Athena provides an authentic Spanish language immersion experience for high school students who are ready to improve their Spanish by going beyond tourism for a summer like no other. The program is a highly personalized and genuine language and cultural immersion experience. Groups are small by design and allow for close attention throughout the entire program. Athena participants acquire an in depth understanding of the Spanish language and the diverse nature of Spanish culture by being completely integrated into Spanish life. Students return home with a true sense of global citizenship that lasts a lifetime.
The program combines a four-week homestay experience with dynamic classroom-based language study, daily activities and weekend excursions throughout Andalusia. Daily language instruction helps students communicate effectively and form special relationships with host families and new Spanish friends. Students experience real-life immersion in Spanish life and culture to achieve fluency and confidence in Spanish. Our students live like locals not as tourists and gain a deep understanding and appreciation for Spain’s rich history and traditions.
Athena Spain has been designed with American students in mind by experienced Spanish experts who have worked in leading schools and universities both here in the US and in Spain. Importantly we recognize the value of cultural exploration and learning that happens outside the classroom as well as inside. Above all, our success has much to do with special relationships that go back over 30 years and the continual fine tuning and experience of our program to meet the needs of today’s student.
Designed for students with at least two years of high school Spanish the program attracts students with a sense of adventure and genuine interest in cultural exchange and language acquisition. Athena is for students looking for an active and unfiltered way to discover Spain. Our longstanding relationships with local families, teachers, musicians, artists, and local experts, enable us to offer students a personalized experience. Small group size ensures each student receives a high level of personal attention throughout their stay. We provide a safe, supportive environment where language learning comes alive and where students can be independent and make their own discoveries.
Athena provides an authentic Spanish language immersion experience for high school students who are ready to improve their Spanish by going beyond tourism for a summer like no other. Our program takes place in specially chosen locations in Andalusia, Spain during the summer and is a highly personalized and genuine language and cultural immersion experience. Groups are small by design and allow for close attention throughout the entire program. Athena participants acquire an in depth understanding of the Spanish language and the diverse nature of Spanish culture by being completely integrated into Spanish life. Students return home with a true sense of global citizenship that lasts a lifetime.
Conil de la Frontera, located twenty miles south of Cádiz and fifty miles south of Seville, is a picturesque Spanish coastal town with whitewashed houses, endless blue skies and many outdoor cafés. Conil’s population of twenty thousand doubles in the summer when Spanish families spend their vacation here, on the Atlantic coast. Conil is a popular and authentic summer destination that we have chosen for its charm accessibility and beauty, making it the perfect place to perfect your Spanish.
Conil embodies that particular pace of life characteristic of much of the south of Spain, where nobody is ever in a hurry and things will always get done, “sooner or later.” Its people are very friendly and eager to help, and because it is a small community where most people know each other, everyone will welcome you. Day or evening, the beach is the center of activity and Conil boasts over ten miles of spectacular sandy waterfront where you can socialize with your Spanish friends while swimming, playing beach volleyball or hanging out at a beach café.
Thrive in a tight-knit community, where everyone knows everyone
Seek a low-key environment, with a relaxed pace of life
Enjoy swimming, surfing and other beach sports
Want the Surfing and Community service workshops
Athena strongly believes that there is no better way to improve language skills and integrate yourself fully into Spanish life than by living with a carefully selected family. The homestay is the foundation of the Athena model. We know from experience that the homestay component is vital in helping students to see and understand Spain on a deeper level and explore the nuances that lead to greater fluency. Conversations and interactions with host families and friendships that are formed are what differentiates our program and truly make it unique.
Our experienced local representatives have placed students with families over almost three decades and are natives of the towns in which they live. They ensure an excellent match between family and student, with many host families returning year after year. You will be treated as a member of the family, eat your meals together and experience a level of cultural and linguistic immersion that goes far beyond the limits of tourism. It is a testament to the strength of the program that Spanish families and their students often keep in touch long after the program has ended. Unless they request otherwise, students are placed individually with families, so that they can fully enjoy the benefits of language and cultural immersion.
As part of the homestay program, students eat their meals with their homestay families. They will see first-hand how traditional Spanish meals are prepared and cooked, and get a chance to try some Spanish classics: tortilla española, gazpacho, bocadillos de jamon and more. Your homestay family will make every effort to ensure that you are comfortable and try to accommodate any dietary needs, but please discuss any restrictions or preferences with Athena staff before attending.
Classes take place at specially hired private schools and students have access to the same classrooms and facilities available to Spanish students during the year. Equipped with ample class space, teacher and student lounges, students will have all they need to have a successful summer improving their Spanish.
Spanish Language Study
Daily Spanish classes with our experienced faculty expand your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and idiomatic expressions, so that you have the confidence to interact with your homestay family and Spanish friends on a daily basis. The curriculum has been carefully designed based on over three decades of experience, as well as student, parent and teacher feedback.
The language course meets five days a week from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm, and is taught at two or three different levels to accommodate intermediate to more advanced students. A placement test on the first day of class will determine the appropriate level for each student.
The class integrates classroom lecture, audio materials, workbook exercises and a variety of texts to develop fluency in all aspects of the Spanish language. Classroom time is divided into intensive language practice (oral and written) and general grammar review with an emphasis on “real life” situations. Every day, students complete two pages of their Spanish diary. A final oral presentation in Spanish is also required.
Our experienced faculty is drawn from qualified native Spanish instructors with ample experience teaching Spanish to foreign students. Our faculty returns year after year, and is specially selected for their dynamism and enthusiasm.
Athena offers students specialized workshops as part of the homestay program. There will be a different workshop held each week (they happen twice a week). Summer 2023 workshops are Spanish cooking, Community Service, Surfing and Flamenco Dance.
Flamenco Dance is an art form based on the various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain, developed within the gitano subculture of the region of Andalusia.
Surf’s up! The Atlantic coast enjoys some of Europe’s best waves and the local expert instructors will make sure you have a blast whether you are a pro or complete beginner.
Give back to the local community by participating in bi-weekly service opportunities at a day center for patients with Alzheimer’s. Students may participate for additional hours, if desired, and can receive a certificate for their community service hours.
In addition to the regularly scheduled workshops, Athena offers daily afternoon and evening activities designed to ensure you make the most of your time in Conil. Past favorites include:
Cádiz, is the oldest inhabited city in the Western world. The Puertas de Tierra divide Cádiz into two parts. The historic Old Town abounds in squares, markets, museums, restaurants and cafés and the new part of town has wonderful sandy beaches on the Atlantic, where you can play beach volleyball and soccer.
Our summer staff members are at the heart of all that we do. Supported by our New York headquarters, our program directors and resident advisors create an exciting and balanced residential, academic and extracurricular experience each summer.
At Athena, we are particularly proud of our superlative program directors. We believe that strong, nurturing and experienced leadership sets the tone for a successful program. The program is run by a senior staff consisting of a Program Director and Assistant Director, who oversee all aspects of our students’ daily life. Program Director Leonor Brenes is a native of Conil, and has directed programs in Spain since 2004.
Language Programs Director and Homestay Coordinator, Athena Spain
Marta has directed Spanish language and immersion programs since 1997. As a native of Conil she sees the program as a very personal way to invite American students into her hometown. Marta lives in New York City during the year and understands exactly what American students of Spanish are looking for when it comes to building Spanish fluency. Marta has also led customized programs for US schools in Spain and designed cultural immersion programs in Barcelona, Nice and Florence. Marta has seen firsthand how a homestay experience is the best possible learning environment for our students and her family even hosted an American student back in 1990. Marta received an honors degree in linguistics and translation from the University of Granada, Spain.
Leonor Brenes Bermúdez
Program Director, Athena Spain
Leonor has directed Spanish language programs and worked closely with high school students each summer since 2001. As a native of Conil, she knows all the homestay families and staff extremely well and ensures the curriculum and all aspects of the program are delivered successfully. Leo has led numerous language programs in Spain as well as school trips to Salamanca and Barcelona and has directed summer arts courses for Christie’s Education in New York. Leo has taught Spanish at all levels both in Spain and in the U.S. as well as leading IB programming and Spanish curriculum development. She is currently a Spanish teacher at St. David’s school in NYC. Leo received her BA in English literature from the University of Seville.
In addition to the senior staff team, each program location has site coordinators who work in close contact with the homestay families, experienced local representatives who help select the families and teachers, and native recreational staff who are the key to accessing local culture and ensuring students get the most from their stay in Conil. Our staff and faculty often returns year after year, and both go through a rigorous selection process and pre-program orientation.
Safety & Supervision
Conil’s small-town feel extends to the security of our students. Staff members are available for students twenty-four hours a day, and the host families form a network of support throughout Conil. Athena staff stay in the center of town throughout the day and live in a centrally-located residence, so that they can tend to students’ needs immediately. Every night, homestay parents call program staff to let them know that their student has checked in and that all is well.