After two excursions to Lake Chapala over the past couple of days, I had another busy day ahead of me. In the morning I was planning to spend some time with Wouter Stut, the owner of the Guadalajara Language Center, to find out a bit more about his language school. I was spending this week at his school in Tlaquepaque and was enrolled for two hours of Spanish classes every day. Most foreign language schools only offer programs with a minimum of four hours of instruction a day, which is not a suitable schedule for me as a travel writer. Two hours of lessons a day still allow me to have most of the day free for local and regional explorations and study Spanish at the same time.
Wouter Stut, owner of the Guadalajara Language Center, with his dog Slimpy
Wouter originally hails from Holland and was a computer programmer in his previous life. After he had decided to settle down permanently in Mexico he wanted to move into a new career direction, and in 2004 he founded the Guadalajara Language Center together with a friend from Great Britain. They originally offered English courses to locals and later also started offering Spanish classes to foreign students.
Small group sizes at the Guadalajara Language Center
From standard Spanish courses to a Spanish program for families, immersion programs for educators and college credit courses, the Guadalajara Language Center offers a wide range of Spanish programs. Students come from the United States, Canada and different parts of Europe and Asia. Students range in age from about 10 years up well into the 80s and everything in between. The location in Guadalajara is also a big draw: it’s easy to get to, offers great opportunities for sight-seeing and the Tlaquepaque neighbourhood surrounding the school is very attractive and safe.
The Cathedral of Tlaquepaque
Wouter mentioned some of the main attractions in Guadalajara such as the 16th century cathedral, the Palacio del Gobierno and of course, the Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tlaquepaque itself is an important destination in its own right, with its beautiful zócalo (main square), its cathedral, the Parián restaurant complex and Calle Independencia, the attractive pedestrian main street with its many galleries and art shops.
Guadalajara’s Plaza de Armas with the Cathedral
Many excursions outside Guadalajara are also available: Lake Chapala is less than an hour away and the Tequila region – where the famous liquor of the same name is produced – can also be reached within about an hour. Indeed, later today I was planning to go on an out-of-town excursion with local tour guide José Orozco who provides many guided tours to Wouter’s language students.
Sunset on Lake Chapala
Wouter took me on a tour of his building which has a sitting area, free computers, a kitchen and a classroom on the main floor. The second floor houses class rooms while the third floor has a recreation area. Students can access the school the whole day to study, get on the Internet or socialize with their colleagues. Wouter’s dog Slimpy was accompanying us on our tour. Slimpy (Dutch for “smartie”) is a young, exuberant dog that Wouter picked up on the street and gave a new home to. Wouter has a soft spot for dogs and regularly picks up abandoned canines and gives them a better life. Many of the students enjoy horsing around with Slimpy who adds to the relaxed ambience at the Guadalajara Language Center.
Slimpy, the language school’s mascot, in the common area
To show me some of the accommodation options, Wouter and I started a walk through the neighbourhood. We walked by the little snack bar where I usually get my favourite lunch: “sincronisadas”, tortillas with ham, melted cheese, tomatoes and onions. Just around the corner we arrived at “the Castle” – a huge mansion built in a Moorish style that also accommodates language students. Wouter added that homestay accommodation is very affordable: a homestay with a swimming pool is US$ 25 including three meals. Homestay accommodation without a pool can be had for $20 a night.
The living room at “The Castle”