I traveled all of my childhood, first because my parents were hippies traveling and later because my dad went to the Air Force. This sparked my love for other cultures. We returned to Puerto Rico when I was starting high school. I knew very little Spanish, the main language, and to boot my mom decided a Spanish Catholic nun’s all girls’ school was the best option for me. I suffered but mom was right I learned Spanish.
I studied translation at the University and worked part time at a language school after 7 years I went to work in a tourism related company. The love I have for my island deepened as I learned more and more about this beautiful island. I met my husband; we got a quickie Vegas wedding and had a few years of fun with a few twists such as his losing his job.
Our lives changed quite a bit when fearing a return of a cancer suffered and treated in my teenage years, I found out that I was 6 months pregnant. In 10 weeks we went from being a carefree couple to having a premature baby in our arms. At the same time my business partner decided to take a job offer in the states and in 2 weeks I had to negotiate and buy her out, all from my hospital bed and unsure of how to juggle preemi baby, business on my own and unemployed husband, because when it rains it pours. Things eventually fell into the new normal and 18 months later we added a second child to the mix. I never think that something can’t be done; even if we aren’t of financial means I am always ready to take a risk and give new projects a try.
ISLA is a Spanish Immersion school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We receive students from all over the world although most of our students are from the US as it is easier for them to travel here. Mainly our students need Spanish for work: teachers, nurses, social workers for example. We have taught students from 8 years old to 86 years old, the average is 36 years old.
We provide a full cultural experience, lodging, meals, tours and Spanish classes. We are extremely proud of how quickly students progress through our stress free approach. We have a fun atmosphere and the heart is the kitchen with free coffee!
The owner of the school I worked at before had traveled for an immersion program; I was perplexed that in a Spanish speaking country and being the owner of a school she couldn’t learn here. I convinced her to let me launch a Spanish immersion program if it didn’t work out I’d return to my prior position, it ended up being the core business. Years later, after she had moved back to US and I had moved on to another job that school closed. I felt that I had worked too hard in making Puerto Rico a language destination to just let it fizzle. It was a bad time as my husband had just been laid off but we used his retirement money and went for it.
Thanks to the team that believed in me before I had a single student, we have now been having fun, showcasing Puerto Rico and teaching Spanish for 6 years. We are striving for growth this year and hence the move to a larger space, but it doesn’t have a kitchen and ISLA without a cafe puya, cortadito o termino just wouldn’t be ISLA!!
We have an estimate that will allow us to install a kitchen at our new location- the main cost & difficulty is plumbing as we would have to bring water from the water source at the back of the local all the way to the front. In truth this isn’t a revenue stream but it is central to our corporate culture. We have always welcomed people with a big smile and an offer of water and coffee. It is the heart of the school, where conversations happen, part of the cultural experience in a nutshell it is the embodiment of our warmth and friendliness.