About one year ago, I visited Panama for one week. I spent half my time in Panama City and the other half in Boquete. I really enjoyed both places, so much so, that I returned to Panama City for the opportunity to improve my Spanish at Casco Antiguo Spanish School.
Though I didn’t learn of the school while in Panama, at the time I also wasn’t looking for classes despite feeling like Americans are the only people in the world that don’t know at least two languages. Frustrated with only getting by, however, I ultimately reached out to David, the owner of the school.
After a few introductory emails, Ero, and Kiki helped me with the very simple application process which includes providing the preferred dates of attendance and completing a written Spanish placement test. In addition to coordinating my schooling, they also helped me with my lodging. Their website listed several options from homestays to hotels.
Since I was trying to improve Spanish, I decided I may as well go for it all and live with a Panamanian family. As a result, they confirmed my stay in an air-conditioned room with Cachy and Ciro. With my accommodations in order, I booked my plane ticket and soon enough found myself in Panama. I arrived on a Sunday, just before my Monday morning classes.
The school is located in Casco Viejo, my favorite part of Panama City. Casco Viejo is a revitalized historic district and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features an eclectic mixture of restaurants, churches, plazas, ruins and shops which surround its brick streets.
The Casco Antiguo Spanish School was started by David, an American who learned his Spanish while serving in the Peace Corp in Bolivia. After the Peace Corps and traveling the world, he elected to settle down in Panama where he has lived for 10 years.
The school provides several levels of Spanish classes from beginner to advanced. The classes are limited to a maximum of four students which ensures an intimate atmosphere for learning with the other students and the teachers.
The 4-hour sessions are scheduled from either 8-12 or 1-5. Each are held in small, air-conditioned rooms with a white board and computer. In addition, the school supplies a study manual as well as a notebook and pen.
During our classes, we learned the language through a variety of techniques which included conversing with one another, completing workbook exercises, and playing games. The variety of options kept the classes dynamic.
I placed into an intermediate Spanish class and was assigned to morning classes with two young men from Brazil and a woman about my age from England. Each were attending the school for different reasons.
Gabriel’s first trip out of Brasil was to Panama. He arrived two months ago without knowing any Spanish. He plans on spending four years in Panama with his aunt while in college. He wanted study in Panama to be bilingual for better job opportunities in Brazil.
Hyago, 22, has come to study Spanish for the same reason…to have better job opportunities when he graduates with a degree in tourism from a college in his home town near Rio. He has come to the school for a week for each of his last three years of Christmas break.
Liizzie, closer to my age, is in her 40’s. She is from England though she and her husband along with their three children were most recently in Jamaica. They have just transferred to Panama for his work. They plan on living in Panama for three years, thus naturally she needs to learn Spanish just to keep up with her kids!
I didn’t really have an important reason for learning Spanish. I would just prefer to be bi-lingual and be on par with much of the world.
Other School Activities
In addition to group classes, the school offers private tutoring and many students at the school were taking advantage of this.
On top of classes, the school organizes free evening events to aid students in socializing with one another. The activities include happy hour, a sunset bike ride, sand volleyball and salsa lessons.
I joined all the activities the first week in order to meet other students, to practice Spanish, and to explore Panama with someone else coordinating. I met several other students from all over the world and had so much fun!
While my biggest reason for visiting Panama again was to improve my Spanish, I also really enjoyed Casco Viejo. The hip, old quarter is live with restaurants, shops, bars, churches, plazas and ruins. Its eclectic atmosphere reveals years history. I constantly wondered “if these walls could talk.”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the school. The staff was excellent, the students interesting, the activities fun, and the city vibrant. I’d highly recommend visiting Panama to learn Spanish at Casco Antiguo Spanish School.
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