Cactus’ language holiday experiences
Tuesday, 14th April 2009
One of the great things about working at Cactus is that we have the opportunity every year to do a language course at one of our partner schools abroad.
Not only does this help us revise languages we already speak, or learn new ones, it also gives us an excellent inside knowledge of the schools that we work with, so that we are better equipped to advise clients about what options will be best for them, and what they can expect from their course.
Over the last 10 years, many trips have been taken by various staff members, including the following:
Rich Ambler, Managing Director
In May 2003 Rich, managing director of Cactus, headed to the Spanish city of Cordoba to attend various conferences and take 3 days of individual Spanish lessons.
He recalls being assigned a young Spanish teacher, who was very accommodating, and patient with his ‘dubious’ Spanish pronunciation! Especially first thing in the morning, after the festivities of the night before…
One of the highlights of the week for him was being invited to the director of the school’s house to watch Real Madrid in the Champions league. He arrived to find 4 or 5 local Spanish guys already settled in around a television with a fair few beers laid out on the table. It was noisy with plenty of discussion about the game and the occasional (well not that occasional actually!) hurl of abuse directed at the TV set!
He says that this type of thing is the best thing about a holiday like this: you’re in a country that is not your own, with different language and customs, staying in someone’s house with a group of random strangers who you share your life with for a short time, and then invariably, despite promises to stay in touch, never do of course! That’s the beauty of it though – it probably wouldn’t be quite the same if you met again. It’s a one-off. But that’s the randomness of life, and what makes it so rich and entertaining…
Laura Harrison, TEFL Consultant/Web editor
In July 2007 Laura headed out to Cagliari in Sardinia to brush up her rapidly waning Italian language skills.
A nasty bout of food poisoning courtesy of the sandwich shop down the road meant that she almost didn’t make it, but it would take more than a spot of salmonella to prevent her from heading to this Mediterranean gem for some much needed sun!
The school was excellent – not only because of its central location and nice atmosphere but also thanks to the lovely and welcoming teaching and administrative staff. They really did show all the students the most amazing hospitality, and gave up their own time to show the students the sights of Cagliari, and to take them to some of the most stunning, sandy beaches you could possibly hope to visit.
Cagliari itself has a very relaxed feel about it and was just the ticket for a chilled-out week in the sun. The school and its intimate, personal atmosphere made it a perfect choice for brushing up on some Italian too.
Stephanie Bon, Language Travel Advisor and Head of English
In October 2007, Stephanie spent a week brushing up her Portuguese in Lisbon.
Although she had spent time in Brazil, and was proficient in Portuguese as a result, she had never before been to Portugal, so was heading to unexplored territory!
She stayed with friends of friends who she barely knew, but was overwhelmed by their fantastic hospitality. She recognised in them the generous spirit of Brazilians, always keen to make you feel at home and show you the best of their country. It’s always better to discover a city with locals, as they know the good places to visit and the best restaurants to eat in.
She was really impressed with both the school, and Lisbon as a city. She enjoyed the lessons and felt that her grasp of Portuguese had really improved by the end of the week. Afternoon excursions and sightseeing trips organised for the afternoons were also good, and meant that she got to see a lot of the city during her time there.
Alex Wolfson, Language Travel Consultant and Head of Groups
In February 2008, as part of a trip to South America Alex took the opportunity to do a week’s Spanish and surfing course in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica. He maintains that this is one of the best holidays he has ever been on!
Jaco itself is a real party town, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that the school there offers a really nice contrast to the craziness! It even has a pool, hammocks and a meditation room for you to chill out in between lessons…
The school there offers a few other language and activity course options, including yoga and digital photography, but for Alex there was only ever one option – surfing. After a week of intensive surf lessons with a really enthusiastic (and patient) instructor, progress really was made. He is now well on the way to ‘pro’ status!
In Alex’s words, “Jaco maybe isn’t the best place to be if you like seclusion, peace and quiet, art or fine architecture, but for a language holiday in the sun on the beach with fun activities around like-minded people you can’t go wrong! I spent about 2 weeks pining for the place when I got back home and can’t wait to go back. “
More about Alex’s trip
Shirley Finlayter, Director of Studies
In February 2009, Shirley spent a week studying German at our partner school in Dusseldorf.
Having worked in the language learning industry for many years, she knows what makes a good school, and was pleased the the centre in Dusseldorf ticked all the boxes! Not only were the facilities very good, the staff and management were very friendly and well-organised too.
She really liked Dusseldorf as a city as well, and was pleasantly surprised by all the activties it had to offer - not only were there a plethora of art galleries and museums to peruse, there were also some excellent nightlife spots, offering restaurants, bars and pubs aplenty!
Rose Chadwick, Operations Manager
In April 2009, Rose made everyone at Cactus very envious by hopping over the Channel to do a course in beautiful Aix en Provence.
Having done an evening language course here in Brighton first, she wanted to put what she had learned into practice by staying with a host family. She thoroughly enjoyed staying with these very welcoming and generous people, who treated her to some true culinary delights a la provencale!
Her classes, she thought, were fantastic but exhausting. The quality of the teaching was extremely high. Surprisingly, most other students were older – around retirement age, and there was a great mix of nationalities – including an Aussie, Israeli, Finn, German and Indian! A week taking lessons at the school has made her feel much more confident with her comprehension.
As for Aix en Provence, the sun came out the day before she left and the town really came to life. The squares throughout the old town were taken over by markets of all kinds – fruit, vegetables, fish, bread and cheese.. she found everyone she encountered to be friendly, warm and really patient with her efforts to speak the local language too.