RESOURCES >> FAQs

Below you'll find answers to many common questions about our school. But if you don't find the answer here, feel free to send email to or add comments on our inquiry/request form to receive a personal reply.

School

Why should I study at MAA?

Why should I study in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala?

Who are the teachers?

Who owns and runs the school?

What is included for $165/week?

Do you have Internet access?

Studies

What if I am an absolute beginner?

What if I am highly advanced?

How long should I stay?

Can I obtain college, university, medical school, or veterinary school credit?

Can I study business, medical, veterinary medicine, or other specialized Spanish?

Can I contact some of your former students?

Volunteering

Are there any costs for volunteer activities?

Can you prearrange a volunteer position for me before I arrive?

When do volunteer activities start?

Can I study, participate in activities, and volunteer all at the same time?

Families

What will my family be like?

What will my room be like?

Can more than one student stay with one family?

What if I am a vegetarian, vegan, have allergies, or have other dietary needs?

Can I arrange my own housing?

If I arrive early or stay late, can I stay with my family?

Can you accommodate families with children?

Travel

When should I plan to arrive?

When should I plan to leave?

How do I get to the school in Xela?

Can you pick me up at the airport?

Do you have a travel agency that you recommend?

Do I need to obtain a visa to travel to Guatemala?

Are you open during holidays?

What is the weather like?

Registration

How do I register?

When do I need to register, and do you have space?

What is the difference between an inquiry, a tentative reservation, and a firm reservation?

Why do I need to pay a registration fee?

Do I need to preregister?

When do I pay tuition?

What is your change and cancellation policy?

Online Classes

How do I register?

How do online class points work?

What times are available?

Who are the teachers?

What levels are available?

What material is covered in class?

What is the cancellation policy?

What if there is a bad connection?

Do you only support Skype-to-Skype connections?

What devices support Skype?

How can I assure the highest sound quality?

Do you support video?

Do you provide customer support?



School

Why should I study at MAA?

At MAA, we go to incredible lengths to ensure that the quality of our program is second to none.

1) Teachers with up to 28 years experience teaching immersion Spanish, with rigorous training and certification.

2) One-on-one instruction that results in far greater progress than is possible in a classroom.

3) Deep involvement in helping the community, including rural development, education, health care, and humanitarian efforts. Projects have included traveling to remote villages to provide health care, providing counseling and assistance to storm victims, hosting classes for street children in our school, and more. Our Spanish students have the opportunity to get involved in projects like these and others.

4) Extensive library of books, videos, and multimedia that students can use in the school or check out and bring home.

5) Excellent homestay experiences, with families who make our students feel welcome and included, as well as agreeing to our high standards for cleanliness and food preparation.

6) Owners who are highly experienced Spanish teachers and run the school on a day to day basis. They are always there to support our students and teachers and maintain the high quality of our school.

7) Complete student support from the US office, including live phone help during daily business hours, fast email response, and cell phone contact numbers in case help is needed while traveling to Guatemala.

8) Rave reviews and recommendations from our former students!

Why should I study in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala?

Quetzaltenango (aka Xela, pronounced "shay-la"), is the best place in the world to study Spanish!

1) Guatemalan Spanish is universal and clearly spoken, making it easier to learn and useful for speaking with native speakers from any other Spanish speaking country.

2) Only Spanish is heard on the street, and few Guatemalans speak English, so it is a true immersion experience (all the tourists go to Antigua!).

3) Affordable one-on-one individual classes. The only way to really excel learning a language, and just not economically feasible anywhere else.

4) Incredible setting high in the mountains, surrounded by volcanoes. Old cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture.

5) Incredible people and culture. Learn about and experience what life is like in Guatemala and Latin America.

Who are the teachers?

Our teachers have up to 28 years of experience teaching Spanish. They are all Guatemalans (of both Ladino and Mayan ancestry) and are either university graduates or attending the university. They have completed the certificate program at the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, for Teaching Spanish as a Second Language, and have also passed through our rigorous teacher training program. Every student receives a detailed evaluation form to fill out at the end of each week, and we carefully review these to assure that our program is always meeting the highest standards.

Who owns and runs the school?

Miguel Angel Asturias Spanish School was founded in 1995 by three highly experienced Guatemalan Spanish teachers, and continues today under the same administration and ownership. As the school has grown, many more teachers have been hired. We are not part of a chain nor owned by a corporation. Our primary focus is to provide the absolute highest quality language instruction and the best experience possible, while contributing to and helping our community.

What is included for $165/week?

The tuition of US $165 per week covers 25 hours of private class and homestay, including three meals a day seven days a week. In addition, our program includes guest speakers (in Spanish with optional translation), video documentaries, and optional afternoon and weekend trips included at no additional charge. 'No additional charge' means that we plan and organize the activities, provide staff and/or teachers, and cover any at-school activity expenses. For optional activities that leave the school, you pay for any personal expenses, like transportation, food, park admission, and lodging. The typical cost for a round-trip bus ride to a nearby village is US $1, and a clean hotel room can be found for as little as $5 per night! An optional long-distance weekend overnight excursion may cost approximately $40 for transportation and lodging.

Do you have Internet access?

Yes! We have computers available in the school at no charge. We also have Skype—if your friends of family in your home country also have Skype, you can make calls for free. In addition, there are numerous Internet cafes in town, with high-speed fiber-optic connections. Internet cafes cost around 75 US cents per hour.

Studies

What if I am an absolute beginner?

No problem! Since every class is private, we start by assessing your skills and then we gear the class exactly to your needs. You'll be amazed at how fast you'll progress and soon be able to communicate with confidence. Many students who mistakenly though they were "bad at languages" excel in our program!

What if I am highly advanced?

Classes for advanced students can involve hours of spontaneous conversation, reading books from literature to modern politics, translating, writing, and grammar. The program is designed to be flexible and give you the practice and correction that you need to gain fluency.

How long should I stay?

You can stay from as short as one week to as long as you want! Most students stay from 2 to 5 weeks. Some highly motivated students stay for three months or longer! Sometimes students may take a week off from studying to relax or travel. If you decide to do this, just let us know by Wednesday of the preceding week. Covering all the grammar and topics from absolute beginning level to advanced takes about 11 or 12 weeks, but of course every student is different. Your studies don't have to end there—we have many advanced students who study additional weeks to refine and improve their Spanish.

Can I obtain college, university, medical school, or veterinary school credit?

Colleges and Universities around the world have granted credit for attending our program. You should contact your department head, dean, instructor, or study abroad office to obtain the required permission and forms before attending our school. We will be happy to assist you by supplying any additional information that you need and by filling out any forms that they require. Since this is time consuming for us, we're sorry but we can only provide this service for students who have already paid the registration fee. For students participating in our medical Spanish or veterinary medicine Spanish program as part of their medical school rotation, we will fill out all the necessary paperwork and the supervising doctor in Guatemala will evaluate your participation.

One week of our school is equivalent to about 1.9 university credit hours, or 2.25 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) in the US system (you will be learning much faster in our one-on-one classes, but the traditional credit system doesn't take this into account). Optional activities, if counted as lab time (1 hr for every 2 actual hours), would be about another 0.4 university credit hours or 0.5 CEUs. Medical Spanish and veterinary medicine Spanish students may receive up to 25 hours of clinical experience per week (generally in place of activity time). We can issue an official transcript on request after you have completed your studies. The amount of credit ultimately granted will be determined by your institution.

Can I study business, medical, veterinary medicine, or other specialized Spanish?

We have specialized programs available for those who wish to study business Spanish, medical Spanish, and veterinary medicine Spanish. The medical Spanish and veterinary medicine Spanish programs combines emphasis on medical situations and terminology in your private classes, with group activities and visits with other medical Spanish students, and optional clinic volunteer placement. For those who wish to study other specialties, our teachers are experienced in designing classes to meet your needs. In addition, we can arrange volunteer opportunities and visits to people and places specific to your interests.

Can I contact some of your former students?

Sure! Please go to our student reference page to see what some of them have to say and to contact them directly.

Volunteering

Are there any costs for volunteer activities?

We collect nothing for ourselves. However, some of the humanitarian organizations we place you with may request a small donation to help support their operations. For example, the animal shelter we place veterinary medical Spanish students with requests a USD $10 donation per student. Some volunteer activities may require that you take a bus ride, which might cost USD $1 round trip or so.

Can you prearrange a volunteer position for me before I arrive?

Most organizations that we place volunteers with want to meet you in person first, to make sure that you will be a good fit working with them. And we want you to check them out as well, so you can decide for yourself if you'll be happy there or would like to look at other options. You'll have a chance to do this during your first week at school. Rest assured that there will be plenty of opportunities available when you arrive. If you have a very special request, such as a specific medical specialty that you'd like to work in, we can sometimes make exceptions.

When do volunteer activities start?

Generally, volunteer activities do not start before your second week of school. We want you to first get used to Guatemala, get used to studying Spanish 5 hour a day, and check out the volunteer options that are available. We also want you to first learn something about the culture and history of the people of Guatemala, so that you will have a greater understanding of the people and situations that you may encounter.

Can I study, participate in activities, and volunteer all at the same time?

If you are in class for five hours, and volunteer for four to five hours, then you may not have time to participate in some of the optional activities on the same day as well. Remember, you also need time to eat, study and do homework, and just relax. During the first week, you'll be able to judge better how best to use your time. If you decide not to volunteer, that's OK. By learning as much Spanish as possible, you'll gain the ability to be a more effective volunteer in Guatemala or in your own home community in the future.

Families

What will my family be like?

Many students form close bonds with their host families even for the short time that they are in Guatemala. Our families are warm and hospitable and dedicated to making your stay enjoyable. You'll also get lots of practice speaking Spanish, as the families do not speak English. Families will often invite their students to go with them to the market, visit their work or school, or go on a family excursion. To place you with the most appropriate family, when you register we ask you your preferences about food, children, pets, and smoking.

What will my room be like?

You will have your own private room with a bed, a chair, a desk, and a desk lamp. You'll be given a key to the house so you can come and go as you wish, and you'll also have a separate key to lock your room. We check out every house and family where our students stay, and each family signs an agreement which includes our requirements for cleanliness and purified drinking water.

Can more than one student stay with one family?

We normally prefer to place each student who is traveling alone with their own family. As your homestay is an integral part of our program, we feel it is important that you are surrounded by Spanish at both the school and at home. Couples, families, and friends may request to be housed together. Friends may also request to be placed with separate host families that are located near each other. Please let us know any special housing requests when you register.

What if I am a vegetarian, vegan, have allergies, or have other dietary needs?

No problem. When you register, we ask you your food preferences and place you with a family that will cook wholesome meals according to your needs.

Can I arrange my own housing?

We consider the homestay an integral part of our language program, and it is included in the tuition. But if you wish to make other arrangements, please let us know when you register. Tuition without a home-stay is about $30 per week less. If you are not sure, we encourage you to start out staying with a family, as you can change your living arrangements later if you need to. The homestay is appropriate for students of all ages.

If I arrive early or stay late, can I stay with my family?

The homestay week included with your tuition is Sunday through Saturday. Usually we can bring you directly to your family when you arrive in Xela, and accommodate extra days afterwards. Any extra days before or after cost about $7 a day for room and board, and are subject to availability. If your family is not available on those extra days, we can direct you to a pención a block away or to a nearby hotel.

Can you accommodate families with children?

Yes! We can specially tailor classes for children, including games and activities (all in Spanish!) that are age-appropriate. For those children who will not be studying, we can help you to arrange child care, either with your own host family or with a child care provider. Child care cost is approximately US $10/day but will depend on the specific arrangements. Please understand that in order to maintain a quiet and stress-free study environment, any children who cause noise or disturbance will not be allowed in the school during classes and activities, and children who are not studying will not be able to come to class with you as this would be an unfair distraction to both you and your teacher.

Travel

When should I plan to arrive?

Most students arrive on Saturday or Sunday. We recommend that you book a flight that will arrive in Guatemala City by 1:00 PM or so if you expect to travel to Xela (Quetzaltenango) the same day. The latest recommended bus leaves at 3:00 PM. If you arrive later, you should stay over night in Guatemala City and travel to Xela the next morning. In this case, plan to arrive in Guatemala City on Saturday so you won't miss your first class at 8:00 AM Monday morning. Your weekly tuition includes homestay from Sunday through Saturday. If you plan to arrive before Sunday, just let us know in advance. We will bring you to your homestay if it is available (early homestay days are about $7/day) or direct you to the pención near the school or to a hotel.

When should I plan to leave?

We recommend that you schedule a flight that leaves Saturday evening or later from Guatemala City. As the bus from Xela to Guatemala city takes about 4 to 4.5 hours, a taxi from the bus to the airport takes another 20–30 minutes, you should be there well in advance of your flight, and bus travel should be during daylight hours only, that means you'd need to leave Xela Saturday morning (for a Saturday evening flight) or Saturday afternoon (for a Sunday morning or afternoon flight).

Every Friday evening there is a special graduation dinner that all students participate in and you won't want to miss! It's a very memorable event and a nice farewell to departing students, and you'll get to make and eat authentic Guatemalan food, dance, listen to music, and have an all-around fun time (while speaking in Spanish of course)! Since your homestay is from Sunday to Saturday, you are welcome to spend your last weekend with your family or with the school on our weekend trip.

Some students visit the magnificent Mayan pyramids in Tikal on their way home. If you wish to do this, you should allow 1–3 extra days. Trips to Tikal can be booked in advance in the US or from any travel agent in Xela after you arrive. We recommend staying overnight at least one night in Tikal so you aren't rushed, and staying in one of the three hotels at the Tikal park instead of back in the town of Flores.

How do I get to the school in Xela?

When you register we give you detailed traveling instructions. The trip is relatively easy, and involves 2 taxis and a 4 to 4.5 hour bus trip. If your flight arrives in Guatemala City after 1:30 PM or so, you'll need to stay overnight before continuing on to Xela. We give you a list of reliable and affordable hotels to spend the night if necessary. You may also choose to take advantage of our airport pickup service and homestay in Guatemala City.

Can you pick me up at the airport?

If you prefer to have someone meet you at the airport and bring you to the bus station, we can arrange this for a reasonable cost of US $30, which includes the bus fare. Most students, even beginners, opt to travel to the school on their own following the clear instructions we provide when you register. If you arrive after 1:30 PM or so, you'll need to stay overnight and travel to Xela the next morning. The cost for this, including homestay for one night, meals, and the bus ticket, is US $40 ($45 after 9:00 PM). If you wish one of these options, please add an airport pickup to your reservation in My MAA at least one week before your arrival so that we can confirm the arrangements.

Do you have a travel agency that you recommend?

For students in the US, we recommend eXito (Latin American Travel Specialist) at 800-655-4053. They provide reliable service and are experienced at making the necessary arrangements and finding the lowest prices. Note: We receive a small commission from eXito when we refer you and you buy a ticket, which we donate to humanitarian organizations in Guatemala. We encourage you to compare prices and to use the agency that best serves your needs.

Do I need to obtain a visa to travel to Guatemala?

Citizens of the following countries need a valid passport (not due to expire within 6 months) but do not need a visa to travel to Guatemala: United States, Canada, Australia, UK, all EU countries, Japan, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Iceland, Israel, Korea (Rep), Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of), Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Qatar, Romania, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

If your nationality is not listed above, you will need to contact a Guatemalan Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa. We are unable to provide assistance to you in this matter. The list of countries is to the best of our knowledge accurate, however it is subject to change and we can not be responsible for any errors. If you are unsure of the requirements for your nationality, then we suggest that you contact a Guatemalan Embassy or Consulate for confirmation.

Are you open during holidays?

Yes, we are open year round except that there is no class on official Guatemalan holidays, including New Years Day January 1, Good Friday (varies), Guatemalan Independence Day September 15, All Saints Day November 1, and Christmas Day December 25. If the Monday of your fist week is a holiday, your classes will start on Tuesday instead. This is indicated in the registration system when you register. Your homestay still begins on Sunday, and tuition is still the same.

What is the weather like?

Xela can be quite warm in the daytime and cool at night and in the morning. The high temperature is typically 70–85 degrees Fahrenheit (20–30 degrees Celsius) much of the year. Rainy season is May through October, during which there is often a light rain in the afternoon. As Xela is located high in the mountains, please bring clothes for both warm sunshine and an occasional heavy rain! During your stay you may have the opportunity to travel to the Pacific coast lowlands, which can be very hot with a heavy rain in the afternoon during the rainy season. Current weather in Xela.

Registration

How do I register?

Just fill out the registration form on this web site. You are free to make an inquiry, a tentative reservation (with no obligation), or a firm reservation. Once you have filled out the form, you will have secure private access to your application in My MAA, where you can update it or pay the registration fee at any time. While the online form is the fastest and most convenient way to register, you may also do so by calling our US office at 971-238-0622. Our US office handles registrations from all parts of the world.

When do I need to register, and do you have space?

As our school is very popular, we suggest that you register at least one to two months in advance to guarantee a space. You may register later than that and be admitted if space is still available. As soon as you make a tentative or firm reservation online, our system will instantly tell you if the dates are not available.

What is the difference between an inquiry, a tentative reservation, and a firm reservation?

An inquiry does not contain your attendance dates, and tentative reservation does. If space is running out on the dates that you selected, we will attempt to contact you, but we can not guarantee this as many people may register at the same time and some dates fill up quickly.

A tentative reservation is converted to a firm reservation when you pay the $50 per person registration fee. You do not have a reserved space and your teachers and family will not be scheduled until you pay the registration fee and make a firm reservation. All three types are made using our online inquiry/registration form. When you submit the form, you are asked to choose a username and password. You may then sign into My MAA at any time and make changes or additions, and pay the registration fee, without having to re-enter your details.

Why do I need to pay a registration fee?

Your registration fee helps to cover the time and expense of processing your registration, providing personalized support, making long distance phone calls, maintaining the web site, etc. When you confirm your reservation and pay the registration fee, we schedule you for classes and a teacher and family prepare for your arrival. The registration fee is non-refundable and does not apply towards tuition. Registration fee discounts are available for larger groups.

Do I need to preregister?

Due to our popularity, spaces for the dates you want may be filled a number of months in advance, so it is highly recommended that you register as soon as you know your plans. In addition, pre-registration gives you all the services of the US office, such as filling out documents for you to receive University or Medical School credit, personal answers to all your questions, assistance if necessary while traveling, and more. After you register, you may adjust your attendance dates if needed up to one week before arrival with no penalty, as long as space is available. An additional benefit is that even if tuition prices increase in the future, you will not have to pay any more than the price that was in effect at the time you registered.

When do I pay tuition?

Unlike many programs, we do not require you to pay for your entire stay before arrival. After you arrive in Guatemala, tuition is due every Monday, and you may pay multiple weeks in advance if you wish. We accept US Dollars or Guatemalan Quetzales at the school. If you wish to pay by credit card, you may pay online by signing into My MAA four weeks or less before your classes are due to start. PayPal is another option. Tuition is charged on a weekly basis, and is not pro-rated for legal holidays (Good Friday, Independence Day Sept 15, Christmas Day Dec 25, and New Year's Day Jan 1).

What is your change and cancellation policy?

We understand that sometimes plans change, so we try to be quite flexible! As long as you let us know at least one week before your classes start, you may change your arrival date (to begin earlier or up to three months later) without paying any extra fee and without having to pay the registration fee again. You may also change your end date without penalty. Before your arrival, please contact us with any changes. If you change your plans after you arrive, please let us know by Wednesday of the week preceding any alteration of your original planned stay. We will guarantee space for any student who is currently studying who wishes to extend their studies.

If you need to cancel, you can also do so without penalty up to one week before classes begin (although the registration fee is non-refundable). If you cancel less than one week before classes begin, or don't show up, your credit card will be charged for the first week of classes. We regret having to do this, but since your teacher and family will be anticipating your arrival we need to have this policy in fairness to them.

Online Classes

How do I register?

Just fill out the account creation form to create a new My MAA account. Once you create an account, you will be able to purchase points and schedule online classes. If you already have a My MAA account, just log into your existing account.

How do online class points work?

Each point represents one hour of online class time. You can purchase as many points as you wish at one time. One point costs US $10, five cost $47, and ten cost $90. Once you have points in your account, you may schedule online classes. For each hour of class that you schedule, one point will be deducted. Unused points do not expire.

What times are available?

Currently, online classes are offered Monday through Friday, beginning each hour from 1PM to 6PM Guatemala time, and Saturday from 8AM to 6PM. Guatemala time is the same as US Central Standard time or US Mountain Daylight Savings time. For convenience in scheduling, class times are shown in both your local timezone and in Guatemala time. If you wish to study for more than one hour, schedule multiple consecutive classes. Classes must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance, and can not be scheduled more than four weeks ahead. If a class timeslot is already full it will not be shown.

Who are the teachers?

The teachers have many years of experience teaching Spanish and are the same ones that teach our one-on-one classes in Guatemala. You can learn more about them on our teachers page. Not all our teachers are available for online classes. When you schedule an online Spanish class, you may make a request for a particular teacher if you wish. We can not guarantee your teacher, but will fulfill your request if possible.

What levels are available?

All levels, from beginner through advanced, are available.

What material is covered in class?

Your teacher will discuss with you what you wish to work on and make a plan. Classes are usually a mix of grammar, vocabulary, and conversation, but can be tailored specifically to your requirements. For example, you may be an intermediate or advanced student who wishes to have intensive conversation practice. Or, you may be a (human) medical student or veterinary medical student and wish specific vocabulary and conversation. Or, if you are enrolled in a Spanish class locally, you may wish to use your online time to practice and reinforce topics that you are working on. If you wish to work on writing, you can email your writings to your teacher and go over them in class. Students who have attended our Spanish language program in Guatemala take online classes to keep practicing and improving their Spanish.

What is the cancellation policy?

After scheduling a class, you may change the date and/or time or cancel the class up to 24 hours before it is due to start. If you cancel at least 24 hours in advance, the point(s) that you used will automatically be returned to your account. If it is less than 24 hours, you may cancel the class but the point will not be automatically returned. If you cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances, let us know and we may return the point(s) if we are able to schedule another student at that time. If you have multiple family members on the same My MAA account, you can assign the class to a different family member at any time.

What if there is a bad connection?

If you are unable to make a connection and have the class due to problems beyond your control (Skype network issues or problems at our end), then let us know and we will return the point to your account.

Do you only support Skype-to-Skype connections?

At this time, we only support Skype-to-Skype, as the connection is free and the audio quality is high. If there is sufficient demand, we may support other types of connections in the future. Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world.

What devices support Skype?

Skype is available for mobile phones (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone), desktops (Windows, Mac, Linux), tablets, TVs, and other devices. In short, wherever you are and whatever device you use, you should be able to use Skype.

How can I assure the highest sound quality?

We recommend that you use a high quality headset microphone. This will help to give good voice quality, eliminate background noise, and free up your hands to write or type at the same time if desired. Be sure to position the microphone close to and pointing towards your mouth to avoid muffled sound.

Do you support video?

Yes, we support Skype video calls. If you'd like to use video, you can indicate this when you schedule your class. A video connection is not guaranteed.

Do you provide customer support?

Yes, if you need help or for any reason are not happy with your class, please phone or email the US office.