My Experience at Habla Ya Spanish School in Boquete, Panama

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"My Experience at Habla Ya Spanish School in Boquete, Panama".

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My Experience at Habla Ya Spanish School in Boquete, Panama

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This is a testimonial by Habla Ya Spanish student Beci Hindle from Liverpool, UK. You can also find her story in Spanish below. If you, as Beci, would also want to win some free Spanish lessons with your very own accredited Spanish teacher, click here for more information on how to win 30 hours of Spanish lessons over Skype...

I am currently in my third and final week as a student of Spanish at Habla Ya, and I must say I am really enjoying my time here. Why did I choose Habla Ya in Boquete? As a student of Spanish and International Relations at a university in England, I had to spend a year in a Hispanic country to help me to speak fluently. I chose Colombia and my time there has been incredible, however after I finished my employment contract I had planned to travel with my boyfriend in the United States but unfortunately the relationship ended and I had to decide what to do with my last few weeks over this side of the world. I had just one more year left of my university degree so I decided to focus on polishing up my Spanish grammar and also wanted to get away for a few weeks to chill out before my return to England.

I searched on Google and the first Spanish school that came up was Habla Ya. I visited the website and found it extremely organised, clear and had all the information I needed. The photos and activities available in Boquete got me very excited so I got in touch with the school and they responded within 24 hours with prices and options. To be honest it didn’t take me long to make a decision, I had already decided I was going!

The idea of experiencing another Latin American country, making new friends from all over the world and improving my Spanish suddenly became very appealing and I have to say that my Spanish immersion program has been fantastic
The idea of experiencing another Latin American country, making new friends from all over the world and improving my Spanish suddenly became very appealing and I have to say that my Spanish immersion program has been truly fantastic. That's me in the middle.

After living on the Caribbean coast of Colombia for a whole year, I had learned a lot of Spanish and I felt very comfortable talking to different people about an array of topics. Considering the basic level with which I had arrived in Bogota, I have improved so much although I was aware I was making many mistakes. My situation in Colombia didn’t really aid my learning as I wasn't totally immersed into the Spanish language. I worked as a teacher at a bilingual school and always spoke in English to the kids. I also lived with a Canadian colleague and her Colombian husband who worked in another city during the week, therefore I didn’t have many opportunities to speak in Spanish at home. I had many Colombian friends but also many from the United States and Europe so again this meant I was speaking much more English than I had anticipated.

So I decided to take three weeks of Spanish classes, one week in 'Group 4' and two weeks of private lessons. I also chose to stay with a local family to give me the opportunity to converse more because I had missed out on this experience in Colombia. I asked Habla Ya if I could live near to the school because I wanted to take advantage of their facilities to study. As I booked in advance, there were still plenty of host families close to the school. Habla Ya responded promptly and with detailed information about my family and activities, my schedule etc.. - I was very happy with their service and it left me wanting to jet off there immediately.

Choosing to have 2 weeks of private lessons to work on what I knew I needed was the best decision, and my teacher Widad was simply the best teacher I could have had
Choosing to have 2 weeks of private lessons to work on what I knew I needed was the best decision, and my teacher Widad was simply the best teacher I could have had.

I told my family in England of my plans and unfortunately they were not very happy with me because it would have meant I would have missed being in England for the birth of my first niece. I wondered if I had made the right choice. With no doubt, after my first week, I could say I was not wrong about my decision.

My Boqueteñian family have been fantastic and from the first moment I arrived at the house (which is less than a 2 minute walk from Habla Ya) they made me feel like I was in my own home. When I first arrived at the home at 9.30 in the evening, the family were waiting for me and said ... 'Welcome to the house ... now put down your backpack - you're coming with us to 'a small gathering’. Intrigued I wondered what kind of meeting this was, concluding it was something to do with the school. I went to the car that was waiting outside, opened the door and was greeted by three guys in the twenties playing loud clubby music! Being in South America for a year already and knowing how random things can be, I decided to ask no questions and just go with the flow. We arrived at a house where I discovered it was a 24 year olds birthday party! I didn’t know a soul... and I was ridiculously tired after my trip however it was a good introduction to Panamanian culture. I thought to myself I may as well make the most of not being able to speak my own language and chatted with everyone there in Spanish.

My host mum is supper sweet and besides serving me lots of yummy food, she was always there to have a chat and practice my Spanish
My host mum is supper sweet and besides serving me lots of yummy food, she was always there to have a chat and practice my Spanish

Although small, my house has lots of character, made of wood with a metal roof – it’s simple yet has everything I need. I spent my dinner chatting with my 'mum and sister' about everything. We were always laughing and I ate like the Queen of England - extremely healthy food but at the same time delicious! We also have a "pet" or should I say 'Alarm clock' - a rooster called Cornelius. Every morning about 4 – he starts to sing! God! When I arrived - the idea was to sleep late after getting up at 5:30 to work every day during the last year .... it had seemed that it would be impossible but somehow I have gotten used to it (with the help of earplugs!). And Cornelius and I are now pretty good friends.

An immersion is not only about Spanish, but also about trying out new things and learning from the culture. Here's me trying out a new fruit called guaba.
An immersion is not only about Spanish, but also about trying out new things and learning from the culture. Here's me trying out a new fruit called guaba.

My first week of school was with teachers Tamara and Widad and three other girls (students). We got on great and we became really good friends. We started with the subjunctive which was perfect for me because I had learned it before but had never been able to use it when talking, in fact I went out of my way to avoid it. I felt comfortable right away and with a bit of homework each night I learned very fast.

The second and third week I had three hours of private lessons each day with Widad to spend more time on the things that I personally needed to improve. We had very interesting conversations but no matter the subject... we always came back round to talking about men! These classes have been exactly what I needed because I can talk while someone corrects me and the classes include a mix of fun games and activities that challenge me.

I've already said it but I loved my teacher Widad!
I've already said it but I loved my teacher Widad!

I've really come to a point in my Spanish where I now understand the subjunctive well and little by little I can use it with confidence – for that reason I feel I have achieved what I set out to do. Widad has been a wonderful teacher. She has helped me to understand the things that confused me and made me feel like I was talking to a friend of many years.

From the first day I made amazing friends very easily out of the other students and we went to many places together such as coffee farms, the Gulf of Chiriqui, the indigenous village of Soloy and many bars in Boquete! In fact I celebrated my birthday during my stay here and I went with my new friends to celebrate in bars ‘Baru’ and ‘Amigos’. The lovely Habla Ya staff brought me a cake with a candle too - it was such a nice surprise! Finally when I went to Soloy – the indigenous women gave me (for my birthday) small handmade dresses for my future daughter! How sweet!

My trip to Boquete to study Spanish has definitively been one of the best of my life and I will truly miss all the great friends I made in such a short time
My trip to Boquete to study Spanish has definitively been one of the best of my life and I will truly miss all the great friends I made in such a short time

I have two more days left as a student at Habla Ya and I will really miss all my friends, teachers, family and Boquete. I do not regret my decision to come here. This experience has given me more confidence with my grammar and I was proud when the indigenous people told me that I spoke Spanish well. I now feel very happy that I can return to England to begin my degree at level C1 at university. I give a big thanks to Habla Ya and my friends and I really hope we keep in touch. Who knows? Maybe one day we can have a reunion back in Boquete!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HABLA YA'S SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAMS... »

Spanish version of testimonial written by Beci (no edits on our part).

Actualmente, estoy en mi tercera y final semana como estudiante de español en Habla Ya, y debo decir que estoy disfrutando mi tiempo demasiado. ¿Y por qué elegí Habla Ya en Boquete? Como estudiante de español y relaciones internacionales en una universidad en Inglaterra, tuve que pasar un año en un país hispánico para hablar con soltura. Yo elegí Colombia y mi tiempo allá ha sido increíble pero después de que terminara mi contrato de trabajo, había planeado con mi novio viajar con él en Estados Unidos pero por desgracia rompimos la relación y tuve que decidir ¿qué hacer con mis últimas semanas en este parte del mundo? Faltaba un año más de mi carrera entonces decidí enfocarme en estudiar la gramática de español y también quería escapar por unas semanas para descansarme un rato después de que regrese.

Busque en el google y la primera escuela de español en los resultados fue Habla Ya. Visitaba el sitio web y lo encontré estaba muy organizado, claro y tenía todo la información que había necesitado. Las fotos y actividades en Boquete me dieron mucha emoción entonces me puse en contacto con la escuela y me respondió dentro de 24 horas con los precios y opciones que había pedido. La realidad es que no me demoró mucho tiempo tomar una decisión, ya he decidido.

Después de vivir en la costa Caribe del Colombia por un año entero, había aprendido mucho español y me sentía muy cómoda conversar con todo el mundo sobre temas diferentes. Considerando el nivel básico con que había llegado a Bogotá, he mejorado tanto aunque sabía que estaba cometiendo muchos errores. Sin embargo, en Colombia trabajaba como profesora en un colegio bilingüe entonces hablaba siempre en inglés. Además vivía con una compañera de trabajo de Canadá y su esposo Colombiano quien trabajaba en otra ciudad durante la semana, entonces no tenía tantas oportunidades hablar en español. Tenía amigos de Colombia pero también muchos de Estados Unidos y Europa y por eso, hablaba mucho más ingles que había esperado.

Yo decidí tomar tres semanas de clases, una semana de ‘Group 4’ y dos semanas de clases privadas. También elegí quedarme con una familia local para conversar más porque tampoco no había tenido esta experiencia en Colombia. Pedi a Habla Ya si podría vivir cerca de ellos porque quería aprovechar las facilidades para estudiar. Habla Ya me respondió muy rápidamente y con mucha información sobre mi familia y las actividades, mi horario etc. – me quedé muy contenta con su servicio y me dejó con muchas ganas de irme enseguida.

Le dije a mi familia en Inglaterra de mis planes y por desgracia no se quedaban muy felices conmigo porque eso hubiera significado que habría perdido estar en Inglaterra para el nacimiento de mi primera sobrina. Me pregunté si había elegido correctamente. Con mucha alegría, después de mi primera semana podría decir que no estaba equivocada sobre mi decisión.

Mi familia Boqueteña ha sido fantástica y desde el primer momento en su casa (la que queda menos que 2 minutos de Habla Ya) me han hecho sentir como si estuviera en mi propia casa. Cuando llegue a la casa a las 9.30 por la noche, la familia me estaba esperando y me dijo…’Bienvenida a la casa…ahora deje su mochila y vas a venir con nosotros a ‘una pequeña reunión’’. Pensé que fue algo en relación de la escuela entonces fui al carro que estaba esperándonos afuera y dentro habían 3 muchachos con su música alta y nos llevamos a una casa donde yo descubrí fue una fiesta para el cumpleaños de un muchacho de 24 años! Yo no conocía a nadie…y estaba tan cansada después de mi viaje pero era una buena introducción a la vida Panameña entonces la aproveché y charlaba con todo el mundo allá en español.

Aunque pequeña, mi casa tiene mucho carácter, hecho de madera y con un techo de metal – es muy sencilla sin embargo tiene todo lo que necesito. He pasado mis cenas charlando con mi ‘mama y hermana’ sobre todas las cosas. Siempre reímos mucho y he comido como la reina de Inglaterra con mucha comida sana pero al mismo tiempo deliciosa. También tenemos una “mascota” o debería decir ‘despertador’ – un gallo se llama Cornelius. Cada mañana acerca de 4 – empieza cantar él! Dios mío! Cuando llegue – la idea fue a dormir tarde después de levantarme a las 5.30 para trabajar cada día todo el año pasado….había parecido que no sería posible pero ahora me acostumbro (¡con el ayuda de tapones!) y también he hecho amigos con Cornelius.

Mi primera semana de clases fueron con las profesoras Tamara y Widad y otras tres chicas. Nos caemos geniales y nos convertimos en buenas amigas. Empezamos con el subjuntivo el que fue perfecto para mí porque lo había aprendido antes pero nunca había podido usarlo cuando hablaba – siempre lo evitaba. Yo sentí cómoda enseguida y con un poco de tarea cada noche yo aprendí muy rápido.

La segunda y tercera semana he tenido tres horas de clases privadas cada día con Widad para tener más tiempo con las cosas que personalmente necesitaba mejorar. Tenemos conversaciones muy interesantes pero no importa el tema…!siempre devolvemos hablar sobre los hombres! Estas clases han sido exactamente lo que necesitaba porque puedo conversar mientras alguien me corrige y las clases incluyen una mezcla de juegos y actividades divertidos que me retan.

Realmente he llegado a un punto en mi español donde ahora yo entiendo bien el subjuntivo y puedo usarlo poco por poco con confianza – por eso me alegro mucho porque he logrado mi meta. Widad ha sido una profesora maravillosa conmigo. Me ha ayudado entender cosa que me confundieron y me hacer sentir como si estuviera hablando con una amiga de muchas años.

Del primer día yo hice amigos fantásticos de los otros estudiantes muy fácilmente y fuimos a muchos lugares juntos, tal como las fincas de café, el Golfo de Chiriquí, el pueblo indígena de Soloy y muchos bares en Boquete. De hecho celebré mi cumpleaños durante mi estancia acá y fui con mis amigos para celebrar en bares como Barú y Amigos. Los bellos empleados de Habla Ya me trajeron una torta con una vela también – fue una sorpresa muy linda, y por fin cuando fui al pueblo indígena – las mujeres me regalaron (para mi cumpleaños) vestidos pequeños hecho a mano para mi futura hija! ¡Fue muy gracioso!

Quedan dos días más como estudiante en Habla Ya y voy a extrañar a todos mis amigos, profesores, familia y Boquete. No lamento mi decisión venir aquí. Esta experiencia me ha dado más confianza con mi gramática y yo me sentí orgullosa practicar con tal gente como la indígena que me dijo que hablé español bien. Ahora siento muy contenta de que pueda regresar a Inglaterra para comenzar nivel C1 en mi carrera a la universidad. Les doy a gracias a Habla Ya y a mis amigos y espero que sigamos en contacto. ¡Ojalá que regrese un día!

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