The ISLA Story
At the beginning we were a school without a name. So I made up 100 names that I liked a lot including Triana, Santana, Alameda . . . Then a Belgian friend Johnny suggested “ISLA”. I wasn’t at all sure – it reminded me of the Madonna song “La isla bonita” and seemed to be more related to beaches than language courses. But I decided to include it and we handed out our list with 101 names to everyone we knew. I was amazed when more than 90% of the people said the name they liked best was ISLA. So Amanda and I decided on that but to lend it a bit of seriousness we told everyone it was an acronym for Instituto Salmantino de Lenguas Aplicadas. (We dropped this title definitively when we opened ISLA Barcelona). Twenty years on, the name has grown on me!
We started in 1990, renting a big building on the Plaza del Corrillo, 50 metres from the Plaza Mayor. It was a space with a lot of charm with an enormous terrace, an Andalucian Patio and lovely views, ...but it was very old! We had a cocktail bar where students organized activities and we all lived together, Amanda and I, the students and even a few of the teachers. Everyone took it in turns to clean and cook lunch and we’d all go on excursions together at weekends. It was a real family and we are still in contact with a lot of students from that time.
After five years, though, the poor state of the building was getting a bit too much for everyone and we all were feeling that we needed a little more personal space. So, in 1996 everyone moved into separate flats and ISLA had a new home: the lovely Plaza de los Basilios where we are to this day. It’s the perfect position on a park with tall, old trees and 50 metres from the golden San Esteban, the Dominican monastery where Colombus had his fateful meeting to raise money for his South American adventure of discovery. We still have parties at the school but over the years a few things have become a little more formalised. We were one of the first centres in Spain to be recognized by the Instituto Cervantes in 2002, and have achieved top scores in follow up inspections. Jimmy, Carlos and Alberto of the early teachers are still with us and Rosa, Asun, Vicki, Rebe and Jose María have also been at ISLA for several years so we’ve been participating in and organizing a lot of training courses to keep ourselves up to date. Our facility moves with the times too. We are twenty years old this year and looking to the future we look forward to meeting more students and expanding the ISLA team.