Quality, Not Quantity

Andy Kaufman urges U.S. schools to recognize and credit Costa Rican immersion schools

As colleges and universities in the U.S. look to simplify their operations and streamline the services they provide to their students, we’ve noticed a trend in U.S. schools accepting credit only from other colleges and universities abroad and not from specialized language schools.


It’s easy to understand their decision to go this route. There are hundreds of Spanish language schools throughout Latin America and Spain, and it’s not feasible for all schools in the U.S. to have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of all of them—or even just a few.


It becomes rather convenient to work exclusively with locally accredited colleges or universities, because there’s an expectation that these have complied with local guidelines, somehow improving the chance of foreign students having a high-quality educational experience.


Thankfully, some schools in the U.S. have taken the time to get to know these language programs and have determined that the quality of their academic offerings is on a par with local colleges and universities. Furthermore, those who’ve come to know these full immersion programs have seen the great value that students derive from a far more personalized experience—both inside the classroom and out.


Language immersion programs tend to work with much smaller class sizes than universities, allowing for far more participation than the larger class sizes can afford. Not only does the small class size multiply the amount of speaking time students enjoy, it affords teachers the opportunity to very closely monitor student progress, identifying areas of weakness and building on strengths.


Language schools have yet another significant edge over universities, and that is that the entire operation can be designed around the students’ learning needs. While much of the learning will take place inside the classroom walls, immersion programs have great control over the environment outside the class, allowing them to carry on the learning process even after the bell has rung for the day. Campuses can be fully utilized if the scope of the field of study is limited—an advantage that specialized language schools have learned to harness.


Evidently, not all language schools are created equal (and we can confidently say the same about universities). Choosing a language immersion school to work with will take a little extra effort—to get to know the program, how it operates, and who is
behind it.


However, I feel that colleges and universities in the U.S. would be well served by making that effort—on behalf of the thousands of U.S. students who are relying on them for a profound—and often life-changing—study abroad experience.

Andy Kaufman is director of Conversa Spanish School. He grew up on Conversa’s campus in the mountains above Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Andy studied engineering at Boston University and worked for Intel as an engineer in their microprocessor division. Later, he moved to Washington, DC, to work in management consulting for a firm called KPMG. In 2003, he obtained his MBA at the George Washington University, and he’s been back ever since. Up until 2017, Andy co-directed Conversa along with his father, Conversa’s founder, David Kaufman.

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