Kit Walker (Atlanta, GA): Casa Rosario Spanish school has changed my life in a great way, and permanently.
For the past 3 years I have realized little by little that my vocation lies with the Latin Americans of my continent, both those who live as migrant workers in my hometown of Gainesville, GA and those who live in countries such as Mexico and Guatemala. In accordance with this sense of vocation, I began to study Spanish two years ago to prepare myself for a yet-unknown opportunity to live in a Latin American country, get to know its people, and use the Spanish language to do so.
A friend who had studied at Casa Rosario recommended it to me, and upon visiting the website I was stunned by both the gorgeous scenery (a garden directly on the spectacular Lake Atitlán serves as the classroom) and the low price. Perfect for a recent college graduate with only a little in savings. My choice was between staying at school and completing a second major in Spanish, or studying and living in Guatemala for 3 months. I chose to go to San Pedro La Laguna and study with Casa Rosario, and I am SO happy that I did. This experience cost me thousands of dollars less than studying abroad through my university and I believe that I have learned exponentially more through spending the past 3 months on Lake Atitlán than if I had stayed at my school and taken traditional Spanish classes.
The reasons for this are as follows: 1) The teachers of Casa Rosario are professional but still personable, and will customize their lesson plans for each student. For example, before I got there Vicente (Casa Rosario's owner) had set me up with a specific teacher based on my Spanish needs—Clemente. Clemente determined quickly that I had arrived in San Pedro with a lot of book knowledge of Spanish but a big need for conversation and detailed discussion practice in the language. Thus, we divided our time between intensive grammar lessons and focused conversation—on current events, history and politics, real-life scenarios that would require precise communication, and anything and everything that came to mind. Clemente encouraged me to use in conversation the grammar forms that I felt shaky about, and by the end of our two weeks together my confidence with Spanish was so much better because we had turned my weak areas into strong ones and built new vocabulary in many different fields.
2) The Mayan host families are outstanding. This is where a student can build friendships and share life with others by means of the Spanish language. The families are used to having foreign guests and have a great deal of patience with whatever level of Spanish a student arrives with. I lived with Rosa, Jesus, and their 3 children for a total of 10 weeks. Vicente heard that I played guitar and promptly showed up one day with one of his own guitars for me to borrow--this instrument became a big hit with the kids in the family and at the elementary school where I volunteered during this time. This host family was welcoming and I ended up doing everything with them--ate meals, played with the kids, picked coffee, traveled to the market in Santiago, attended church, and even had my 23rd birthday party at their house. I have been back in the US for a few weeks but I already miss them immensely and am keeping in touch by phone.
3) The volunteer work. For students of any background or Spanish skill level, there is work to be done if you so desire. Rosa and Vicente connected me with a job teaching English at a local elementary school in the mornings, and I later added a second job teaching at a secondary school in the afternoons. All of the schools in town welcome foreign English teachers because a native speaker's pronunciation is invaluable. My work at the elementary school was so successful and rewarding that I will be returning to San Pedro in 2012 to work for a full year, which really is something beyond my wildest dreams just a 3 months ago.
I taught classes for 8 weeks, but I have also seen Vicente arrange for students to teach for only one week with very satisfactory results. Don't let time constraints keep you from seeking volunteer work--there is always something to be done and this is yet another venue for practicing Spanish. Whether you work with the community for a couple of hours or a couple of months, your effort will be appreciated.
4) Vicente Cumes, the owner. This guy is outstanding. If you've read this far you already know that he set me up with the ideal Spanish teacher, took the initiative to loan me his guitar, and helped me find a volunteer job. He also organized a hike up the Mayan Face (a nearby mountain), held a huipil showing (huipiles are traditional Mayan garments and Vicente has an extensive collection), took a group of students to the annual fiesta and market in the neighboring town of San Pablo, and even organized a trip to the Pacific coast and the Mexican border at Tecun Uman. The cool thing about Casa Rosario is that Vicente is very flexible and can organize any outing the students wish, whether it's a simple half-day trip or an overnight stay down at the beach on the Pacific. He has an extensive knowledge and years of personal stories about Atitlán social conditions and the Guatemalan civil war years, and still is jovial and optimistic. Really, it's a pleasure spending time with him. Vicente is managing money donated by former Casa Rosario students to sponsor local kids in school, and through our many conversations about my plans for projects in San Pedro I think of him as a mentor in how to collaborate with a community to sensibly distribute aid.
All of this is lot, but truly Casa Rosario has helped me fulfill my dreams of growing my Spanish skills to be able to live and work in a Latin American community. Through all of this I have gained much more than just language skills. I have used this tool—knowledge of Spanish—to make friends, find meaningful work, and get started on a career of working with Spanish speakers.
Thank you, Casa Rosario.
Lieve: After comparing a few language schools in San Pedro La Laguna, and finding Vicente the most friendly, informative and easy-going owner of all, I decided taking classes at Casa Rosario. Next to the first impression I got, there where a few other points that made me definitely decide to start lessons there: The social factor: Vicente is highly involved in the local community and tries to help where he can, also true the school. The location: near the lake, quiet, beautiful, an oasis of peace. The one on one policy: one teacher for one student. My teacher, Nicolas, was great. He adapted the tempo and the level of the lessens to what I needed and wanted and made sure I took the most as possible from it. I did a homestay, with the family of Rosa and had a wonderful time. Since the family doesn't speak any English, it was a great way to practice Spanish. I had a great experience with Casa Rosario and I highly recommend it! I was there in February 2015. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org network!
Margaret Sawyer, Philadelphia, PA: Casa Rosario is built upon a deep commitment to social justice. It was this aspect of the school that made studying there such a meaningful experience for me. Vicente and Samuel (the brothers who founded and operate the school) introduced me to the political and economic realities of Guatemala and taught me how two dedicated citizens can transform their own community.
The brothers were born and raised in San Pedro. Their commitment to fighting for the rights of poor Guatemalans developed through their childhood experience of rural poverty, and through their involvement with resisting Guatemala's military during the civil war. Samuel's paintings and Vicente's community projects reflect the influence of this lifelong belief in justice. Over the years, they have provided academic grants to many young people who would not otherwise be able to attend school after 6th grade. They lead these children and others in service projects to improve the city. After the mudslides of 2005, Vicente and Samuel helped rally financial and emotional support for the many folks on Lake Atitlan who lost family and homes. They are a light in their community.
As a student at Casa Rosario, you are invited to take part in this commitment to justice as much as interests you. In the space of three weeks, Vicente and Samuel introduced me to many community leaders and artists in San Pedro. They taught me a great deal about the history of Guatemala and San Pedro. Vicente led student trips to other towns on the lake that we wanted to see, and helped me to find a fulfilling volunteer project for after my schooling ended. Every local person I met in San Pedro knew the brothers and the school, either through personal friendships or through their terrific reputation as social activists.
Attending Casa Rosario led me to building some lifelong friendships and introduced me to new ways of understanding the world. I highly recommend this school, for reasons that stretch far beyond the excellent teachers, the yummy weekly guacamole, and the incredible garden where our lessons took place—I saw at least 10 miniature hummingbirds!
Raffi Vitis: It is no secret that there are a lot of Spanish schools in Central America. So why Casa Rosario?
There is one major reason, better said two major reasons—Samuel and Vicente. Samuel and Vicente are two brothers who together formed the Casa Rosario school in the early 90's. They are both very special persons and probably among the most interesting persons you might get to meet during the trip. They both have very interesting life stories shaped in the hard years of the Guatemala civil war.
I heard about the place from a fellow traveler in Mexico City who told me about this wonderful place to study Spanish. In the six weeks I spent in San Pedro at the Casa Rosario school I got to the level of fluent day to day conversation in Spanish. But the most important thing about this place are the people who run it - Vicente and Samuel. they are just extraordinary people and a must to get to know.
Every evening, sitting in the small center in the green surrounding on the school, and working on some homework you will get to know them a bit better. They will ask you how class has been and gradually, day by day your Spanish will get better, and all that is worth it just to hear a little of what those two brother have to tell. The six amazing weeks at the Casa Rosario school were the best ones I had during that trip in Central America, a lot of it I owe to those two.
Ben and Evelyn Greenway: We planned a long journey through Central America, with the intention that at some point we should learn some Spanish. We received a recommendation from the Lonely Planet travel forum. We were not disappointed. We had thought to stay for two weeks having committed to only one. But each week we asked for another, totaling five by the end of our stay.
The environment for studying at Casa Rosario is wonderful. The "classrooms" are set in a beautiful garden which is full of fruit trees and very colourful flowers. The views of the volcanoes and Lake Atitlán are superb. We both had our own individual teachers. We quickly found we were able to start speaking Spanish. This greatly improved the time we spent in San Pedro as we were now able to get to know local families and made some wonderful friends. During our breaks we met and talked with other students making arrangements for activities in our spare time. We made use of the free kayaks. We spent four weeks living with a family. This was a very good experience. Our family were charming hosts. We were able to continue practicing our Spanish at the same time learning about a different culture.
In our spare time we helped Vicente, one of the two school directors with a community project, helping replace a roof of an elderly villager. This was an experience we will remember for a long time.
The directors of the school are happy and ready to help. A few interesting trips were organized by the school. San Pedro is a great place, the views are spectacular and the people friendly. There are an assortment of bars, some that play films, restaurants and markets. We met some great people, had a great time and learned Spanish, more than we had hoped for and experience to be valued. It was sad to leave.