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Livin’ the Life of a Jedi: come to Panama & let the Force be with you!

Posted by | August 27th, 2012

Recently, my colleague, Evelyne, wrote a blog about unplugging from the system, not letting your life be controlled or dictated by what society says, and I have to be honest, when I read it, I thought she wrote it just for me.

A year ago, I reached a moment in my life where I knew I wanted to do something different, something “outside of the box.”

At this point, I was working steady at a job that was in my field of study (check), renting a house with a friend (check), had recently purchased a new car (check), and I had applied and been accepted to a Master’s degree program in Social Work (checky check). Done and done.

All my ducks in a row, my image was set, and all the boxes on the checklist for being a 26 year-old, single, female in the "real" world were marked as complete.

I had achieved everything I was supposed to achieve but I still felt there was something missing
I had achieved everything I was supposed to achieve but I still felt there was something missing...

So why was I still questioning myself everyday about whether it was what I really wanted to do with my life? And why, at the end of the day, when I was alone with my thoughts, was discontentment the last thing that I felt?

I can assure you, it had nothing to do with questioning whether or not I would be successful, as I was already excelling at my job and had no doubt that I could thrive in graduate school. It was more a knowing, deep down, that I wasn't prepared to live the life that others had chosen for me. I wasn't willing to be "locked in" to a life that I could see stretched out in front of me like a story that has been repeated too many times. And I knew that I was doing it because it was the life that was expected of me (minus the husband and kids, a point of "lacking" that I got reminded of often).

And what have I done instead, you might be asking yourself...well, I became a Jedi.

Although it does look cool, no, I did not become that type of Jedi... and yes, girls can be Jedis too!
Although it does look cool, no, I did not become that type of Jedi... and yes, girls can be Jedis too!

So, no, not the robe wearing, Yoda speaking, light-saber wielding type of Jedi (though we are still considering petitioning for the light sabers), but a Jedi who helps people experience the treasure that is the Panamanian culture and language through studying with Habla Ya. If you're wondering why "Jedi"? Well it's just an internal term that is given to anyone who has passed the 3 month probation period and officially has become part of the team of Language Travel Consultants here at Habla Ya Spanish Schools.

Now, when Evelyne first told me about the job as a language consultant and that I would be working on the computer all day, I was skeptical. Been there, done that, not my thing. However, within a week of starting, I realized that this job was different.

First, I get to talk with people from all over the world and encourage them to do something that I am passionate about, travel and learn a language. Having taken Spanish classes myself with Habla Ya, I believe in what I am offering and know that it is an experience worth having.

But the language is more than just about learning the verbs, nouns, etc., it is getting to know the culture and context of these words. Being a language consultant has taught me so much about this culture, and how much Panama has to offer as a Spanish learning & vacation destination.

It's easy to get trapped by the rat race without asking yourself what you want to do with life. Oon't be afraid to be bold in your pursuit of happiness. This is me in Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro. I have to say that taking the risk to do something different has definitively paid off!
It's easy to get trapped by the rat race without asking yourself what you want to do with life. Don't be afraid to be bold in your pursuit of happiness. This is me in Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro. I have to say that taking the risk to do something different has definitively paid off!

From amazing eco-adventure tours, including canal and san blas tours from the city, to hiking the Volcan in Boquete, to living with a host family, to offering time and talents to the local NGO's, we, as Jedis, focus on building not only a Spanish language program, but an experience, a Spanish learning experience for our students.

Probably one of my favorite aspects of this job, is getting to know the students. From the first contact until they arrive at one of our locations in Panama, we are the face of Habla Ya for individuals interested in coming to study.

For me, it is cool to see the excitement build as they realize that not only can we make sure they improve their Spanish while they are here, but we can also, through arranging flights, accommodation, tours, etc., make it a simple endeavor to discover a new country.

And of course, there is "mis compañeros".

I can honestly say that I have never worked with a cooler team of people. Not only are my colleagues exceptional at the work that they do, and I consider it a privilege to work alongside of them, but they are genuinely free-spirited people.

My colleagues are my friends... it's been the best job I've ever had specially because of my co-workers
My colleagues are my friends... it's been the best job I've ever had specially because of my co-workers

They remind me everyday why I chose to stay here in Panama, because I have found the freedom to do what I love without the pressure to build a life of image instead of contentment.

There is a quote that I ran across recently that I really like and it goes like this -"The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been."- Albert Einstein

Since I've moved to Bocas del Toro, I've learned how to surf and that has definitively been one of the coolest additions to my life... if you surf, you'll understand what I'm talking about...
Since I've moved to Bocas del Toro, I've learned how to surf and that has definitively been one of the coolest additions to my life... if you surf, you'll understand what I'm talking about...

This is the attitude or "force" that I feel like I encourage by working as a "Jedi". To encourage people to continue to branch out away from the ordinary and seek a life where personal growth, learning, and discovery never stops. This is how I want to live my life and I love that my job lets me help other people do the same.

So, whether you might be considering a big life change (living and working in Panama) or a change from the normal routine (vacation & studying), let the "force" be with you and come to Panama, where we are truly livin’ the life of the Jedi.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HABLA YA SPANISH SCHOOLS... »


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Curso de Actualización para Profesores de Español como Lengua Extranjera

Posted by | July 26th, 2012

El Instituto Cervantes, en colaboración con la Agencia Española de Cooperación (AECID) y el centro acreditado por el Instituto Cervantes, Habla Ya Spanish School - Boquete Campus, presentan:

1er Curso de Actualización Didáctica para Profesores de ELE en Panamá

Logos of the Instituto Cervantes, AECID, La Universidad de Panamá and Habla Ya Spanish Schools

Si te dedicas o aspiras dedicarte a la enseñanza del español como lengua extranjera, no te pierdas esta única oportunidad. Contaremos con la presencia de instructores provenientes directamente desde el Instituto Cervantes y de Lectorados MAEC-AECID.

  • FECHA: 17 al 22 de septiembre de 2012
  • Lugar: Biblioteca Pública de Boquete
  • Total de Horas: 40 horas presenciales
  • Horario: Lunes a Viernes de 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. Sábado de 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Facilitadores: Instructores del Instituto Cervantes
  • Costo: Gratuito (los desplazamientos, alojamiento y manutención corren por cuenta de los participantes)
  • Requisitos: abierto a Profesores ELE, y a estudiantes de la Licenciatura de Español
  • Cupos: Limitados

Programa

  • Tema I: Pragmática para profesores de ELE. Ponente: Prof. Jesús Parrondo (Instituto Cervantes de Recife).
  • Tema II: Dinámica de grupos. Ponente: Prof. Jesús Parrondo (Instituto Cervantes de Recife)
  • Tema III: Diseño Curricular. Adecuación del MCER al Plan curricular del centro. Ponente: Profa. Inmaculada Gallegos (Instituto Cervantes Brasilia)
  • Tema IV: El portfolio como herramienta para la clase. Ponente: Profa. Inmaculada Gallegos (Instituto Cervantes Brasilia)
  • Tema V: La enseñanza y el aprendizaje de la cultura en el aula de ELE. Ponente: Prfa. Miriam Palacios. (Lectora AECID- Goiania)
  • Tema VI: Actividades de producción para potenciar la autonomía del alumno. Ponente: Prfa. Miriam Palacios. (Lectora AECID- Goiania)
  • Tema VII: La integración de la literatura en el aula de ELE. Ponente: Prfa. Clara Pajares. (Lectora AECID-UF Viçosa)
  • Tema VIII: El uso de textos escritos y orales en las clases de ELE. Ponente: Prfa. Clara Pajares. (Lectora AECID-UF Viçosa)

Inscripciones

Los cupos son limitados, y los participantes serán elegidos de acuerdo a sus estudios universitarios y/o experiencia en el área. Los candidatos pueden enviar sus hojas de vida a info@hablayapanama.com explicándonos por qué deberían ser elegidos. Las últimas hojas de vida se recibiarán a más tardar el 15 de agosto del 2012.

CONOCE MÁS ACERCA DEL INSTITUTO CERVANTES... »


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Still Plugged into the System? Move to Panama and Start Over!

Posted by | July 11th, 2012

Have you noticed that people always ask you what you DO, as if that were what defines you as a person? It defines whether you are worth being friends with, if you are worth networking with (could you serve a purpose?) or if the conversation will just turn into a short small talk about the weather. It’s the same with education - People always ask "where did you go to school?"... when you answer by naming the country or city, the next question usually is "which school?"

Why is that so important? Well, some schools are more prestigious than others (which essentially translates into being just horrendously more expensive), and the name of your school, or your job title supposedly defines your position and value in society, or even worse - your intelligence.

Full list of the top 10 universities, rearranged in order of tuition (overall ranking in parentheses)
Full list of the top 10 universities, rearranged in order of tuition (overall ranking in parentheses)

If you're plugged into the system, after you graduate and as you grow older you have to keep proving to society that you are successful. Most people do so by buying a big house and a flashy car, or by bragging about vacationing in Dubai or St Tropez, by wearing fancy designer clothes, and you name it. Even the clubs or bars you hang out at define you! Sadly, all of these material things become your only satisfaction to fill a void in your daily routine that you are not even aware of. Pathetic, is't it? I've never liked stereotypes, but unfortunately this is the world we live in. The pressure is on, constantly.

So why are some jobs considered better than others, other than the obvious salary factor? In our world, remuneration is one of the major criteria that define a "good job", but where does that leave our personal happiness and quality of life? Of course, I am not saying that a good salary and liking what you do are mutually exclusive, and very well done for those that found this perfect combination. But for the rest of us who work 8 hours per day because it's expected of us, we should ask ourselves: what good does a great salary do for me, if I never have the time to actually enjoy it? Why do we feel that pressure to please and impress, starting with our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends and co-workers with what we do in exchange for money? Why do we feel bad about ourselves when we do not fit into that box?

Even though I managed to land the supposedly cool job with BNP Paribas in London, the only time I really enjoyed myself was out of working hours
Even though I managed to land the supposedly cool job with BNP Paribas in London, the only time I really enjoyed myself was out of working hours

For many years I felt the same way, wondering - what will I do with my life after college? After grad school? My friends all have a plan, how come I don't? I thought I needed to get a "good" job, or else I would be labeled as a loser. So I landed that "cool" job and according to our society's criteria, I wasn't a failure at all, actually quite the opposite, but I was miserable without even consciously knowing it. That was, until a very smart person that is my husband today asked me on our first date: "Why do you keep a job that you hate, in a city that you don't like? Why don't you just move to Panama and start over?"

This was my wake-up call, and it reminded me of the song "Emmenez-moi au bout de la terre" by Charles Aznavour. He is absolutely right when he says that being miserable under the sun is so much more enjoyable. But I intended to get the sun without the misery. After all, what is the worst that could happen to me? If I don't find a job in Panama, I can just go back to Europe (London being the last choice of all places!), and start over again. The sky's the limit, right?

So that night I decided to turn my life upside down, and all it took was someone to just open my eyes. It sort of fell like the Matrix. It was time to start living my life at its fullest, have fun, be happy about waking up in the morning, instead of just sucking it up Monday to Friday, until the weekend rescued me from my misery. I had wasted way too much time already, and life is short.

Having someone ask me what I was doing with my life felt like the Matrix when Morpheus offered Neo the blue pill or the red pill... I chose freedom!
It felt like the Matrix when Morpheus offered Neo the blue pill or the red pill... I chose freedom!

Ironically, when deciding about what we want to do in life, we always think about what the rest of the world will think about our decision. Will they think I am crazy? Courageous? Or running away from something? My boss tells me that not everybody cares about these things but I know I did.

Most of my ex-colleagues would burst out laughing if I told them my current salary, but guess what! I have more luxury now than ever before! And I am deeply convinced that deep down, many people out there that are still plugged into the system wish they were in my shoes. I mean, who else has one of the best snorkeling spots only one block away from their home, or can go surfing before going to the office, or take a break and work out with friends during their work day? Who can spend every Sunday at a different beach - not just any beach, but some of the most gorgeous beaches in the Caribbean?

Back in the days I worked in front of several screens and I always felt I wanted to run away from it all
Back in the days I worked in front of several screens and I always felt I wanted to run away from it all

It is unfortunate that it affects us when people judge us. It shouldn't be that way. We should all give a S*IT! Today I am a Language Travel Consultant at Habla ya Spanish Schools, and very proud of it. I also have a Master's Degree from one of these super expensive schools mentioned earlier, but guess what! It doesn't matter anymore (well, it does a bit because I still have to pay off the loan!!!). That expensive and overrated piece of paper does not make me any smarter, or a better person. It just gave me access to one of these "jobs to kill for" in the finance industry, which I chose to trade for a simple and joyful life in a small village in the mountains of Boquete, and currently in Bocas del Toro, in Panama's Caribbean. Today I can say that I am happy without lying about it!

Sometimes, my friends tell me how lucky I am, and that frustrates me every time. You make your own luck and you live the life you want to live. Why is it luck? All you need to do is just do it! Easier said than done? Not really! Once you realize that your fear is the only thing in your way, you are free to do whatever you want, wherever you want. True, my job is no rocket science, but I love it. I love being in contact with people from all over the world, share experiences, help them set up their Spanish Program and activities, teach them about the culture of Panama, and help them have a great time. I love my colleagues and friends, and work is not torture for me anymore, but rather something I am passionate about. When I wake up in the morning I know that I will have a great time. Of course I also feel stress sometimes, and work hard, but at least I feel that I am making a difference for the business, my co-workers, my community and I get to help a lot of people have a wonderful vacation.

Nowadays I still spent most of my working day in front of a computer, but it is much more laid back and I really love what I do
Nowadays I still spent most of my working day in front of a computer, but it is much more laid back and I really love what I do

Some of my friends and colleagues here are Oxbridge Graduates who left prestigious consulting firms, former developers of computer games at high tech software companies, investment bankers, recruiters for Ford Models in Paris and NYC, Ex-United Nations staff and the list goes on and on... I am sure that many expats living here are in a similar situation, and will smile while reading this. If you are smiling right now, you probably also left behind a generic and monotonous life (the system!) to finally choose to live and be happy in Panama (or elsewhere!), and do something completely different.

My message to all of you who are reading this blog is to please stop judging others by their jobs or their education. Not fitting into the box doesn't mean you are not smart, talented, hard working or that you are a lazy hippie! Don't just choose your friends by what they do for a living: choose them by who they are as persons! It just means that you do not define yourself by what society expects from you, but rather by what makes YOU happy. And by the way, if you're interested in getting unplugged from the system and escaping YOUR reality, we're always looking for talented people who want to live out of the box... just contact us!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HABLA YA SPANISH SCHOOLS... »


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De la mano con Cervantes | 2nd Annual Meeting of IC Accredited Spanish Schools

Posted by | April 30th, 2012

"Our Academic Director, Janeth Martínez, recently traveled to Medellín in Colombia, to take part in the II Annual Meeting of Accredited Spanish Schools by the Cervantes Institute. As follows she tells us more about her experience and shares with us some very exciting news!"

El pasado 13 y 14 de abril se celebró en Medellín, Colombia, la II Reunión de Centros Asociados del Instituto Cervantes que contó con la presencia de 14 representantes de escuelas, institutos y universidades de Costa Rica, Colombia, Panamá y Guatemala. Dichos centros educativos tenemos en común dos cosas: promovemos la enseñanza del español como lengua extranjera y contamos con una certitificación de calidad avalada por el Instituto Cervantes (IC), institución pública creada en España para promocionar el español y difundir la cultura de los países hispanohablantes.

Representantes de los distintos Centros Acreditados por el IC que asistimos a la reunión en Medellín. Yo soy la cuarta de derecha a izquierda.
Representantes de los distintos Centros Acreditados por el Insituto Cervantes que asistimos a la reunión en Medellín. Yo soy la cuarta de derecha a izquierda.

El Instituto Cevantes tiene presencia en los cinco continentes, a través de sus sedes y centros asociados. Actualmente, en Panamá sólo existen dos centros que han aprobado los niveles de calidad propuestos por el IC y tenemos el placer de que nuestra escuela: Habla Ya Spanish School en Boquete, sea uno de ellos, junto con la Universidad Nacional de Panamá. Por esa razón, tuvimos el honor de participar en estos dos días de interesante intercambio de ideas y experiencias, siempre con el objetivo de mantener un alto nivel de calidad en la enseñanza y difusión del español.

Temas tan interesantes como la formación del profesorado, expedición de los Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE), explotación de la plataforma virtual de enseñanza del español (AVE) y la estandarización en los niveles y subniveles de aprendizaje según el MCER (Marco Común de Referencia Europea), estuvieron presentes en la mesa de discusión, al mismo tiempo que el libre intercambio enriquecedor de ideas, experiencias y opiniones nos permitió acortar las distancias y estrechar los lazos culturales al compartir la preocupación unánime por lograr que nuestros estudiantes vivan una real experiencia de aprendizaje de la lengua y cultura hispanoamericana.

Durante una de las sesiones en la reunión de los Centros Acreditados por el Instituto Cervantes en la Universidad EAFIT en Medellín, Colombia
Durante una de las sesiones en la reunión de los Centros Acreditados por el Instituto Cervantes en la Universidad EAFIT en Medellín, Colombia

La reunión fue exitosa y gracias a ello, en los próximos meses nuestro grupo de profesores tanto de Boquete como de Bocas del Toro contará con una semana de actualización sobre la enseñanza de español como lengua extranjera de parte de profesores especializados provenientes de España y de Brasil, quienes trabajan con el Instituto Cervantes para tal fin.

Ahora, al finalizar esta jornada, me siento honrada de haber representado a Habla Ya Spanish Schools, y haber compartido con excelentes profesionales en tan importante evento. De igual forma nos sentimos sumamente felices de haber sido elegidos como el centro anfitrión del III encuentro de Centros Asociados del Instituto Cervantes que se llevará a cabo el próximo año, después del VI Congreso Internacional de la Lengua Española que tendrá a Panamá como sede.

Si les interesa aprender español en Lationamérica, a continuación les comparto la lista de centros que participaron de esta reunión. Todos ellos son centros acreditados por el Instituto Cervantes: Universidad EAFIT (Medellín), Universidad Del Norte (Barranquilla), Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Medellín), Universidad Tecnológica Bolívar (Cartagena), Centro Panamericano de Idiomas, CPI (Heredia), Wayra Spanish School (Tamarindo), Celas Maya (Quetzaltenango) y Habla Ya Spanish School (Boquete).

No todo fue trabajo... también nos divertimos un poco cada día!
No todo fue trabajo... también nos divertimos un poco cada día!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HABLA YA SPANISH SCHOOLS' ACCREDITATIONS AND CERTIFICATIONS... »


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How Habla Ya Spanish School Became My Family…

Posted by | October 19th, 2010

Today, I would like to tell you about my life-changing experience with Habla Ya Panama Spanish School.

Unlike most people who visit Latin America, I never thought about the necessity of taking Spanish classes. I already spoke some Spanish (although I wasn't fluent), and I had been familiar with Boquete, Panama for over 6 years, as my parents had decided to relocate here. I managed to visit twice per year without ever hearing about Habla Ya - which is very strange, because EVERYONE over here knows about it - but one lucky evening at Zanzibar, I stumbled into Carlos, who is one of the owners of the school.

Carlos came up to me thinking that I was one of his future students (many students arrive to town the weekend before starting their lessons), and once he realized his mistake he explained to me what he and his partner Julio were doing in Boquete. They had started a Spanish school back in 2005 - and Carlos asked me if I wanted to take some lessons. This had never crossed my mind before. My Spanish was not that bad, and I could get by with what I learned in the street, but I agreed that my past and future tenses needed some (or a lot) of brushing up...

Carlos and Evelyne at Zanzibar, Boquete

I have to admit that I liked Carlos a lot, and that was probably the main reason I dragged my mom to Los Establos Plaza the very next day to enroll in Private Spanish Lessons. My very friendly and funny teacher was Ismenia, and today we still share a special bond and like to remember how we met.

I only signed up for 10 hours, because I was flying back to London 3 days later, but it was incredible how much more secure I felt using the Spanish Language after those 10 hours! Ismenia was great helping me with my past tenses, and while I was learning Spanish at the school, I also got to know Carlos, Ismenia and the rest of the staff a bit better. Everyone was so friendly, and I was very sad to leave Boquete for the first time in my life. All the other times I just came to visit my parents, and didn't make any friends, but this time was very different.

Malkidia and Ismenia, Habla Ya Spanish Teachers

I went back to London, to my investment banking job; back to my very stressful and un-meaningful life that I disliked more and more every day. I thought that I was wasting my time there, and couldn't stop thinking everyday about what it would be like to live in Boquete. This thought turned into an obsession, and staying in contact with Carlos fueled the idea more and more.

Four months later I was back in Central America, and Carlos and I became a couple. I never felt so happy in my life, and now the decision to relocate to this beautiful town and leave the grey, empty life I was leading in Europe just made sense. So I did it. I quit that "great job anyone would kill for" and bought a one-way ticket to Panama.

Long story short, Carlos and I moved in, got engaged and now we're happily married. His partner Julio, his wife Rachel and everyone at Habla Ya became my closest friends in Boquete. Today I am part of the Habla Ya Family, and I can proudly say that it is a true honor to be part of this extraordinary school which grows in quality and size every day.

Evelyne showing her engagement ring

Nowadays I'm a Language Travel Consultant and I advise people from all over the world who want to learn Spanish in Panama on how to make their Spanish learning vacation in Latin America a reality. As I'm fluent in German, French and Dutch I've helped with the translation of the website to these other languages and opened the door for Habla Ya to other markets overseas. And I am pretty good at it - why? Because there is no better person to promote a service, than someone who has been a (very happy) customer before. I love sharing my experience with future students, and when I am asked why they should come to Habla Ya, I just say: you might love it so much that you might end up not going back home - at least that is what happened to me!


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