Brains in your head, feet in your shoes

How to make a Decision – Part 5

After my big self-debate over where to study Spanish, I had ruled out The Galapagos Islands because of it’s lack of business opportunity for me, it’s expense and it’s size. So, having decided on the Dominican Republic, I wanted to make sure that I chose a location that would give me a positive experience combing an active, vibrant community, business opportunities and be cost effective.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really do a whole lot of research on each of the cities / communities in the Dominican. I really just wanted to make a decision, go with it and get the remainder of my plans in order. I was pretty confidant that the most important component was going away to learn Spanish. I knew that no matter where I chose it would be a part of my School of Life education.

My main options for learning Spanish in the Dominican Republic were:

Punta Cana
Santo Domingo

I quickly ruled out the first three because I felt that they were too small. Right or wrong, who knows, but I felt I wanted to move forward and ixnay the options if they didn’t immediately fit my qualifications.

That left Santo Domingo, the capital of the Domincan Republic with nearly three million people, known for it’s history, architecture and vibrant dancing scene. It is a city that spans societal differences from poor and uneducated through to highly educated and incredibly successful. It raves of it’s strong Dominican culture, but has a splash of America that I felt might help me feel more safe and at home if I got homesick.

Having decided to at least research Santo Domingo as my first choice for Spanish schools, I also decided that I needed to talk to someone who had been through the process of deciding on a Spanish school before me.

I set up a meeting with Ed and Andrea Robinson while they were home in Nova Scotia after having just returned from South America and preparing to head off to explore Europe!

We met up at Starbucks in Dartmouth Crossing, sat outside on a beautiful day in May and they once again let me pick there brains for as much information as I could possibly handle.

Although we discussed many interesting things (which will be included in various other blogs), my main goal was to get some advice on choosing a Spanish school. Here were some of their suggestions and questions they advised that I ask the school:

  • Look into the testimonials from the school as well as recommendations on Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor
  • What is the average age of the students attending the school?
  • What type of Spanish do they teach?
  • Does the school offer cultural activities and weekend trips?
  • Who are the teachers? How are they qualified? What is their background?
  • Will there be nightly homework? If so, how much and what does it consist of?
  • Is it possible to have a private instructor, or are there only group classes?
Once again, after having chatted with Ed and Andrea I felt inspired, happy and clear about what I was about to embark on. I left with energy and motivation to go live my life!
I had already done a preliminary search for Spanish schools in Dominican Republic and specifically in Santo Domingo. I had found the following schools, all with their own benefits and downfalls. Most, within a few hundred dollars of each other, cost wise.

Instituto Intercultural del Caribe
Spanish Abroad, Inc.
CEIC Spanish School
Cactus Language School

When I found the Amerispan website, I got happily lost in it for a couple of hours. There was so much information! The website was incredibly professional, the English was excellent, they had blogs and live chat to ask questions of staff immediately … they had photos and specials and guarantees! I found myself reading and reading and reading!

There was information about the city of Santo Domingo and I already felt welcome by them without even having a conversation with anyone!

I looked through the other websites as well, but none of them excited me and gently held my hand like the Amerispan one did. And then, even though I was already excited about it I discovered two things:

1. Amerispan partners with Instituto Intercultural del Caribe in Santo Domingo, so this would combine the top listed google search school with the most intriguing website.

2. Amerispan has a great social media presence and offers discounts and programs to it’s students for following along on social media as well as options and incentives to become a blogger for them and spread the word about their programs.

I was sold!

Although first and foremost, this trip was about learning Spanish, I was also planning to explore opportunities in travel writing. What better opportunity to get started than to blog for the school and get a discount on my tuition for writing blogs that I would have been writing on my own blog anyway. Win, win, WIN!

So, having put Amerispan as my first choice for a Spanish school, I logged on the day after my meeting with Ed and Andrea to have a live chat with a lovely and incredibly helpful staff member named Alexa.

Alexa answered all of my questions and pointed me in the right direction for more information on several occasions.

She set my mind at ease that the programs, once I arrived would be somewhat flexible. I could start out in group classes, but if for any reason I felt that I would prefer private lessons, that could be arranged as well. I discussed with her my sincere yearning to take in as much of the culture as possible and asked if it was possible, if I had a private instructor, that we do our lessons on location. As in, walking around the city, attending events, sitting at coffee shops etc. She told me that this would certainly be an option by special request, but I would be responsible for transportation costs, entry fees etc for myself and my instructor. That certainly seems reasonable to me!

I also asked her about home work. She explained that just like in any other school, home work is a big part of learning, so there would be nightly assignments. Doing the assignments would improve your understanding and learning, but not doing the assignments will also slow down your entire class, so she stressed the importance of taking it all seriously. She explained that assignments could be based on reading a local newspaper and commenting on an article. Or maybe going to sit at a park or cafe and making observations. Or, watching a Spanish tv show and discussing it. That doesn’t sound so bad for homework does it? In fact, it sounds like a lot of fun to me!

I had such a great experience with my live online chat with Alexa that when I was done, I felt like my decision was made! I would apply for school with Amerispan.

I think another little space just opened up in my brain! The overwhelming, constricting and lost feeling that I’ve been having for months seems to be releasing just a little. What is this feeling? The beginnings of a happier and more balanced life? finding my passion? taking care of my own needs first and loving it? And let’s not forget the joy of making new friends! Thanks for all of your support Ed & Andrea!

One of my favourite quotes seems to fit just perfectly to tie this post up!

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
– Dr. Suess, Oh, the places you’ll go

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