What To Expect While Studying
At The Mountain School
The School sit on 2.5 acres of an old coffee farm (finca) and the main school building was the owner’s house. We are in a lush mountain region with dense green forests, volcanoes, coffee and vegetable crops and steep winding roads. Our buildings are surrounded by flowers, banana, avocado and lime trees, a medicinal herb garden, a fish pond, and our own organic coffee crop. Freshly roasted coffee beans can be purchased to take home with you.
This is the mountains. There are lots of wandering chickens in the communities, roosters crowing, tons of birds and a farm down the road with cows, pigs and geese. The owners love to have students visit and learn to milk a cow or just learn more about local farming practices. The school has 2 friendly guard dogs and an inside cat.
For some quiet alone time you can use the Mirador – a secluded tree house with beautiful views of the mountains and the birds, including hummingbirds
There is even a soccer field for pick up games with teachers, other students or the kids in the neighborhood.
Where You Stay
Students, and several staff, stay in the main school building in a dormitory setting. There are porches and hammocks for outdoor studying and visiting, nooks inside for quiet studying and conversation. A communal kitchen is the favorite spot for students to gather over food, drinks and homework. We keep plenty of filtered drinking water available. There are hot showers and multiple bathrooms so sharing is not a problem.
We welcome families, couples and groups and can accommodate your needs.
Your daily meals are at your host family’s house – a short, few minutes’ walk from the school. You eat with the same family all week. They do not have the space or amenities to accommodate students staying with them but your host mother will cook delicious meals for you and someone in the family will be sitting with you during your meal to converse in Spanish.
A small library comes in handy for students with 1,000+ books including dictionaries, textbooks, books on Latin American history and literature, politics, permaculture, and more. Most of the books are in English or Spanish with a smattering of other languages. There is also a community library on the school grounds that students are welcome to use and it offers lots of children’s books in Spanish (great for practice and for using with the neighbor kids).
Classes are taught outside under palm-thatched ranchitos, each teacher-student pair in their own ranchito equipped with a table, chairs and whiteboard. We often have fresh fruit from our organic gardens for snacks during break times.
The School’s week runs from Sunday lunch through Sunday breakfast.
Formal classes are Monday thru Friday, either 8am-Noon or 1:00-5:00.
Students stay in the main school building but walk a few minutes to their meals at their host family’s house. Meals are an important part of the immersive Spanish learning experience. None of the families speak English and you will be practicing your Spanish at all your meal visits. Families are eager to chat with you to hear about your life and to share their stories with you. Meals are at 7:30, 12:30 and 5:30.
Your week will include several organized activities that focus on the social reality of life in rural Guatemala. We invite in speakers to talk on a range of social, political and cultural topics. These guest talks are in Spanish with an English interpreter. We may visit a community of ex-guerillas or a cooperative farm or a local service organization, and talk directly with the people involved in these efforts. Every week we hold a Guatemalan cooking class where you will be involved in the cooking and the eating!
Yes, there are opportunities for volunteers. We prefer that you are staying at the school longer than a week to place you in an official volunteer slot. What’s available may depend on the season as well as your Spanish level. Let us know when you register that you want to volunteer and what your interests are.
- Community library – read to local kids, help with their schoolwork
- Gardens – help care for the plants, animals or miscellaneous handy jobs on the grounds
- English lessons – help at a local school or in the community with individuals wanting to learn English
- Nearby communities – for students staying a while there may be needs in other communities for volunteers, we can work with you individually to find options
- Informal opportunities – many of the local kids need help with pre-literacy, reading, and math skills. Wandering through the community and connecting with the kids, or visiting with your host family children is a chance to do puzzles, games, read-alouds, whatever great ideas you have, with them. They love the attention and will help you with your Spanish while you are helping them. Pack a few activities or books in your luggage, and they will be appreciated.