Read what our recent participants are saying about this Spanish Immersion program.
We would be happy to help you decide if this is the right program for you as well – Contact Us if you have questions we can help you answer!
I had a wonderful time with Common Ground International in Ecuador! I loved spending time with my host family, and learned a lot through my Spanish classes. I loved visiting the various historic and scenic sites of Cuenca, and would highly recommend this immersion experience. I think it helped me get used to speaking Spanish all day long, and just being able to speak spontaneously at any time. That was exactly the goal, it really made me grow in terms of embracing challenges, the unknown, and connecting with folks with different backgrounds. Also learning to manage my own stress and navigate an unknown environment.
– Tuo Liu, Summer 2023 participant
If I had known how much I would love the Common Ground Immersion program in Costa Rica I would have signed up for every week available. I feel extremely grateful to have met the incredible teachers, nurses, doctors, students, and families that participated in (and lead) the program. The CGI leadership team fosters such a feeling of support, inclusion, flexibility, and encouragement that within a day or so you feel like a giant family. They also do a great job finding awesome families to host us. The couple I stayed with was so kind and welcoming. I also love that they are on board with speaking only in Spanish and being open to helping me understand grammar or new vocabulary. Your Spanish skills will grow no matter what your level is because you are around it the whole time and using it in different types of settings: restaurants, school, with families, school, socially, etc. Although of course I didn’t become fluent in two weeks, I feel so much more ready to go back to the elementary school I teach at and try to use what I do know so far. This program will tear down any walls of awkwardness or lack of confidence and get you to embrace making mistakes and love the process. Everything was a highlight but definitely sign up for the excursions! The sustainable volunteer work CGI is a part of is also an incredible aspect of the program.
– Jennifer Pote, Summer 2023 participant
My time with Common Ground International could not have gone any better. As a Spanish teacher who was unable to study abroad due to covid, I was looking for a program that would really maximize the time I could spend abroad (sacando el jugo!). CGI’s teacher immersion program is specifically designed for teachers who need Spanish within their classrooms AND Spanish teachers looking to improve their language skills, while also adding cultural experiences and linguistic nuances you can’t get through a textbook or college seminar. Our Spanish classes were EXTREMELY effective as our teachers were receptive to our needs, flexible with questions & suggestions, and got to know each of us as teachers, as students, and as people. The excursions we went on were EXTREMELY well-planned (and worth the extra couple bucks upon registration for the weekend trips) and really connected what we were learning in the classroom to the lives we were living in our new cities. Our host family experiences were EXTREMELY impactful on us as students of the language and they made us feel welcome and gave us a strong sense of belonging in our new homes.
The best part of my CGI experience was the sense of community that was built during our time together. Rory & Leslie (and the rest of the CGI team!) thought of every last detail that allowed our focus as participants to put on our “why”; they were incredibly receptive and responsive to any and all needs we had, and met all of us where we were at with open minds and open arms. Rory & Leslie treated all of us like family, and their way of conducting and organizing the trip and our homestays allowed all of us to build friendships that will last beyond the scope of our trip and will follow us, hopefully, to our next adventures around the world. I hope to go on another CGI trip and cannot recommend it enough.
– Sophie Fiorovante, Summer 2023 participant
My trip with CGI exceeded my expectations! The daily lessons were exactly what I needed and were fully engaging and fun! Each excursion that I attended was a unique experience with lots of pictures, memories, and souvenirs to cherish! All of the people that I attended my trip with had the same goal of submersing themselves in the language and culture and embracing both! Rory and Leslie’s organization prior to and during the trip were phenomenal! I was never uncomfortable or lacking anything for the entire trip. This was my first time to travel to Latin America alone, and I’ll do it again with CGI as soon as time and funds allow!
– Linda Fletcher, Summer 2023 participant
I gathered all kinds of cool cultural and linguistic knowledge that I can use in the Spanish classes I teach. I am a Spanish teacher, so pretty proficient, but my week in Costa Rica was a good reminder that language acquisition is a life long process. It also inspired me to start speaking to my kids in Spanish. It was an amazing group of people, great host family, just a life changing experience:)
– Julia Snyder, Summer 2023 participant
Wow! It could not have been better! Amazing people, experiences, family placement, Spanish classes, local excursions, weekend trips, daily structure and activities during my 3 weeks in Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica. CGI has it all! You decide how much or little you participate. I tried to do it all! Leslie & Rory have figured it all out, adding their care, flexibility and individual support to make our time in Santo Domingo a powerful and meaningful learning and travel experience. Daily activities and groupings allowed us to build meaningful relationships with interesting and varied people of all ages with our common goal of learning Spanish. Leslie & Rory took great care and communication to set us up for a successful family stay. As a vegetarian of 40 years, I was concerned that I could not have a family stay. I emailed and spoke with Leslie & Rory and they assured me that they would find a family that will meet my needs. And they did! I love my Costa Rican family! Sure, at first it was awkward living with a family when I did not speak Spanish. Now, I am so grateful for the time and space to build my relationships (in Spanish) with my Santo Domingo family. My desire to communicate with my host family really challenged me and accelerated my learning. Everything was organized around building relationships and speaking Spanish (and having fun!). I am shocked how much Spanish I learned in 3 weeks. I originally planned to stay just 2 weeks in Costa Rica and am so glad I stayed for 3 weeks.
Walking to and from school everyday with others in my neighborhood.
Evenings working on my homework at the dinner table with my Mama Tica.
Watching a family of monkeys swing through the trees with a baby on the mother’s back while riding in a boat along the water roads of Tortuguero. Sloths! Watching sloths move, climb and eat in nature and at Toucan Rescue. Morning gatherings in the park. Walking along the Manuel Antonio park path that opened up to a glorious beach! The beauty of the rainforest, water, sand and rocks was breathtaking. Weekly dance class where I actually learned to dance and had fun. The intensity, camaraderie and fun of our small group Spanish classes. Friday afternoon graduations where language growth and the student/teacher relationships are celebrated. So grateful for the amazing people that I met and will always carry with me. I wish I had done it sooner. Don’t wait! Embrace it all – Participate in all of the activities, experiences and excursions offered. It really could not have been any better! Pura Vida!
– Monica Hynds, Summer 2023 participant
This was my second time traveling with Common Ground International. For years I looked back on my first immersion experience with CGI fondly, and I had built up high expectations as I anticipated my return. My second immersion trip exceeded all of my expectations! The staff at Common Ground is incredible, and they support all participants in their language development, personal goals, logistics coordination, and fun pursuits so well. They make every participant feel welcomed and supported every step of the way. Every aspect of the trip – the welcoming host family, small sized Spanish classes, cultural experiences, volunteer and community work, and excursions were exceptional. I can’t wait to return. Pura Vida!
– Samantha Greenleaf, Summer 2023 participant
If you are looking for a program to improve your Spanish, expand your cultural experiences and grow as a person, you have found the right trip! Common Ground has curated a trip that is focused on you and your goals. Meaningful volunteer opportunities, host family connections, leveled Spanish classes, and fun excursions are what you can expect if you decide to journey with Common Ground! I highly recommend it!
– Hann Doherty, Summer 2023 participant
I’m definitely a lot more comfortable speaking and feel like I grew a lot with my vocabulary and exposure to tons of different words. It was the first time I’ve ever written paragraphs and had an instructor comment on them and provide immediate feedback. I will continue to work on speaking and learning as much as I can to support my students. Our volunteer work was amazing. I was really excited about it, and it exceeded my expectations. I’m so glad I was there for that part of the volunteer work. Everyone that I interacted with was super helpful. And if they did not know an answer to a question, they went and found out. I felt very comfortable knowing that all of our trip leaders were one step ahead of us.
– Julia West, Summer 2023 participant
This trip was a wonderfully rich experience for many reasons. I met interesting people, saw beautiful sights, learned a lot about different cultures, ate some great food … and oh yeah, learned a lot of Spanish! You will definitely get pushed out of your comfort zone, which may sound like a bad thing, but it is NOT. After all, how else will you grow and improve as a person? And who wants a boring life?
And don’t worry, Leslie and Rory are both there for you in every way. They tell you what to expect and are there for you in an instant if you have any concerns, worries or issues.
-Jennifer Blaske, Summer 2022 Participant
Common Ground is an incredible program. A true immersion program where you are forced to use and learn Spanish- a true immersion. Leslie and Rory will take of everything you need. As a teacher who teaches a lot of Latino students, I need a degree of fluency to communicate with the care takers of my students. After this trip I feel capable of doing that.
-Jonah Rosenblum, Summer 2022 Participant
I loved my immersion trip to Costa Rica, what a unique wonderfully useful program Rory and Leslie provide with the support of the Lapa Verde faculty and their behind the scenes support staff as well. I participated in the 2 weeks program for teachers with some added days to both the beginning and end for excursions. I left behind a household including busy kids and husband so I decided the 3 week program would have been too long, in retrospect, I wish I would have stayed another week. Sure, I missed my family but once you return, life just gets back to normal so quickly that it left me wishing for more Pura Vida. And I was so comfortable with my host family, the school, the Santo Domingo de Heredia community, and our Common Ground Group that I was not nearly as homesick as I had anticipated. A couple tips: don’t hesitate taking this trip, it is amazing, if you want to see Panama too, fly with COPA and use their extended stopover option, pack less clothes than you think you’ll need and definitely bring your Teva like sandals cuz your feet will get wet about everyday, also pack a jacket, it was pleasantly cooler than I expected, and we were able to walk or Uber anywhere we wanted. We visited 2 modern malls while there, and traveled back to San Jose with ease. I was SO impressed with the energy that Rory and Leslie always had and the warmness of all the people we met both in Costa Rica and our short stay in Panama. You are reading this because you are already considering a trip with CGI, decide to go and take a friend if you can, if not that’s ok too cuz you’ll make a ton of new amigos.🙂
-Katie Sorensen, Summer 2022 Participant
The Common Ground teacher immersion program was just what I needed to give me the confidence to teach in a Spanish Immersion school in California. The directors, Leslie and Rory, and their family are such wonderful people and their love of Costa Rica was contagious. The staff and teachers in Santo Domingo were professional and friendly and my host family was a great fit. I loved the diversity of the weekend excursion trips to experience what Costa Rica has to offer. #puravida
-Lisa McClintock, Summer 2021 Participant
I had an amazing time on the Costa Rica teacher immersion program. I was a little nervous to sign up since it was during Covid and I didn’t know anyone, but this trip was amazing. I couldn’t have attended this trip with a better group of people. I got to experience so many amazing experiences with the side trips and excursions we went on. I enjoyed the small group Spanish classes I took. I would definitely recommend this trip for anyone looking to improve their Spanish and learn more about different cultures.
-Melissa Paramo, Summer 2021 Participant
Simply put, this was one of the best programs I have been a part of in my entire life. From start to finish, the Fosters encouraged and supported us to ensure we were all having the best experience. I am so excited to start this new school year with the knowledge of having been completely immersed in another culture and the confidence to communicate in Spanish with students and families.
-Jacqueline Liesch, Summer 2019 Participant
This was my second trip with Common Ground International and once again it did not disappoint! This program stands out because of the great leadership and thoughtful design. It is organized in such a way that you will be challenged, but Leslie and Rory and the other group leaders are there to support and guide participants through the process. Both years I have experienced significant improvement in my Spanish as well as valuable professional development. I would recommend this program to any educator.
-Carly, Summer 2019 Participant
I had been thinking about doing this program for 2 summers and I don’t know why I waited so long. It was such a great experience! My host mom was great, everyone in the program was incredibly helpful and supportive, and I gained a lot more confidence in my Spanish. I would absolutely return next summer!
-Emily Atwood, Summer 2019 Participant
Great program! Learned some Spanish, met some cool people, and got to travel and see many beautiful places in Costa Rica!
-S. Nail, California, Summer 2018 Participant
This program deserves 5 stars from start to finish! This is truly a family-run operation, beginning with the lovely Foster family of 5 and extending to all of their partnering organizations in Costa Rica. I was impressed by the quality of the preparation leading up to the trip and knew exactly what to expect when I landed in Costa Rica. The language school definitely challenged me and helped me gain some much needed confidence in my speaking ability. Last but not least, I appreciated CGI’s thoughtful and responsible approach to sustainable volunteer work. I would not hesitate to recommend this experience!!!
-E. Allman, Oregon, Summer 2018 Participant
Common Ground International’s Spanish Immersion Program for Teachers was exactly what I was looking for. As a Spanish teacher, I wanted a program that would help me to practice and improve my Spanish but also meet my needs of someone with significant experience in the language. The language school was tailored to my needs, and my class surpassed my expectations. My class was discussion-based and our professor was top-notch. It was one of the best classroom language learning experiences I’ve had.
-P. Schlaff, Michigan, Summer 2018 Participant
Best immersion experience by far! The support from the leaders, community service opportunities, Spanish classes, living with a wonderful host family, and dedication of the other immersion participants to speak Spanish was all amazing. My Spanish has never improved so much so fast. There is also plenty of time on the weekends to plan trips to experience Costa Rica’s beauty!
-K.Ouellette, Massachusetts, Summer 2018 Participant
CGI gave me a wonderful opportunity to improve my Spanish. As a Spanish teacher, I was also looking for ideas to help my students in the classroom and I came away with some great ideas. I was also able to improve my Spanish and my confidence in speaking with native speakers. The Fosters were always there if I needed help and they made sure that I felt comfortable. I really enjoyed the opportunity to help out in the community through the camps we held and the work that we did. I also got to experience the Costa Rican educational system. I can now show my students how the educational systems are alike and different. I really enjoyed the trips that we could take on the weekends. They were always well planned and the information was communicated in a timely manner. I really enjoyed this program and I hope that I can return to continue my education.
-R. Martin, Iowa, Summer 2018 Participant
My experience with Common Ground International was amazing! I truly feel like it was a life changing experience. I was looking for a serious and rigorous program that would allow me to really improve my Spanish. Not only did my Spanish improve in leaps and bounds, but I grew both as an educator and as a person. That was an expected, but appreciated realization. Leslie and Rory are wonderful at what they do. They have managed to put together a program that is organized, thoughtful, challenging and meaningful. As coordinators they worked around the clock to ensure that all participants were comfortable, having fun and most important progressing in their Spanish. I feel grateful for the opportunity to work with them and experience this remarkable immersion trip.
-C. Woolman, Washington, Summer 2017 Participant
I highly recommend the teacher immersion program. The longer you can attend the better! I went to Costa Rica with very little Spanish. I had no class experience prior to attending. I could only stay for 2 weeks but within that time I leaned a lot more than I expected. My professor was great and highly qualified. He was not only patient and engaging but had the experience to teach Spanish as a second language. The cultural experience alone makes it worth going. I was a little nervous about staying with a host family but it was amazing! They were very hospitable and the accommodations were nice.
-R. Boujoulian, Massachusetts, Summer 2017 Participant
Wow! CGI was everything I hoped for in a program and more. Granada was amazing, my host family was very welcoming, and the classes were exactly what I needed. Rory and Leslie were wonderful and made sure that everything ran smoothly the entire time. The volunteer programs were a great way to learn more about the area and make a difference while working on Spanish skills. I only did the Nicaragua Budget Traveler program, but I have so much more confidence in my Spanish after just that short amount of time. I would highly recommend the program to anyone!
-T. Luce, Colorado, Summer 2017 Participant
The program most helped me to achieve goals when my Spanish classes were centered around practicing conversations I need to have with my students’ parents. Because I practiced so many times with different people, I feel more confident in handling spontaneous or unexpected situations. I also have more practice/vocabulary for dealing with the complexity of different situations. I learned more about what my students feel when working in a second language. I understand more how it can feel to be intelligent and have ideas but at the same time to lack the language skills to fully express them. I also feel like I grew simply by living in the challenge of an immersion experience and striving to remain present and to continually reflect on it. Immersion is hands-down the best professional development a teacher of English language learning students can go through. The development of language skills is, of course, the goal, but equally important is the deeper understanding of students that comes from walking a mile in their shoes. With mindfulness, I believe that this immersion experience is going to make me a more thoughtful, reflective, and effective educator. I will be able to build stronger relationships with my students and their families because of my time in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
-J. Bicamp, New Mexico, Summer 2016 Participant
I had a million and a half opportunities to practice speaking, and was pleasantly surprised by how little English we spoke throughout the program. My confidence speaking and teaching Spanish grew immensely, and my listening comprehension was much improved by the end of the two weeks. I am so grateful for my experience with Common Ground International. In just a few weeks, I gained confidence in my Spanish abilities and had the opportunity to practice teaching Spanish to students of all levels. Outside of the classroom, I had a blast immersing myself in all aspects of Costa Rican culture and daily life and found the work we did with local children to be incredibly rewarding. Overall the program was everything I could have asked for- organized and flexible, challenging and supportive, immersive and transformative.
-L. Wann, Massachusetts, Summer 2016 Participant
I feel more confident in my ability to communicate in Spanish. I barely used English during the day, as in hardly ever. I loved my class at language school. My teacher was amazing and I learned a lot from the individualized instruction. She and I really formed a bond. I loved the relationship that we developed. If you are looking for more individualized instruction that is catered to your specific goals/needs, this program is a perfect fit!
-S. Pomonis, Minnesota, Summer 2016 Participant
Pre-immersion my Spanish was very low beginner. Post-immersion I am still a beginner but definitely better. The biggest improvements are my ability to communicate to others about the basics in Spanish. I am also more comfortable speaking Spanish which was very hard for me pre-immersion. If you want to immerse yourself in a typical Costa Rican town while learning Spanish and volunteering with local students, Common Ground International is definitely the program for you. I felt safe and taken care of throughout the program and couldn’t have asked for a better host family.
-B. Barnhart, California, Summer 2016 Participant
My time in Costa Rica was truly a gift. I had always wanted to travel to a Spanish speaking country and put my high school Spanish to the test but had never made that happen. Then I started teaching in a school where over 80% of the student population spoke Spanish at home. I knew that I needed to find a way to improve my Spanish and improve it fast. From the very first day in San Isidro walking through that market I knew that my Spanish was going to improve tremendously. Everyone involved in this experience from my incredibly generous and kind host family, to my fellow teachers and participants, to Rory and Leslie and their amazing family, was so dedicated to my learning Spanish and to making the three weeks unforgettable. The teachers at the language school were also so dedicated to my growth in my Spanish abilities. With small classes of 1-3 students everyone was able to get the personalized instruction that they needed. The three weeks that I spent fully immersed in the language and culture were so incredibly special. I absolutely feel confident going into the upcoming school year and communicating with students’ parents who only speak Spanish. I would go back for another three weeks in a heart beat.
– K. Delvaux, Massachusetts, Summer 2015 Participant
Ms. Delvaux recently had her school’s annual Open House, hear what she had to say about her new found confidence this year speaking with her students’ families:
I cannot express how thankful I am for my experience with Common Ground International and my time in Costa Rica. Most of my second-grade students speak Spanish at home, so it was important for me to be prepared to communicate with their parents at our annual Open House. Drawing on my experiences with CGI, I prepared a bilingual packet for parents, which I completely translated into Spanish. When it came time to welcome parents into my room I found myself speaking easily with parents in Spanish. The conversation flowed naturally as parents and I asked and answered questions. It was a huge success. Having the ability to communicate with parents one-on-one in Spanish helps me show my commitment to their children and their family. Spending three weeks in Costa Rica, fully immersed in Spanish, gave me the skills, vocabulary, and the confidence to initiate and hold conversations in Spanish with my students’ parents. I am forever grateful.
– K. Delvaux, Massachusetts, Summer 2015 Participant
This has been by far one of the more rewarding experiences of my life. In one short month, I was able to travel to nearly all regions of the country, spend time with amazing people from the US and Costa Rica, be immersed in the language at school and at home, and spend some time volunteering. Common Ground perfectly unites work and play in this gorgeous Central American country.
– H. Martin, Iowa, Summer 2015 Participant
My experience with Common Ground International exceeded my expectations. My goal was to develop basic Spanish speaking skills, to use while working as a principal at a bilingual school. I was amazed at how much material we covered in my classes which were a short two weeks. It’s given me a great foundation to continue learning, as went from being a non-speaker to gaining the confidence to engage in conversations with parents at my school. Participating in the immersion program, also has made me feel more connected culturally to my school community. The small town setting in rolling hills above San Jose is also a terrific setting…very beautiful. Living with a hospitable family also improved my Spanish tremendously and I loved the food!
– B. Friedenbach, California, Summer 2015 Participant
I went to Costa Rica with the goal of improving my Spanish and learning about a culture that I could bring back to my students in the U.S. Not only did I accomplish both goals with Common Ground, I also gained a family and friends in the process.
-B. Fenton, Florida, Summer 2015 Participant
Common Ground International is well organized, carefully planned and has a variety of activities that make the time fly. The expectations are high and the support is strong. As a teacher entrusted with the holistic development of students, I believe that through my experience in the Common Ground International program I will be in a position to foster a sense of cultural awareness and sensitivity among my students to the world in which they live. The desired outcome of this summer immersion is to contribute to the development of culturally aware and globally sensitized learners at Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island, SC. USA.
—M. Tuchscherer, South Carolina, Summer 2015 Participant
My experience in Costa Rica with CGI was fantastic! I had the opportunity to be fully immersed in the Costa Rican culture: live with a family, attend classes, and volunteer in the rural school. It was an amazing learning experience- one that I will never forget.
—L. Sylvester, New York, Summer 2015 Participant
I would say that my time in Costa Rica had truly met or exceeded all of my expectations! I came down knowing only a few words, and after three short weeks, I’m leaving with the ability to communicate in Spanish with my students and their parents – what a gift! I’ve also gained so much by being immersed in this culture and truly believe I will be a better teacher in the future because of it.
– S. Stuntz, Massachusetts, Summer 2015 Participant
As a teacher, I felt Common Ground provided the experience I was seeking with a focus on my specific language needs. Having other teachers to converse and interact with made the experience even more rewarding. In addition, the volunteer work at a local school not only allowed me to put my Spanish into practice in an educational setting, but turned out to be an emotionally powerful experience that will remain with me the rest of my life. My entire experience far exceeded my expectations in terms of language acquisition, cultural immersion, and personal growth. I will forever feel a connection to Costa Rica.
–S. Kind, California, Summer 2014 Participant
As a new teacher this experience was extremely important in helping me feel prepared and confident in my Spanish skills. Between language classes, my host family, and my adventure to La Fortuna my two weeks in Costa Rica were packed with exciting activity and opportunities to learn and grow not only as a teacher but also as an individual.
–P. Benedict, Pennsylvania, Summer 2014 Participant
My Common Ground International immersion trip was challenging, inspiring and satisfying in all the right ways. I grew personally and linguistically in leaps and bounds. The people I met and the experiences I had will live forever in my heart and will inform every aspect of my professional life as well as my personal life. I appreciate the care and professional expertise I felt in Costa Rica from every single person with whom I lived and worked. Thank you for all your hard work! I will definitely be back!
–L. Kropp, Illinois, Summer 2014 Participant
Common Ground International is a great program. Rory and Leslie provided an authentic immersion experience in which I experienced both professional and personal growth in a way that I could not have arranged on my own. I felt very safe living with a host family and attending school in the small town of San Isidro de Heredia. The volunteer opportunities in the surrounding communities were interesting, inspiring and educational. I would recommend this program to anyone who would like to improve their Spanish speaking skills through immersion.
–L. Lowrance, North Carolina, Summer 2014 Participant
This was exactly what I was looking for! I wanted a program where I could use my large base of Spanish knowledge to practice and reinforce my skills. I wanted the opportunity to use the language as much as possible and relate it directly to professional development. It was flexible and exactly what I wanted!
–H. Abullarade, Summer 2014 Participant