Language Immersion Blog

Haydyn Hudnall: Costa Rican Language Academy

Summer 2022

After two years of closed borders, physical and social distancing, and unexpected global health crises from the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally had the opportunity to live and study abroad in San José, Costa Rica. This is an experience that I have pursued since a freshman in college, but it was not made possible until the summer of 2022. With this opportunity, I was allowed to delve deeper into a passion of mine: second language learning.

During my freshman year of college, I began to take second-language courses that were required by my Humanities major. After taking one Spanish course, I realized that learning a second language can be a key component to creating a more inclusive community. By mitigating language barriers, bilinguals can enhance community by being able to communicate with a broader range of people in both their personal and professional spheres. Since then, I declared myself a Spanish major and became dedicated to becoming bilingual.

In my Spanish courses, the professors stated that the best way to become fluent in a language is to completely immerse yourself in the culture; therefore, I have been pursuing a study abroad program that would allow me to better my Spanish-speaking skills since my freshman year. As I patiently awaited for the UCA study abroad programs to reopen, I took a variety of Spanish classes at UCA to further improve my Spanish-speaking abilities: Spanish literature, Spanish theater, and more. During each course, my speaking abilities progressed and prepared me for an unforgettable summer abroad.

On May 15th 2022, I narrowly departed from the Clinton Airport—almost missing my rescheduled flight—to Costa Rica with several of my close friends. Immediately after landing, I was taken to a house in the suburbs of San José to meet my host family. My host family was simply a middle-aged, single woman, and she graciously invited my roommate and me into her home. Each day, our ‘mama tica’ cooked meals for us before and after school, and she continuously helped us with our Spanish in day-to-day conversations. I was, for the first time, completely immersed.

Outside of my host family, our group of nine UCA students attended the Costa Rica Language Academy (CRLA) from Monday to Thursday. We took two classes while at the academy: “Spanish Conversation and Grammar Review” and “Central American and Costa Rican Civilization and Culture.” Each course challenged my speaking abilities and pushed me to grow as a Spanish speaker. After five hours of language classes each day, the academy offered traditional dance and cooking classes. These additional opportunities gave me a better understanding of Costa Rican culture.

On our three-day weekends, our group of UCA students planned weekend excursions across the country. During our first weekend in the country, we traveled to Manuel Antonio, a national park on the Pacific coast of the country. This destination is well known for its abundant wildlife and diverse ecosystems. This excursion, specifically, contributed to my end of the semester research project at CRLA on the Costa Rican public lands system, environmental policies, and conservation efforts within the country. In the weekends following, we visited more national parks and nature reserves, including the Monteverde cloud forest and Playa Hermosa, and participated in many ecotourism activities, such as ziplining, surfing, hiking, canyoning, coffee tours, and white water rafting,

Upon returning home to the United States, I have grown as a Spanish speaker and global citizen. The immersion opportunity strengthened my Spanish speaking and writing abilities, and I am better equipped to communicate with a wider range of individuals. As I have learned in every Spanish class and during my language immersion program: language is a means of inclusion and transcending barriers. Furthermore, I have learned to appreciate the diverse values, traditions, and belief systems of Costa Rica. ¡Pura vida!