How much Spanish do I need to understand?
Your level of Spanish will determine how much you get out of the overall program. Some classes are in English while others are in Spanish. Being able to communicate in Spanish enables you to participate more fully in the country and culture. Your weekly ministries will most likely be in Spanish, as well as interactions with staff and locals.
If needed, we provide simultaneous translation for our students. Our average foreign student has had two years of high school level Spanish. There is a month of intensive Spanish at the beginning of each semester that is intended to help each student get used to the language, but is not intended for those without some previous Spanish language experience. It is important to mention that the social language of the school is both English and Spanish, so some people find that their frustration with the language doesn’t affect every aspect of the program.
We are primarily a Bible School and not a language school. This means that most Bible classes will be in English if the teacher decides that it is the best way to get the message across. Also, the month of Spanish language school that you will receive is not enough to teach you a full language; it is only sufficient to improve your knowledge and get you accustomed to hearing Spanish. We encourage you to come prepared for language study and with some familiarity with the language.
Can I come for one year starting in February or do I have to start in August?
Students may start in either the spring (February) or fall (August). Each semester, we have both new and returning students. New and returning students take the same classes together.
What is the weather like?
Costa Rica is a tropical country with relatively warm weather. Our school is at an elevation of 4400 ft above sea level and we usually have a cool breeze. On campus, the temperature range is from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or 12 to 28 Celsius. Nights can be cool from October to March and most students use fleece type jackets in the evenings and warm pajamas at night. Afternoon rain is very common from May to November. It is normal to have sunshine in the morning all year long. Overall, we have great weather!
Should I bring spending money in US cash or will my ATM card work?
Both cash and ATM/debit/credit cards will work. Most students find that the best way to handle spending money is with an ATM, debit, or credit card. Although we don’t accept these cards at Portantorchas, many local businesses accept them. In addition, Costa Rican currency can be obtained through the use of ATM machines. ATM machines are located in many convenient locations close to Portantorchas. All of them require you to have a PIN number and it is a good idea to find out your bank’s rules on international ATM withdrawals (limits, charges, exchange fees, etc). US dollars can also be exchanged at local banks.
Although Travelers Checks in $US can be used, we don’t recommend them because the banks charge a fee for each traveler’s check you cash.
Can I pay Portantorchas with a Credit Card?
We are unable to accept credit cards for payments to Portantorchas. If you plan on using your credit card in Costa Rica, check with your bank for all charges and limits on international usage.
Do I need to get vaccinations before coming to Costa Rica?
Costa Rica does not require any additional immunizations to enter the country. We recommend that if you are not current with your immunizations for your country, that you get the shots you need before you come to Costa Rica. Most of our students do not get any additional immunizations before coming here, but some choose to get the additional immunizations recommended by their doctors for international travel. Each case is different so it is best to consult with your doctor if you have concerns.