thought about or did (or are glad you knew or thought about or did) the first time you traveled alone in a foreign country?
Thanks so much!