Posted in: Home / Archives for August 2008

I really miss Guanajuato!

Living and studying in Guanajuato was an amazing experience! I really still feel the warmth of its sun within me and the friendliness of its people is something I’ll never forget. I miss practising my Mexican Spanish accent (which I felt so proud of!), trying to sound like a local.

Everything was so vibrant there! : the sunlight, the smell of the fruit, the smiles on people’s faces and the colours, the truly vibrant colours – the colonial houses, the clothes, the blue sky…. I simply loved wandering around its cobble stoned streets and discovering new cafés with lovely terraces in my free time, or listening to the tanned and potbellied mariachis’ deep voices as they sang in parks and on street corners. Every single day I met someone new to chat to. In a week I already had loads of new friends!

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It’s colder than Spain!

There are not enough adjectives for describing my stay in Quebec. I can just say that I’ve discovered another world there! I live in Spain, very close to the French border and when I decided to live in a French speaking country to improve my French level, I thought Canada would be the perfect destination for discovering a new culture and French accent and what I’ve found there has exceed my expectations! From the people to the food or even the new winter weather experience have been fascinating!

Actually, I wouldn’t have thought that it could be so cold! And then you could say “Yes, but you’re a Spanish girl! You don’t know anything about cold” Well…that might be true, but we reached even -50° in February! I was wearing all the clothes I had brought: thermal trousers and t-shirt, two pairs of trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, a jumper, a huge fur coat, a scarf, a hat and gloves and I could still feel the “cool” air going through them. It was a good and exciting experience that I could stand just for an hour thanks to the caribou (a typical and strong drink that I wouldn’t have drunk if it hadn’t help me to warm up), while the carnival parade was crossing Quebec’s streets.

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Walk with me through Rome…

As I sat in the taxi on the way to my accommodation I began to realize just how beautiful Rome and the Italian language really were, and I was very excited for my Italian course to begin. The remarkable ancient buildings surrounded me as we drove through the Roman streets, and I couldn’t help but stare out the window the whole time! I asked my driver a 1000 questions abo de the whole way there! He pointed out famous buildings, cathedrals, and the river, and he made sure to tell me over and over again how much he loved Rome.

My host family was very comforting, and showed me their cozy European apartment. It had beautiful marble and stone floors and paintings in almost every room! Of course the kitchen always smelled of fresh garlic and herbs, I never went hungry!! The whole family seemed to have a much better fashion sense that anyone I knew back home, even the little children! They dressed with casual elegance, and always seemed to have a beautiful scarf and shoes to go with every outfit. How do they make jeans and a shirt look so stylish?

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Fun in the Sun!

Try to think of a typical day in your Spanish class. Now imagine learning Spanish just 5 minutes on foot from beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise blue Caribbean water as far as you can see. It sounds like paradise because it is! Playa del Carmen, Mexico was the most beautiful place I can imagine for a Spanish course.

I just returned from a trip there, had a great time and was so impressed with how fun-loving, friendly, welcoming, and laid-back the people were – I loved it. But who wouldn’t love a Caribbean location where you can also explore fascinating Mayan ruins, visit water parks, and try all kinds of water sports?!

On my first evening in Playa del Carmen, I took a stroll along 5th Avenue, or “La Quinta” as the locals refer to it – the main commercial, pedestrian boulevard in the city. Here you will find no shortage of sidewalk cafés, charming Mexican handcraft shops, lively bars, night clubs, and a range of restaurants wide enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite! And once you’re done exploring ‘La Quinta’ you should try 30th Avenue between Constituyentes and 34th Avenue which also has a great selection of incredible restaurants with authentic Mexican cuisine!

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This is my third year!

t_13_08_My name is Stephen Blackhust and I am Deputy Head Teacher of a large comprehensive secondary school in Luton, Bedfordshire. For the third time in 4 years, during the school summer holiday, I am spending 4 weeks studying Italian in Taormina, Sicily.

When, in 2005, I decided to put myself in a classroom for 6 hours a day for 4 weeks, having just completed a busy school year, many people thought I was mad. I must confess to having a few doubts myself, people often comment on the length of teachers’ holidays but in truth without them teachers simply could not keep going (neither could the pupils). And my mayor doubt was how I could cope without the long break to prepare far the re-start in September.

What actually happened was that that summer holiday, with its total immersion in Italian language and culture was both the most stimulating, challenging and restful break I have had in 28 years as a teacher!

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Magnificent, Marvelous, Maceio!

Maceio really is something else! It has everything — from a tropical climate with palm trees, lagoons, and clear blue ocean water, to delicious cuisine, friendly and welcoming locals, and endless cultural activities to enjoy, such as dancing the samba or forró while reveling in the city’s exciting nightlife. It is a simply amazing place to learn Portuguese!

And there’s no shortage of things to do once the morning lessons are over.  The local food is fantastic – one of the most popular dishes from the area is “sururu”. Which is mussels cooked in a yummy coconut sauce. And somehow, it manages to taste even better when you have it at one of the beachside restaurants with awesome views! If you like, you can also visit a little village nearby called Massaguiera… But make sure you work up an appetite before you go – the village is known by everyone for its fresh seafood served in absolutely massive portions!… and it’s true! Of course if you don’t like seafood too much, Maceio has plenty of restaurants of it’s own… so eat your heart out… Just be prepared to come home from Maceio just tiny bit heavier than when you arrived!

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Total immersion in Cusco!

If, like me, you’re the kind of person who wants to be fully immersed in the language as well as in the local culture, then Cusco is definitely right for you! Cusco is simply full of Spanish colonial heritage, as well as Inca history, and is located not far from the world famous ‘lost city’ of  Machu Picchu!  It all makes Cusco, in my opinion, the perfect place to learn Spanish and discover Latin America!

There’s just so much to do in Cusco!  After classes there are all kinds of activities organized by the school – kayaking trips or riding in a hot air balloon, guided tours of Cusco and much more!  And of course a trip to Peru wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu!  Walking the Inca Trail alongside breathtaking mountain views and cloud forests is simply amazing, …and the view you get as you approach this incredible ‘lost city’ is unforgettable!

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Go to San Giovanni !!!

I am just finishing my time in San Giovanni Valdarno and I just don’t want it to end. I have had an amazing time here – I just can’t get enough of San Giovanni – but the curious thing is that not even many Italians know where San Giovanni is!

It’s a beautiful, atmospheric little town, set amongst wonderful rolling Tuscan countryside and the only foreigners here are the students at the school! So, it’s a great place to learn Italian! San Giovanni itself is full of medieval buildings and really very beautiful.

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Italian… by the Mediterranean and under Mount Etna.

When I first embarked on my study of the Italian language, I had only a vague sense of the adventure I was beginning. The main images and conceptions that filled my mind of everything Italian were general and brief, and were associated with the bits and pieces of film, art and programs on the History Channel to which I had tuned, not to mention a few historical books which had caught my interest. None of this, however, spurred my interest enough until I met a group of Italians; finally I heard the language spoken in true form, and observed the culture and manner in which these people lived their life. I was enamoured.

After my initial purchase of an Italian textbook and 6 long months of trudging along on my own (but not without the occasional help of my new-found friends), I began to consider the possibility of a study-abroad experience. As an American college student, I needed foreign language credits for my degree and what better way to apply those electives of Art History, World Civilizations, Sensation and Perception, and Intro to Fashion, than to hop the Atlantic Ocean and take a dip right into the real thing?

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