Looking for Spanish immersion programs?
As soon as I stepped off the plane in Guatemala, I was welcomed into a family of some of the most lovely people I had ever met. They were kind, constantly smiling, and eager to help me with my goal for the week—begin to learn Spanish abroad!
The first people I met at the airport were Don Francisco and Freddy—the CCS Guatemala drivers. They spoke varying levels of English, and I was eager to get to know them both. Don Francisco always waited for me to say something first, but all I had to do was offer up a “buenos dias” and he would test my Spanish skills with some easy conversation. Freddy, on the other hand, was always looking for a chance to practice his English. He’d ask me what kind of music I like, and then queue up a song by my favorite band on the car stereo. It was nice to learn Spanish while also helping others work toward their goal of perfecting their English skills.
The queen bee at the Guatemala Home-Base is Virginia. She’s a strong, thoughtful, beautiful woman who runs the program and is basically all things to all volunteers; the mom, the Spanish instructor, the historian, the confidant. She hugs you as soon as you meet her. She stops what she’s doing when you get home from your volunteer work to ask you how it was. She asks you about your life and how you came to be an international volunteer and what you love about traveling and what you hope to learn. In addition to answering every single question I could come up with about Guatemala, my volunteer assignment, and our neighborhood, Virginia also helped me begin to get a knack for Spanish grammar. The difference between plural and singular can be all the difference in the world, so thank you, Virginia, for helping me understand!
One of the closest connections that I made during my time volunteering in Guatemala was with Miguel, the CCS Guatemala security guard. Each night before we all went to bed, a bunch of the volunteers would gather in the living room to talk with Miguel and practice our Spanish. He told us about his wife and family, his passion for handicrafts and painting, and his favorite movies and music. Getting to know Miguel was like getting to know Guatemala.
And of course, being out in the community and working at my volunteer assignment also helped me to achieve my goal. So even though I had never taken a Spanish lesson before I went to volunteer in Guatemala, I’m so happy that I set the bar high for myself and set my mind to learning the language. Volunteering in Guatemala was a unique and incredibly effective way to begin to learn Spanish abroad. With CCS, I was able to find a Spanish immersion program model that worked for me while working alongside local people, and exploring a beautiful country. It was an experience I'll never forget.