School of the World has and always will be a popular destination for long-term travelers looking to learn, explore, and experience a new culture. Anouk decided to leave the cold, dreary skies of the Netherlands for Spanish and surfing in Costa Rica on her first 7-week solo trip. From weekend trips to Monteverde, Sunday beach parties at playa Hermosa, horseback riding on the beach and sunset swims, she soaked up everything this trip had to offer.
SOTW: So, tell us a little bit about your motivation behind taking a solo trip and coming to School of the World?
Anouk: Traveling has always been on my bucket list. After graduating college in July 2021, I planned on saving for a few months and then traveling in January and February. As I was thinking about what I wanted to do during those weeks, I concluded I wanted to learn a new language. And one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world is Spanish, so that’s where I started my search.
Of course, going to Spain to learn Spanish seems like a no-brainer since it’s very close to home, but Spain is cold in January and covid in Europe was awful during the winter months… until I saw they also offered official Spanish language courses in Costa Rica!
After getting a lot of ads on Instagram about traveling and learning Spanish, one of them was for School of the World. I did some research into it and saw that besides Spanish, they offered other classes such as surfing, which was also on my bucket list. SOTW was more appealing than the Education First courses in Spain (also a little bit cheaper)!
SOTW: After all that research and planning, what were your expectations prior to arriving and did the experience meet or exceed them in any way?
Anouk: I didn’t really have expectations about the school and the country itself, besides knowing it was going to be hot and very different from the Netherlands (NL is very flat, very grey). I left my expectation open so that I could see if traveling was something for me and my future.
I did expect to learn Spanish to a certain level. I read somewhere you can level up in 6 weeks, and I was going for 7 so that seemed feasibly… I failed in that department though. I’m just not very good at learning languages, so the lessons were pretty hard for me. I did try to improve my Spanish and took lessons in my 1st, 3rd, and 5th weeks. It definitely improved (I understand way more now), but the speaking part is still lacking. It’s motivated me to keep learning Spanish back home, I just need a little bit more time.
SOTW: You stayed with us for quite some time, what was it like being somewhere new for that long?
Anouk: Amazing!! It really became my own little spot. I went away for the weekend twice, and coming back to Jaco and the school almost felt like ‘coming home’. It was a plus that there were more people who stayed for a few weeks, you really get to know them and can do all kinds of fun trips with them.
SOTW: Sounds like you had the full Costa Rica experience! What was your favorite moment, adventure, or thing you learned?
Anouk: My favorite thing about this trip was the rhythm during the day. Surfing, someone always around to chat with or have a drink with or a hike, the life outside. I liked all the little moments with all the people I met at the school. Like dinners, going to the bar, movie nights, hiking, and pizza night. During my time I met so many new people. Some were staying for a week, some for longer. You really get to know the people, and I still talk to some of them! It’s so interesting to meet people while traveling. You learn about other countries and what everybody’s doing on the regular. Makes you realize how big the world is, but somehow, we all ended up in one place!
I also went to Monteverde for a night where we went ziplining which was amazing. It was a totally different part of Costa Rica and very cool to see the forest hanging from a zipline! It was very cold there, though, so the polar opposite of Jaco.
SOTW: Let’s talk about the surfing. You really improved on your skills while at SOTW! Tell us more about what you learned.
Anouk: Coming from the east of the Netherlands, I had never surfed before. My core reason for going to Costa Rica wasn’t surfing, but Spanish. However, I’ve now found a reason to work hard so I can go back to Costa Rica to surf again.
Surfing was always on my bucket list, but I didn’t really know what it was going to be like. I’ve had a few lessons in kite surfing, which is very popular in the Netherlands. But I could only stand for like 2 seconds after a whole week of lessons. I was expecting the same with surfing, but I could not have been more wrong. I stood on my very first day and I had SO MUCH fun.
It’s very cool and exciting to stand on your board, especially when you catch a long wave. Surfing is falling and getting up again, time after time. Also, a lot of waiting in the line-up, but it’s totally worth it. The feeling of going over the water is amazing. The video analysis we do at the school is also very helpful. While surfing you can sometimes feel what you do wrong, but on video you can really see it. Besides seeing what you do wrong, it’s also just really fun to have videos of you surfing. And I think it’s so cool I can see myself improving from week 1 to week 7!
SOTW: As a new student who stayed with us for so long, what advice would you give to someone looking to come to SOTW?
Anouk: Try to come a day earlier if possible. I came in Sunday night after a long flight and had to start with Spanish at 10 in the morning the next day. That was rough, let me tell you. I would’ve appreciated some time to settle in.
Another piece of advice is to take surfing lessons! It’s super fun and Jaco is a great beach to start learning and feel successful after a few lessons. And when you surf during sunset, it’s so pretty to see it from the water. Sunsets in Costa Rica are magnificent.
-Monteverde (and the ziplining)
-Mundaka (smoothie bowls)
-Jacó Bar for a drink
-Café Bohío for the coffee (but all coffee in Costa Rica is good!)
-The Green Room pancakes for breakfast or a great dinner
-Hiking (or take a cab…) to playa Hermosa (via el Miro)
-Trip to a waterfall (like 3 pools, -Nauyaca waterfall, the waterfall in Montezuma)
-Koko bistro (during sunset especially)
-Horseback riding on the beach
SOTW: Thanks so much for telling us about your experience at the School of the World and we are so happy that you are part of the SOTW family. Good luck in all your future travels!