Follow Nadja's adventures in Costa Rica!

In November 2015, the Swiss Olympic snowboarder Nadja Purtschert travelled with Yalea Languages and Sudden Rush to Costa Rica. During her trip, she tested out her surfing skills as well as taking a Spanish course. So that we didn't miss a moment of her trip and could share in her incredible adventure, Nadja updated her Facebook page with her experience during her travels.

Nadja's travel diary

  Week 1 - CPI Spanish School in Heredia

Bienvenido a Costa Rica

I've just finished the first week of my language course in Costa Rica with Yalea. My trip to Heredia has flown by, probably because of all of the incredible experiences I have had here. Even though I've had already travelled a lot, both to go snowboarding and for fun, and have already been exposed to different languages and cultures, a language course abroad is a completely new experience for me. I've already learnt so many new things this week, and I'm not just talking about the Spanish that I didn't understand when I first arrived. It's these moments of discovery that have made this week so special to me.

A warm welcome from my host family

During this week, I've had the chance to stay with a "Tico" family (what the locals are called). I was pretty nervous during the journey from the airport as I had no idea what to expect and I wished my Spanish was stronger. However, when I arrived in Heredia, I was given such a warm welcome by my new family. My two Tica sisters (5 and 8 years old) wanted to play with me straight away, which went surprisingly well even though I didn't always understand them. They were so happy to have a new big sister. My Tico parents also made me feel at home, inviting me to a family party on the first day and treating me like 'part of the family'. At home, I learnt about Latin American cuisine, my laundry was done for me and we talked about our lives; I really felt at home. Thanks to this experience, I had a chance to discover what life is really like in Costa Rica. As a surprise, my family even took me to a football match (Costa Rica vs Haiti) for the playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The family already hold an important place in my heart and I will definitely visit them when I return to Costa Rica.

My first steps in learning Spanish

CPI is a fantastic school - I cannot recommend it enough. All the teachers and staff are very friendly and well-trained. On the first day, there was a placement test (written and oral). For this week, there were only six students in the school as it is low season. As a result, from 8am to midday we each had private lessons. Therefore, I was able to make the most of the classes and learn quickly. As I had no prior knowledge of Spanish before arriving in Costa Rica, my aim was to be able to build a basic understanding of the language during five weeks of lessons. At my level, the classes are primarily based on oral communication and during these discussions I learnt a lot about the country. Although at the beginning I didn't understand much and just replied "si" or "no", by the end of the week I was able to follow the conversation. I can now communicate what I want to say and I surprise myself with the new words I come up with.

Incredible culture and nature in Costa Rica

CPI offers a wide range of recreational activities. Given that my lessons took place in the mornings, it was possible to explore various places during the afternoons. The schools offered all the typical Costa Rican activities, which I took full advantage of! This included cultural activities like a trip to San José with a visit to the theatre and the Jade Museum or dinner in a Cuban restaurant. One afternoon, we visited Sarchi to see the amazing intricate and brightly coloured handicrafts, which it is famous for. As Latin America is known for its delicious cuisine, one day we had a cooking class. The salsa and merengue dance lessons at the school were also fun. However, I liked the outdoor activities best: the trips to the Poás Volcano and to the La Paz waterfalls were absolutely amazing. My favourite excursion was rafting on Rio Pacuare, one of the 10 most scenic rivers in the world, with its waterfalls featured in the film Jurassic Park.

All these trips were really incredible. After one week, I could already say that I saw a large part of the country. As the tours were very well-organized and I just had to register myself on the lists of the activities I was interested in, I could take part without much planning. Some activities were with local people so I felt like less of a tourist than I would have done with the excursions organized by the hotels.

I now already have a good sense of the country, its language and its culture. During this week, I realized that a language course abroad is so much more than just a way to learn a language. It's also about travelling and really getting to know a country. I am looking forward to the next four weeks, and I hope that I can acquire a basic knowledge of Spanish by the end of my stay, as well as taking home many amazing memories. I will keep you updated... Next stop, Monteverde!

Hasta luego y pura vida, Nadja

Spanish courses in Costa Rica

  Week 2 - CPI Spanish School in Monteverde

The second week in Monteverde was very busy. As its name suggests, Monteverde is situated 1,500 metres above sea level and is known for its incredible biodiversity. It's a dream destination for biology students, adventurers and tourists. I had the opportunity to spend a week in this beautiful mountainous landscape.

Delicious food with my host family

This week I was able to stay with a Tico family again. Everyone was very nice and I was staying just a two minute walk away from the school. My host mum cooked really delicious meals every day. I love the food here in general. I found that many people in Costa Rica eat a lot and that they eat often. For exmaple, there is fruit, tortillas and coffee available in the 10 o'clock lesson break. In Monteverde there are also many cafes and restaurants that grow their own vegetables in their gardens.

Learning Spanish through games

CPI really won me over this week. There were only a few students in the Monteverde school so most people were able to take advantage of having private lessons. The lessons were based on oral communication, however, thanks to various different language games, the classes were always varied. Even though sometimes I had a lot of homework, I found the classes worked perfectly and were very efficient.

Adventure in the unspoilt rainforest

For those who love nature and adventure, Monteverde is the perfect destination. With different walks, horseback riding, ziplining, bungee jumping and trips to coffee plantations, there is so much do. As Monteverde is fairly high up, the air is cooler. The weather, especially in the afternoons, is quite unpredictable, so it is advisable to always have a waterproof jacket and umbrella with you (at least during this time of year). If you travel from Monteverde to Flamingo, it's worth stopping in Arenal (one of the seven active volcanoes in Costa Rica).

I really liked Monteverde and I definitely want to return one day. I am looking forward to the next week on the coast where there will be slightly warmer weather. Next stop, Playa Flamingo!

Hasta luego y pura vida, Nadja

Spanish courses in Costa Rica

 Week 3 - CPI Spanish School Playa Flamingo

White sandy beaches, turquoise water and picture-perfect sunsets - if you like living by the sea, Playa Flamingo is the place for you. The atmosphere here is very relaxed, the people are really friendly and from the moment I arrived, I knew I would have an absolutely incredible week. There are so many activities available in Playa Flamingo. The closest surfing spot, Tamarindo, is only 25 minutes away from the school and there is a swimming pool in the school grounds that is ideal for relaxing by.

Great accommodation and friendly locals

This week I stayed in CPI Playa Flamingo's student residence. The building is in perfect condition with a lovely garden, a swimming pool, a volleyball pitch and probably the best wifi in Costa Rica! The apartments all have a kitchen and are cleaned every day. Although I wasn't living with a Tico family this week, I could practice my Spanish in daily life: for example with the security guard,to explain to him that I couldn't open my safe or to notify reception that my mobile phone was in my car. In general, people are very helpful and friendly in Costa Rica. You have plenty of opportunities to meet locals, even if its only while you are waiting for the bus, who are happy to talk to you no matter where you come from or how well you speak the language.

Spanish lessons based on your needs

This week I was lucky enough to be able to benefit from private lessons again. The classes were designed to perfectly achieve my language learning goals, and the teaching methods were very varied and entertaining. We also had a great group of students. As the beach is only 5 minutes away from the school, we often ate our lunch by the sea. At the end of the week, CPI organized a beach barbecue, which all of the CPI team attended. With one of the most beautiful sunsets, this was a wonderful way to end the week.

Warm weather and lots of time at the beach

In Flamingo, it is much warmer than Heredia and Monteverde. The weather was generally better, but this might be because we were leaving the rainy winter season. Instead of an umbrella, it is advisable to always have mosquito repellent with you. In Flamingo there is so much to do. On the beach there are lots of activities including snorkelling, and there are tours to hot springs, which can be combined with zip lining, tubing and horseback riding. Those who are interested in visiting the many beaches can do so with a quad bike, and if you are looking for waves, Tamarindo, the closest surf spot, is not far away.

The week in Playa Flamingo was an absolute dream. I have enjoyed my time here and look forward to my next week of Spanish and surfing. Next stop, Jacó!

Hasta luego y pura vida, Nadja

Spanish courses in Costa Rica

  Week 4 - School of the World Jacó

Jacó is one of the largest villages, and therefore one of the most touristic in Costa Rica. It lies by the beach and has plenty of restaurants, cafes, souvenir and surf shops. If you like surfing, this is a great place, as there are waves all day at the different beaches. From smoothies to fresh fruit markets, there is everything here that you could wish for.

Huge variety of courses at the School of the World

The School of the World was one of the first schools to combine Spanish and surfing lessons into the one program. In recent years, the school has added yoga, photography and GoPro courses. As a result, the Spanish classes are not as rigorous as at a school like CPI, but it is the perfect way to learn a little Spanish during your surfing holiday. Each week you can register for one to three courses. All of the courses are geared towards the surf conditions and are amended according to the tides. As there are other courses offered outside surfing, you can also meet people who are interested in photography and/or yoga. The school is run by really great people and the Pura Vida lifestyle is guaranteed.

Spanish, GoPro & Surfing

The various different courses last two to three hours and are offered at a number of levels by very competent teachers. I took the Spanish, surfing and GoPro courses in my program, which meant my days were quite full. Although I have often filmed with my GoPro before, this course was very instructive. Each day we went to some beautiful places with the photography class to gather footage for our film project, which we put together in the class. The surf instructors were really good at coaching us and gave useful pointers to students of all levels. For students who are looking to take more than two hours of surfing classes, there is the possibility to take the "intensive surf" program (two sets of two hour classes) or go surfing independently of the classes.

Living in a surf family

The School of the World is furnished "surfer style". There are various rooms that you can stay in for different prices, including those for two people (which can be shared between students). In addition to the shared kitchen in each "apartment", a fridge, sink and plates are available. Most of the time students eat together in the evenings so you really feel like part of a big family.

I had a great time at the School of the World and I am determined to come back one day.

See you soon and I look forward to my next and final week at Sudden Rush's surfing camp in Manzanillo!
Saludos, Nadja

Spanish courses in Costa Rica

  Week 5 - Sudden Rush Surf Camp Manzanillo

For those who love nature and surfing, Manzanillo is the perfect destination. The beaches are surrounded by forests and jungles, which are only accessible by bumpy dirt roads. Experiences in the style of Into the Wild are therefore guaranteed. Manzanillo is a quiet place and perfect for relaxing. The nearest village, Santa Teresa, is located 20 minutes away by quad bike and there you can find many restaurants and small shops. As Santa Teresa is more touristic, there is always a party going on there.

Life at camp: surf, eat, sleep - repeat!

The Sudden Rush Manzanillo Surf Camp is located on a hill in the jungle with beautiful sea views. There are several shared bungalows, as well as a trendily decorated Camp House. In general, the site was built with the natural landscape in mind and there is a mini ramp into the forest and a yoga platform overlooking the sea. The atmosphere in the camp is also fantastic. Whether you are travelling alone or in a group, whether you are here for one week or five weeks, everyone is welcome and immediately integrated into the group. Two surfing sessions are held every day, for which you can register for when you like. It is also possible to book surf lessons. You can surf waves of different sizes every day and surf in groups with other campers. I really enjoyed the camp's varied breakfast and dinner. A professional chef prepared our food every day, which is included in the camp price. You can also choose to eat out in a restaurant instead, or you can decide to go on a fishing excursion. The camp's staff are also extremely helpful and really friendly people with who you can have fun.

Spanish in everyday life

Since the camp is mainly visited by German surfers, I haven't really improved my Spanish this week as much as I have my surfing skills. However, I was able to communicate with a taxi driver to get what I needed in the village, and at the supermarket checkout to explain the problems with my Costa Rican SIM card. Even though I am not fluent, I can express myself and make myself understood in Spanish.

I had a wonderful time in Costa Rica and would like to sincerely thank Yalea and Sudden Rush for this unique experience. All the people, schools and camps have helped to make this such a memorable trip. This will certainly not be my last visit to Costa Rica. I cannot recommend this combination of surfing and adventure enough, as it has given me such a varied and action-packed holiday.

Pura vida and muchas gracias! Saludos, Nadja

Spanish courses in Costa Rica

Yalea Languages - Language courses abroad
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