Jakera Cuba Programs
Jakera Cuba Reviews
Convoluted review for a convoluted city
Submitted by spanishlearner | February 09, 2017
My long standing desire to visit Cuba and learn more Spanish was fulfilled by my enrollment in Jakera's Spanish, Dance, and Culture program. The academic aspect of Jakera exceeded my expectations as I was challenged every weekday by my teacher's efforts to help me better understand the Spanish language. My first two weeks in the program were taught by Pablito, the director of the teaching component of the program, and by Darbel the last two weeks, an engaging and excellent person from which to learn. Because learning Spanish was my primary goal and reason for attending the Jakera program, I can say that I was and am very happy with what I learned in that component of the program.
The cultural tours occurred three weekdays each week, while the dance occurred the other two days. I have mixed feelings about this aspect of the program. Some of the cultural tours were repeated during my four weeks there, and didn't happen at all on one of the scheduled days. Depending on the tour guide, the tours had the potential to be very informative and fun. I can say that the beach trips arranged on alternative weekends were very nice and a relaxing break from the overwhelming city life. The trip to Viñales (for the four week program) was also well organized and enjoyable, although the horseback tour was led by a company that has some very thin, maltreated, horses. Besides that, though, the host family at Casa Marisel in Viñales was extremely hospitable, and I would strongly recommend looking them up if you want to plan your own trip to Viñales. Senora Marisel is an excellent cook and very enjoyable to talk with if you want to practice your Spanish. Back in Havana, the dance classes were, at times, enjoyable, especially when smaller and given the opportunity to receive more individualized instruction. I think more dance and less cultural tours might have been the better way for me to go now looking back on my experience. It was fun to get a taste of the Cuban rhythm and I think I would have preferred a bit more than twice a week.
The most frustrating part during the program was the hostel itself. Perhaps I went with too many expectations, but Jakera has definitely more of a hostel/party atmosphere than an academic setting. It was difficult to go to 3 hour Spanish classes each morning and get the most out of the classes after having got very little sleep due to the noise being made in the hostel. This is normal in a typical hostel setting, I realize, but the displayed rules at Jakera listed noise curfews that were not enforced. I noticed quickly, during my time at Jakera, that the majority of the posted rules were not followed, including noise curfews, designated smoking areas, and personal, intimate relationships between staff and students/guests. The unprofessionalism of some of the staff was distasteful, and not something I enjoyed experiencing every day during my stay there. Despite that negativity, however, other staff members were wonderful and engaging, especially the kitchen staff who made delicious meals always with smiles on their faces.
My feelings about Jakera Cuba are mixed, but I write in the hope of allowing other potential students to make an informed decision if considering going to Havana, Cuba. I may have made a different decision regarding my studies if I would've known what I know now, but ultimately am grateful for what I did learn and was able to enjoy during my time in Havana.
Cuba Will Steal Your Heart
Submitted by Rachel | December 01, 2016
There are some trips that you remember fondly, some you might look back on as exhausting, and then there are those that actually change your life, heart, and perspective forever. Jakera's Learn Spanish & Volunteer is absolutely this last option. With a combination of a thoughtfully built and well-run program, and the setting of the absolutely unforgettable and unique Cuba, I promise you will find these 6 weeks too short.
The program was 2 weeks in Havana taking Spanish classes in the morning and then having a cultural activity in the afternoon (either a salsa class - my FAVORITE! - or an interesting cultural tour around important sites in Havana), then 2 weeks volunteering in a beautiful small beach town called Playa Giron (where the Bay of Pigs happened), and then the final 2 weeks back in Havana taking Spanish classes again and volunteering with local programs.
Housing both in Havana and in Playa Giron was in a central location, comfortable, clean, and community-building (without wifi and with travelers from all over the world, people build a close knit community so quickly and easily). Every single night people in the house would either sit on the terrace, play cards, talk for hours, go out dancing, go for a walk around the city, go for a drink, walk the Malecon, etc. No boring moments when there are always people around wanting to explore and experience Cuba with you!
The Cuban staff is AMAZING. They make you feel welcome, comfortable, invited, at home, and like family. The Spanish teachers are professionals who are well-trained in Spanish instruction and also always open to suggestions. They are helpful and warm, and they make you laugh constantly. The house staff will even also help you plan out travels you might want to do around Cuba on your own, after the program has ended!
The volunteer opportunities were varied and purposeful; construction, wildlife preservation, cultural activities with children, aiding art programs, and more. The program is still growing, so I know they will be continuing to look for even more ways to get involved although we already stayed quite busy!
I know people always want to hear about the "cons" as well, but I didn't experience many. The "cons" as far as I could tell were all things that were simply "Cuba," not the program. For example, the heat and humidity - not Jakera's fault, but certainly made work more exhausting in the summer months. At times the water or electricity would have a moment when it would go out, but it would always come back on before long. Also one volunteer program changed things on us at the last minute. But this is just Cuban culture - they don't adhere to specific schedules very often. The Jakera staff was always ready with a Plan B if this happened, and always kept a positive mood going.
Overall, I absolutely loved this program. I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to give back to the community and actually experience (not just pass through as a tourist) an entirely new culture while traveling. Cuba is a magically unique place. I have traveled a lot, and I can honestly say I've never been anywhere so special: old American cars roaming the streets, music playing on the streets, people talking to you wherever you go, gorgeous beaches, old style buildings with some new modern ones in certain places, food carts on the street, dancing every day, color everywhere you look. Planning a return trip as I write this, and will go through Jakera again!
Program: Learn Spanish & Volunteer
The time of my life
Submitted by Vanessa Meyer | July 01, 2015
My plan was spending 4 weeks in Cuba for Spanish School and then 4 weeks in Costa Rica for voluntary work. But during the first 2 weeks living in Havana Vieja I already realized that I absolutely fell in love with this country, especially with the city Havana and the cuban lifestyle - that's why I decided to change the program to 6 weeks Cuba and 2 weeks Costa Rica. I informed my travelling organization in the second week and they managed everything without any problem, so they were really flexible and tried to support me the best way they could - and they did a great Job.
The group I lived together with was great, lots of people with the same wishes and plans that I had - here I realized really fast that travelling alone doesn't mean being alone because you have people around you all the time. That was a great experience too. School was really nice too, the teachers tried hard to learn us Spanish the best way they could, but also became good friends who always had good advices for us.
My highlights of the trip were the city tours through Havana with cuban people, who were able to show us the "real" cuban life and some places, we might not have seen if we walked through the city alone. Next highlight was the trip to Vinales, where we did horseback riding through the tobacco farms (amazing and unique experience) and visited the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my life - white sand, light blue water and nearly no tourists at all - amazing!!
After my 6 weeks in Cuba I spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica, where I had the possibility to work in an animal rescue center (really cute) and got to know the beautiful country sides of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. If you compare it to Cuba, Costa Rica is really different (dark beaches, more kind of American lifestyle, little bit colder), but beautiful and charming in its own way and it's worth visiting.
After my program was finished, I decided to come back to Cuba again - I was just flashed by this great country, the people, the lifestyle - that's why I had to experience this place for 2 more weeks and that's what I did. I travelled all trough the country, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Cayo Santa Maria and I was even more flashed!
All in all I can recommend Cuba to everybody who likes to experience something totally different than the European or American way of life - if you're open minded and like to see a "real" country, Cuba is the best choice! Although you won't have a lot of luxury (supermarkets don't have a big assortment) nor WIFI possibilities, you will enjoy the trip totally because you're going to learn again, that real social contact is a lot more important than the social network. You'll get to know cuban people who will impress you with their talents of Improvisation in every aspect of life and especially with their everyday happiness, although they really don't have a lot. You will come home positive and with a lot of new aspects that will change your mind - just like I did!
Nos vemos pronto Habana!