A Few Tips: Staying in Touch with Friends and Family
Whether you are planning to be in Costa Rica for four weeks or a year, you’re going to miss your loved ones back home. It may be boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, cousins - heck - you may even miss the awkward cheek-kisses from your weird aunt!
I had the opportunity to stay in Costa Rica for four weeks last July. During this time, I was completely immersed in the rich Latin American culture. Even though it was the best month of my life, I still missed my family and friends like crazy. Here are some ideas to maintain healthy communication with your loved ones from home:
1.) Create a Consistent Schedule
Once you figure out your daily schedule in Costa Rica, plan a consistent time to connect with your friends and family back home. Whether it’s after class once or twice a week, or every night, it’s important to set a plan of communication with your loved ones. Planning a set time for your mom to expect communication will prevent her from having a panic attacks about your whereabouts!
2.) Use Phone Apps and Other Technological Resources
Super important: Before you leave for your trip, contact your phone service provider about their international plans. Most international plans are crazy expensive, so it’s always a good plan to put your phone on airplane mode and turn data roaming off. If you do this, you can connect to WiFi at any time and get Internet access, but you can’t call or SMS text.
Luckily, there are many places in Alajuela and the surrounding areas that provide free Internet. Beyond the School, there are Local Restaurants like Cafe Delicias, Café Dreams, and La Sandwicheria are always safe bets for reliable WiFi.
If not being able to make a phone call freaks you out, you can buy a cheap phone and SIM card at almost any kiosks in malls or phone services stores around town. Kolbi is one of the most popular phone services in Costa Rica. When I went on my trip, I purchased a burner cell for $30 and it came with 1,000 minutes preloaded. I was able to text my classmates and call with pretty reliable service!
Here are some useful apps to download before your arrival:
iMessage is available for any Apple device. It is basically free instant messaging. The cool thing about iMessage is that you can see if your message has been delivered or not. Users with iPhones, iPads, or MacBooks can use iMessage when connected to the Internet.
Viber (Android, iOS, WP8) (Free)
Viber uses your phone number as your login and syncs your phone to identify your contacts who use Viber. This app allows you to send text, stickers and emoticons, photos, voice and video messages for free to other Viber users. You will need a SIM card and phone functionality to set up Viber.
WhatsApp automatically syncs with your phones contacts, and it is ad free. Users can send text, photos, voice and short video messages to their WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp is free to use for the first year, with a cost of $0.99 per year.
Don’t underestimate the power of email! Email services like Google and Yahoo are always reliable when connected to the Internet.
Facebook Messenger (Android, iOS) (Free)
Users sign in with their Facebook accounts and can send other users the usual chat messages, as well as voice messages and voice calls to other Messenger users. On Android, Messenger has a neat "Chat Heads" feature that pops up in the screen to allow you to chat even when other apps are on-screen.
Skype (Android, iOS, WP8) (Free)
The power of Skype is real. There’s just something about seeing your loved one that makes you feel at home again!
Skype is most well-known for its video and voice call functionality, but Skype's instant messaging features allow you to send text, photos and even short video messages to other Skype users even when they're not online. Additionally, Skype users can use Skype Credits to make calls to mobile phones and landlines.
3.) The Postal System
Sending mail internationally can take up to 2-3 weeks. If your stay here is a short one, I'd recommend shying away from the somewhat crazy world of the Costa Rican postal system. Once thing that is nice is the simplicity of a postcard. Although you probably won't be sending or receiving too many packages, mailing a postcard back home can cost as little as two dollars and a short wait in line. Go old fashioned and send home a letter or post card from your trip!
4.) Keep a Journal or Travel Blog
You don’t want to forget what you experience and learn during your stay in Costa Rica! Consider writing in a journal or starting a blog during your time abroad. There are many free blog sites online, I personally use Blogger through Google. If you publish a weekly blog post and link it to your Facebook account, your friends and family can stay connected with you on your journey.
In the end:
As hard as it is to be away from loved ones, don’t forget to let yourself be immersed in Costa Rica and enjoy the time away from home! Take this time to find yourself and embrace meeting new people and learning about a new culture.
Facing the east side of central park, the neoclassical Church of San Francisco is just a 5 minute walk from our classrooms. With its beautiful dome and unmistakeable architecture, students often find the cathedral as a calm place to study and review class work.
The Cathedral was constructed in 1854
Monthly community festivals are held here to commemorate lost members over the past month
The 1991 earthquake caused sever damage to the cathedral's internal structure
I can't sufficiently express how amazing this school was. I studied for 3 weeks last January at the school and saw my fluency go through the roof. It was pretty remarkable. I learned so, so, so much more than what I'd learned using language Apps and Spanish books.
The program I signed up for had me living with a family near the school. It was an 8 minute walk (yes, I timed it) and my family was absolutely adorable. They took me in as one of their own, fed me two meals a day, and put up with my terrible Spanish -- they had the patience of Angels. I practiced every night with them and really learned so much just sitting at the Dinner table talking about one anothers' days.
The actual school was probably the most beautiful place I've ever been. It was stocked full of Spanish resources, traveler resources, and various books in so many languages from all over the world. The garden had something like 10 different fruits and vegetables, some SUPER relaxing hammocks (that I tended to use on a daily basis) and had some of the nicest classrooms I've ever spent time in. I learned some Latin Dance at the school and did a few sessions of Yoga with my classmates from all over the world (Germany, canada, netherlands, USA)
I got home and told a bunch of friends to come check this school out! I highly recommend it!!
I can't stress enough how awesome this school is. It's quite literally the perfect place to bunker down and study a new language. I learned wayyyy more than I ever could in my hometown using language apps and rosetta stone. My program had me living with a family near the school (like a five minute walk, so awesome). My family was absolutely adorable, i loved them to pieces. Tastey home cooked food and great vibes from my Tica mom and family. - got to practice everything I learned in class with them - no english! they couldn't speak a lick of it.
The school was as advertised - library with a bunch of traveler resources, beautiful class rooms, five different fruit trees, hammocks in the garden, a YOGA STUDIO. It was so amazing to practice yoga with my classmates from around the world - i learned some salsa as well!
I got home and told a few friends who are going to be attending summer 2016. Such an easy recommendation to people. I learned a ton of Spanish and made a lot of friends!
Occupying a privileged position on the corner of the plaza just above the church, this low-lying Spanish structure dates back to the late 18th century. It served at one point as the residence of President Alfredo González Flores, who governed from 1913 to 1917. It is beautifully maintained and now houses permanent historical displays as well as rotating art exhibits.
Traditional Costa Rican music is performed just outside every Saturday evening
Local university art students use la casa de la cultura as a safe space for political demonstrations and social commentary
One of the best places to take in the local culture is at the impressive Central Park (Parque Central). The semi-shaded park, lined with mango trees, is highlighted by the antiquated buildings in view which date back to the 18th Century.
Around the border of the park is where you will find the beautiful colonial style Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with its solid time-tested foundation and bells originating in Perú. There is a stage in the park that sometimes hosts concerts and performances. It is common to find locals sitting around the unique park socializing and gossiping.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception's construction dates back to 1797
You can eat directly from the low hanging mango trees located in the park
El Fortín, a remarkable brick tower built by the Spanish, gazes high over the central park giving visitors a glimpse into Costa Rica’s past.
Eladio Rosabal Cordero Stadium
The Eladio Rosabal Cordero Stadium is a ten minute walk from the school and is home to the Club Sport Herediano, commonly known as Herediano and nicknamed El Team. Herediano are near-gods amongst the locals and game day is when the city comes alive.
The stadium is named after one of the teams great legends, Eladio Rosabal Cordero who was recently deemed the second greatest Costa Rican soccer player of all time.
The inaugural date is August 21, 1949
The construction of a stadium in the city of Heredia began on December 22, 1945
On big game days, you can hear the stadium from Tico Lingo!
The market is a chaotic flurry of produce markets, butcheries, fish markets, mini-diners, clothing stores, shoe stores, souvenir shops, and more, The variety of products is un-paralleled and the opportunity to practice your Spanish here is rich. Dive in, have fun, and don't be afraid to eat something new!
Hours: Mon - Sat, 6am - 6pm
Total Area: 25,149 sq ft.
Number of Kiosks: 249
Founded: October 12th, 1782
The production of coffee has played an extremely significant role in Costa Rica's history and economy. Initial production is dated back to 1779 and in 2009 the coffee industry employed 28 percent of the labor force and comprised 20 percent of Costa Rica's total GNP.
Mainly due to the rich volcanic soil, the beans grown north of Alajuela are considered to be among the best in the world. The flavor is recognized for its high fine acidic nodes, a strong body, and a pleasant natural aroma.
There are 78,000 coffee producers in Costa Rica. Of these are mainly small-scale farmers
There are 73 roasters that toast and grind the beans after they are washed and dried
Every year, Costa Rica produces 2.5 million sacks of coffee weighing 60 kilograms each
La Paz Waterfalls
Located on the slopes of the Poás volcano, the La Paz river is home to an amazing array of natural waterfalls. This area boasts a rich bio diversity thanks to an altitude that varies between 4,000 and 5,000 feet which allows for the existence of both a cloud forest and rain forest ecosystem.
Beyond the 5 striking waterfalls, the gardens contain the largest butterfly observatory in the world, a hummingbird and bromeliad gardens, a serpentarium, and an immense frog pond.
The butterfly garden is larger than the size of a football field
The hummingbird garden is home to twenty four different species
The Serpentarium hosts thirty different species of snakes found all over Costa Rica
Just over three kilometers of paved trails wrap around each waterfall
Known as the most accessible volcano in Costa Rica, the Poás Volcano boasts a crater nearly a mile in diameter. The crater is home to a sulfuric pool bubbling and emitting smoke that is constant reminder of its imposing activity. Although the last major eruption was in 1910, visitors can still see geysers explode into the air up to 820 ft (250 m) high.
On a clear day, it is possible to see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts from the crater
The volcano has erupted 39 times since 1828
Poás was near the epicenter of a 6.1-magnitude earthquake in January 2009 which was felt throughout the whole country
Group Immersion Courses
Quarter Day Classes
• 10/Hours/Week • 2 Hours / Day Spanish classes
These are the minor league classes. Here, we will give you everything you need to begin speaking casually as well as the tools to continue your studies on your own. You'll be in the classroom 2 hours a day, and afterward will have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area of Heredia.
Sign up for these classes if:
You're focus is travel and sight-seeing
You want to learn Spanish, but don't want to spend most of your day in the classroom
You want the basic travel Spanish to help you get around
Half Day Classes
• 20 Hours per Week Classes • 4 Hours / Day intensive Spanish classes
These are the major league classes. Four hour days, five days a week. Although exhausting, this course will have you speaking quickly. By the end of the first week you will begin to taste the glory that is Spanish. You'll be in the streets, talking with everyone and anyone you can. "Hola, ¿comó está? will be your new best friend. Take this class if you're a serious Spanish student and want to really hit the books and grind into the language.
Sign up for these classes if:
You're prepared to hit the books and spend 3-4 hours a day in the classroom
You want to begin speaking with locals immediately after arriving
You're focus is learning Spanish and not traveling
• Someone who prefers working one-on-one with an instructor • Flexible schedule and course material
These classes pair you up one-on-one with a private Spanish instructor based on your needs. If you only have time to learn for three or four days, we can work with you to pair you with an instructor who can give you want you need for your journey throughout Costa Rica.
Sign up for this program if:
You only need a re-cap on previously learned Spanish
You only have 3-5 days to stay in Heredia
You don't enjoy the group classroom and prefer one-on-one instruction
The Home Stay Program includes:
Private Room with Lock and Key
Breakfast and Dinner Provided
Child Support Options (if needed)
The Program Benefits:
Daily Spanish Practice in the "Real World"
Meet Locals in the Community
Spend Less Than a Hotel
Support Local Families Financially
Yoga Relax after class with guided yoga instruction held on-site at the school. Bring your own mat or use one provided!
Classes focus on the following yoga practices:
Dance Classes Learn some of the most popular Latin dance styles in the world. Also held at the school, dance instruction is provided by our lead dance instructor, Señora Hilda Paniagua.
Classes focus on the following Dance styles:
Our Homestay Selection Process
1.) Perspective families contact the school by either phone, email, or walk-in.
2.) Perspective families are provided The Tico Lingo Family Registration form. Please contact us if you'd like a copy of this form.
3.) The finished form is reviewed by our accommodations team at the school whom are looking for the following requirements to be filled:
Live in Heredia Central or within a 15 minute walk from the school.
Can provide a student with a private room, a bed, a desk or table, and a closet to store clothes.
Can offer students internet connection.
Are able to cook and provide students with breakfast, dinner and laundry.
Have a nuclear family structure with a mother and children whom are interested in helping students practice Spanish
4.) Once the accommodation team deems the family a good fit, a consultation meeting is held at the house. This is conducted by our Program Director, and is done to review the home, bedroom, and nature of the family.
5.) Once the Program Director approves the family, a student is scheduled to stay with them for no more than two weeks. At the end of their stay Tico Lingo provides the student with a short evaluation form reviewing their stay and expereince with the family.
6.) If the student had an exemplarily time, the family is approved and saved in our network for future students.
1.) Monthly visits are conducted by the accommodation team to make sure the house is kept in order and the original accommodations haven't been changed or altered.
2.) Families are encouraged to visit the school for weekend events like music performances and small afternoon parties.
All and all, we select our families to be apart of a community that is healthy and active. We hold regular events at the school where families are welcome to bring friends, family, and even pets! It can get a little crazy, but we really aim to create one big community of people that is working together to share the Costa Rican culture, language, food, and expereince. Join us!
I choose Tico Lingo to learn Spanish for a month. Although I had literally no knowledge in Spanish before, they put me in a perfect group.
With our teacher, we had so much fun and the perfect Spanish classes. He prepared worksheets and materials exactly for our needs ... No premade things. And he took us out to the city to practice our Spanish in real live. Good challenge :)
Furthermore I really felt like in a big family. They offered us so many things, helped us to get around town, and even took us out to show us some amazing places.
My stay at the Host family was perfect, too. My Spanish really improved while staying with a Tico family ... Best decision and better than staying in a hostel alone. Cause my host mum and -sister didn't speak any English at all, I was really forced to use my Spanish, although I had the hostfather as a backup, cause he spoke some English :)
The school itself is a really nice place. I love the garden, and it's so close to public transport and so easy access to Heredia and all surrounding cities and areas.
All in all I can totally recommend the Tico Lingo experience to anyone seeking to learn or improve his Spanish skills. Go Check Them OUTT!
I booked a month program with Tico Lingo and found it to be one of the greatest experiences I've ever had! I immediately felt like family amongst the faculty at the school. They really helped me improve my Spanish speaking skills and provided me with an almost endless amount of resources for both continuing my Spanish practice after I left, but also planning further travels throughout the country.
I went on a tour with my class to Volcan Barva and had an absolute blast! This place really feels like a home. It's made up of a small-knit group of young professionals and professors that make you feel like you're really on an adventure and part of a family. I've gone on tours before (in Panama and Nicaragua) and it always felt awkward and not really group-unified. Tico Lingo does the opposite. It felt like I was going on a day-tour with a bunch of my friends. We we're all introduced to one another and even played a team-building game before we left for the volcano!
My Homestay family was also super nice! The food can get a little bland at times, but the conversation never let up! I got to practice SO much with them which helped me discover some areas of weakness that I could ask for help with in class.
It was nice to experience what locals do which was a great alternative to the typical touristy travels that can happen when visiting foreign countries.
I flew into Nicaragua with the plan of slowly traveling south for 3 months and quickly realized that I forgot all the Spanish I used to have back in college. I started looking for a Spanish immersion school where I could live with a family and meet some other travelers. I found Tico Lingo on a Reddit feed, asked some questions about it, and reached out to them via email. Within 2 hours I got a response with detailed info about prices, activities in Heredia, etc.
After we put a 3-week program together, I took a bus there, met some of the faculty at the school, and was eating dinner that night with my homestay family! They we're amazing - really won't forget my family - I ate every meal I could with them! Delicious food, amazing culture.
The classes we're designed to teach students how to speak! It was intense! There was absolutely no English allowed and the homework was usually to go out and connect with the local community by asking them questions and doing short interviews. Such a cool experience. Not a Touristy city at all, which made it easy to practice all day.
I did some much needed yoga at the school as well! Free coffee every morning, awesome teachers, incredibly beautiful gardens and facilities. Made some life-lasting friends here and ended up traveling to Panama with another student at the school!