Making the Most of Your Foreign Language School Experience (Part III: Homestay vs. Hostel)

My bedroom in Xela was a concrete addition added on to the rooftop of the family home. When I stepped outside of my bedroom, this was the view overlooking the city. Xela, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Choosing the best language school accomodations for you: Homestay vs Hostel

Out for a night on the town, eating typical Guatemala food at a local restaurant, La Cuevita De Los Urquizu. Antigua, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Out for a night on the town, eating typical Guatemala food at a local restaurant, La Cuevita De Los Urquizu. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford

The big question you will ask yourself, once you have selected the best language school for you , is “Where am I going to live while I am studying?” If you don’t have friends or family who are able to host you, you are likely to go with one of two options:

  1. Stay with a local family (which can be arranged through your school).

OR

  1. Live in a hostel.

I spent three weeks living with a family and three weeks living in a hostel. Both options are relatively low cost but each option has its own benefits. Here are 6 helpful tips I learned from first-hand experience that can help you decide which environment is right for YOU!

Three Advantages To Living With Locals While Attending Language School

1. Peace of Mind

The homestay experience allows language students to pay a reasonable fee to live and eat with a local family.  When I signed up for language classes in Xela, Guatemala I opted for the homestay experience as it was my first time living in a foreign country. I appreciated the peace of mind I received paying one fee to have all of my food and shelter arrangements taken care of. This relieved significant weight from my shoulders so I could concentrate my energy on my studies.

The weekly fee of US$155 included 25 hours of private classes at the Celas Maya school plus the homestay package with a local family. Meals were provided by the family 6 days a week. On Sunday, students must make their own arrangements for meals which is a common practice for most homestay contracts in Central America.

2. Meals Are Prepared For You

Spending time with my host family. Xela, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Spending time with my host family. Xela, Guatemala — April Beresford

The meals prepared by my host family were very basic and there wasn’t much variety from one day to the next. I found them to be hearty enough that I did not need to purchase additional food.  Students eat whatever the family eats and while each household is slightly different, a staple in most Latin American homes is beans and rice which was served at least once per day by my host family. Families are open to supporting dietary restrictions but in order to ensure the cost benefit ratio serves their interest, they will not increase your food budget.  If you want to increase your meat intake or eat extra veggies every day, you will need purchase those items yourself and the family will cook them for you.

3. Socializing In Your New Language

The best way to create a more authentic immersion experience is to live with a local family. This increases the opportunity for engaging with locals in your immediate environment.  Every time you sit at the dinner table for example, you will have the opportunity to practice your new language. You can’t help but pick up a language faster when everywhere you turn, you are forced to communicate in that new language.

Also, living in the same space as a local family will allow you to connect more deeply with their culture.

Homestay families will provide the quiet environment necessary for you to study and get your required rest so you can maximize your potential for learning.

Three Advantages to Staying in a Hostel While Attending Language School

1. Paying For What You Want

Hostels provide basic services to customers and in turn, provide very inexpensive accommodations to travelers. Most travelers only stay a few nights while they are passing through town, so hostel managers are willing to negotiate a deal on the price when customers are able to commit to a longer stay. While pricing out hostels can be more time consuming than paying for a homestay, in the end you will have more selections to choose from. Also, hostels often provide customers with free wifi access. Your homestay family is unlikely to provide this so your internet access would then be limited to being on-site at your language school. Many hostels will provide free coffee, tea and water throughout the day whereas in a homestay situation, you will be limited as to when and how much you can use of these items.

2. Preparing Your Own Food

Messy Hostel Kitchen- Unfortunately when you are staying in a hostel, some patrons fail to clean up after themselves. Maid staff will clean up the mess when it bottlenecks but I encourage you to be a respectful traveler and clean up your own mess. Antigua, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Messy Hostel Kitchen- Unfortunately when you are staying in a hostel, some patrons fail to clean up after themselves. Maid staff will clean up the mess when it bottlenecks but I encourage you to be a respectful traveler and clean up your own mess. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford

Often guests have access to a shared kitchen space where food can be prepared and stored. You can eat whatever you want, when you want (as long as you respect the kitchen’s hours of operation). When committing to a homestay on the other hand, you must respect the families designated meal times and this creates obvious barriers to your freedom if you prefer to come and go as you please. Living in a hostel, if you purchase food at a local market and prepare it yourself you can stay healthy, and keep costs down or you can choose to attend restaurants as you please. The point is, that by utilizing a hostel for accommodations you operate on your own schedule at all times.

3. Immersion Diversion

Learning a new language will be mentally draining. Staying at a hostel will open you to the opportunity of potentially interacting with people who speak the same language as you do. This will give you a break from the immersion experience if you are finding this type of environment too isolating. Lots of new people from all over the world come and go from hostels every day which will expose you to a diverse range of cultures. The hostel environment does however, run the risk of diverting your attention from your studies as they often cultivate a party culture. This can be very distracting as you might be easily swayed to stay out late, getting to know a stranger, when you need to wake up early for school the next day. If you possess unwavering discipline, you will remain a step ahead of the game.

Browsing through local shops with some new friends. Antigua, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Browsing through local shops with some new friends. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford

Still have questions?

The strategies presented in mind will definitely help set you up for success as you take on this new venture. If you have any additional questions about selecting language schools , or creating strategies to optimize your learning, please feel free to comment on one of the 3 articles in our Language School series. We are happy to help support you on your quest to learn a new language.

~ An Extraordinary Story By April Beresford ~

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting and subscribing 🙂

Facebook: Karina’s Extraordinary Life presents Wisdom Trails
Tweet me @Wisdom_Trails
Instagram  @karinas_extraordinary_life/
YouTube KNExtraordinaryLife/videos

Mercado Tradicional – Guatemala

This week’s film spotlights our experience at a local market.
Come explore Guatemala City’s traditional mercado, “La Villa” and travel like a local.

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting and subscribing 🙂

Antigua, Guatemala – New Year’s 2014

Another extraordinary film by April Beresford for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

With Canadian winter weather in full swing, Karina and I are thrilled to be heading to the tropics for our 6 month adventure in Central and South America. We are sad to be leaving our friends and family but have high hopes that many of you will feel inspired to travel yourselves and perhaps we can meet up together in some far distant land? Sounds like a great plan doesn’t it?
This week’s film will give you a quick glimpse into just one of the fantastic experiences we have had in Guatemala, exploring Antigua. Perhaps this video will help lure you to join us in the tropics? Take a few minutes out of your day to enjoy our adventures in this brilliant city with its’ beautiful traditions and breathtaking explosive pyrotechnics.

~April~

Travel Tip:

All the featured festivities are completely free and go on throughout the day.

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting and subscribing 🙂

Sanitation Engineer

It’s official. It’s undeniable.

Just ask our numerous and relentlessly supportive friends. April and I are 100% nomad. That is just about as kindly as it gets when it comes to referring to someone as unemployed, homeless, phone-less and now, solely reliant on others for transportation. Kind of like changing the title of ‘garbage man’ to ‘Sanitation Engineer!’

Yes, Tank has gone to a new and loving home. He will be sorely missed, but there are exorbitant plans and dreams to chase into extraordinary and distant lands. The break from this materialist society we exist in will only hurt for so long. If my previous travel experience has taught me anything, soon I will be dying to lighten load even more. Road trips and backpacking around the world are very different. Phase II demands that every ounce of necessary ‘stuff’ be supported only with the strength of my own body.

Just the thought of it is exhausting and painful but picturing myself on the shores of some tropical island, amongst colourful festivities of foreign cultures, or on top of some lava-spewing giants is enough to overcome that. I am willing to make these sacrifices because this is what I want more than anything in the world; by any means.

What an extraordinary life!

Like mother like daughter -- Somewhere in Myanmar --Karina Noriega

Like mother like daughter — Somewhere in Myanmar –Karina Noriega

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting

Road Kill

April made me a hilarious road kill compilation to cheer me up. I get way too sad when I see wildlife discarded as highway junk on the side of the road.

The clip is so funny I had to share with everyone 🙂

Want to see some real live wildlife encounters? Check this one out:

https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/09/25/wild-encounters/

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting and subscribing 🙂

Wild Encounters – Encounters in California, USA

Fern Canyon, Redwood State Park, California, USA - Karina Noriega

There’s this game that we play. It started on our very first road trip when we drove across Canada. 10,000km is a long way you see. *(We are at 20,000km across and back in the U.S!) So the way it goes is that every time you see an animal crossing sign you have to put up one of the corresponding charades signs that we made up. It’s our superstitious way of protecting ourselves (& the wildlife)- our explanation is that as long as we always do it then we eliminate the chance of a collision. It’s really just a silly game, like all the other stupid things we do when engaging on these long distance adventures and so far, it has worked like a charm.
Not for a second has it taken away from our wildlife viewing experience though. Without ever leaving the safety of our Tank, we have seen:

Elk Target, Redwood State Park, California, USA - Karina Noriega

Elk Target, Redwood State Park, California, USA – Karina Noriega

Continue reading

Summary of Our Journey Across The USA – (World Nomads Scholarship Entry)

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah, USA - Karina Noriega

The contest deadline has come and gone. Our submission is now being reviewed by the travel journalism experts at World Nomads. We are going up against hundreds (if not thousands) aspiring filmmakers from around the whole globe.

The pressure has now shifted to the judges and mentors who can select only a single submission for one of the best prizes out there: A chance to attend, film and share Mexico’s cultural mega-festival, Dia de los Muertos. More than a chance to travel, this is the learning opportunity of a lifetime. April and I are beyond eager to receive mentoring and feedback by seasoned travel journalists. Plus, I have not so secretly always wanted to experience this event.

So let’s make the decision a little easier for the World Nomads panel. Please show us your support by clicking like, leaving your comments and sharing the video (preferably through the blog -> https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/09/22/world-nomads-film-scholarship-entry <- Use This Link)

Don’t forget to read up on why we believe we should win and what it means to us. (On the YouTube comments sections)

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

Continue reading

Travel Seeks Travelers

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, California - Karina Noriega

It has been exactly 123 days, 25 states and 14,486km (9000m) since I crossed the southern border for an extraordinary road trip across the United States of America. My travel partners April and Tank, (my Toyota 4runner) have been strong and steady by my side. Our little travel blog is getting some attention and even inspiring a few new friends and readers to see travel differently and hit the road.

All along our journey I have called out to anyone who would like to meet, host or join us. I have reached out to old travel friends I’ve met across continents as I carve across their states and hometowns. I have encouraged friends and family who we dearly miss to come visit us wherever we may be.

I’m so excited that both of these situations have finally come to fruition.

Part I

I reached out to my friend Eric while in the Southern USA. Facebook, (a powerful tool keeping my travel circle together) told me he was living in Salt Lake City, Utah; a state that would no doubt take us far into the wilds of colourful deserts, towering formations, unimaginable canyons and wilderness. Eric and I hadn’t seen each other at all since our fateful meeting in Malaysia a few years ago. I had just hopped out of a truck near a village in the Cameron Highlands. I was hitchhiking from the coastal city of Georgetown to see the famed tea plantations and rejoice in the cooler weather. I needed one more ride to reach my destination so as I walked towards the intersection, gathering the courage necessary to stick my thumb out to passing motorists, I made a joking remark to the two white guys on scooters.

“Room for one more?” Continue reading

Christ of Ozarks – A Film

Passion Play, Christ of the Ozarks, Arkansas, USA - Karina Noriega

Another extraordinary film by April Beresford for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

In small town in Northern Arkansas, we stumbled upon an entire religious theme park is dedicated to the life and death of Jesus Christ. The volunteers here not only took us in as we journeyed through, but they shared their time and passion with us.

This is an outsider’s look at the place and people of ‘Christ of the Ozarks’.

Music by Keith Symanowitz

Camping with Jesus, Christ of the Ozarks, Arkansas, USA - Karina Noriega

Camping with Jesus, Christ of the Ozarks, Arkansas, USA – Karina Noriega

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

Continue reading