Frequently Asked Questions

1. How did this get started?
2. Do I have to be a student of Olavo to apply?
3. Where does Professor Margarita live in the United States?
4. What’s the house like, and how are the accommodations?
5. Is it possible for a family to come? Or a couple?
6. What are the rules of the family?
7. Can I smoke in the house?
8. How many guests will be there, and how long do they stay?
9. Can the teacher help guests with transportation to shopping, sightseeing, and other activities outside the home?
10. How do I get my visa? Do I get a Tourist Visa or a student visa?
11. If my English is not good, is there a class for beginners?
12. What household equipment is there? Can I use the phone and Internet?
13. What is the day like during a course?
14. What are the classes like?
15. Can I visit and interact with Professor Olavo?
16. What if I can’t come for the specified dates of the course?
17. If the teacher receives too many applications, how will she choose who to invite?
18. Why must I pay so much for transportation?
19. Why do I need to buy a computer and an mp3 player?
20. What do I do now?

1. How did this get started?

In 2009 my marriage was breaking up and I was thinking of selling my house, but Olavo said, “No, do nothing. Some problems just go away if you do nothing.” A little later a Brazilian friend was visiting, and he got the idea that guests could come to study English here. Residential English programs often cost about $6000.00 per month after you have found an apartment, set up utilities, bought food, transportation, internet, and paid for tuition – and even then you get only a few hours per week of interaction with the teacher, and almost no personal “friendship” with native speakers. In my home the guest could get regular informal interaction with American friends, and it would be easier and cheaper to be a guest in a home than to have to find an apartment and set up phone, electric etc. Since I have many teaching responsibilities, we decided to try an informal program modeled after St. John’s College, which has classes 3 times per week for discussion and presentation of prepared material, and assignments in between to keep the guests learning actively. The guest’s experience would be enriched by visits to Olavo and his classes, trips to tourist places, and the chance to hang out with Americans. This approach enabled me to continue teaching other classes (which kept the costs way down for ESL Immersion Guests), I got to keep my house, and best of all, I found that I LOVED it. (Back to top.)

2. Do I have to be a student of Olavo to apply?

No. Although the program has added value for Olavo’s students (they get to meet him and his family, and attend his lectures in person), it is not necessary to be his student to come. We have guests from all over the world come to visit and practice English. (Back to top.)

3. Where does Professor Margarita live in the United States?

She lives 20 miles south of Richmond, Virginia, about 3 hours from Washington DC and 20 minutes from the home of Professor Olavo de Carvalho.  Virginia Commonwealth University is just 15 minutes north, and serious students have often enrolled in the Intensive English Program there to supplement the Immersion Program at the Noyes home.  This is a fantastic option for students wishing to quickly improve their English. (Back to top.)

4. What’s the house like, and how are the accommodations?

It is a large modern house with 3 acres of wooded terrain. Also, the teacher has renovated a conference space for Olavo which has 16 beds (in 3 rooms) and a lounge area. This space is available to guests and family when the main house is full. Keep in mind, this is a home, not a school. The accomodations are what you expect as a guest in a home, not a hotel. Read more about the Noyes home here. (Back to top.)

5. Is it possible for a family to come? Or a couple?

One room has a double bed for married couples. (No unmarried couples can share a room.) Pricing accommodations can be made for a couple or a family sharing a single room. See Pricing for more information about bringing children. (Back to top.)

6. What are the rules of the family?

Over the years, the Noyes children have grown up and (mostly) moved out, so the feel of the home is more like a hostel, and less like a family with kids.  However, underage drinking is still prohibited (by Virginia State law), as are illicit drugs, vulgar language and media, and sex outside marriage. Everyone is expected to help each other to keep the public areas of the house clean. Guests must keep their own rooms and bathrooms clean and wash their own dishes and clothes (in the machines in the house). (Back to top.)

7. Can I smoke in the house?

Guests can smoke on the terrace and in the yard, but are asked not to smoke in the house. (Back to top.)

8. How many guests will be there, and how long do they stay?

Periodically, the teacher hosts a Course to study a book, and an average of 5 guests usually attend for one to three months (three months is the preferred length for improving English). However, guests are welcome to visit and study informally at other times of the year as well. Contact customerservlol@gmail.com to discuss your special dates of travel.

For SERIOUS STUDENTS OF ENGLISH a great option is to enroll in the Intensive English Program at Virginia Commonwealth University and stay with Professor Margarita for the semester.  This provides structured instruction to complement the communicative practice you get at the Noyes home.  This has been a great option for students in the past. (Back to top.)

9. Can the teacher help guests with transportation to shopping, sightseeing, and other activities outside the home?

Transportation to/from the Richmond airport is an option on the registration form, but aside from that, Professor Margarita does not provide transportation. Guests will need to rent a car when they get here if they want independent transportation to shopping, restaurants, or tourism. Commercial car rental is very expensive (often over $1000.00/month for an insured vehicle).  Guests should bring sufficient funds to cover renting cars, and to contribute to gas expenses if they share rides with the family.

Sometimes it is possible to arrange a private rental of a spare car, from Margarita or one of her friends.  This is a significantly cheaper option.  If you would like to consider this, please contact Margarita.

As regards shopping, sightseeing, etc…Professor Margarita and her family can provide suggestions as to where you can go, and sometimes the family comes with you!. (Back to top.)

10. How do I get my visa? Do I get a tourist visa or a student visa?

Get a TOURIST VISA. Because the Noyes home is not a school, it cannot provide documentation for a student visa. If you say in your interview that you are coming to “study,” they may convert your tourist visa application to a student visa application, and then it will be delayed forever.  Officially, you are coming as a guest and a tourist. Professor Margarita can provide you with a letter of invitation to help you get a Tourist Visa. For Brazilians, this page on the site of the American Embassy will help you get started. For more info, contact customerservlol@gmail.com. (Back to top.)

11. If my English is not good, is there a class for beginners?

First, keep in mind that this is not a school or a structured program, it is a home. Unless there is a Course going on (minimum 3 students, minimum 1 month), students will sit in on Professor Margarita’s online classes and have 1 hour of private study with Professor Margarita on days when there is no online class being recorded. Those private sessions will be tailored to the level of the student.

There is always a lot of free time.  All guests (regardless of level) are encouraged to pursue their own individual study here. The teacher will give give study advice, provide extra materials, and answer questions. In addition, there are lots of free or inexpensive English classes offered in the community around the teacher’s house.  Professor Margarita can help get you enrolled in appropriate programs.

A terrific option that some students have chosen is to enroll in the Intensive English Program at Virginia Commonwealth University (15 minutes from Professor Margarita’s home.)  The combination of structured classes at VCU and rich practice at Professor Margarita’s house has proved itself IDEAL for serious students of all levels in the past.

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12. What household equipment is there? Can I use the phone and Internet?

Guests can use the house phone for local calling, but not international. Olavo has a phone that can call Brazil, and the teacher’s phone can RECEIVE international calls, so your family can call you on the teacher’s phone. In addition to phone, there are books and tables for study, a washer and drier for clothes, a full kitchen — everything you would expect in a home. And yes, there is wireless internet. (Back to top.)

13. What is the day like during a course?

The daily routine in the Noyes house is not very structured. Everyone in the house (including Immersion guests) maintain their own individual routines of work and study. When a group of guests is present for a Course, we choose a book and set up a schedule to discuss it three or four times a week.  But more often, a group is not present and we are not having a Course.  At that time the students will sit in on the recording of Professor Margarita’s online classes, and have a 1 hour private session with her on days when she is not recording online.  At all times year round, students should be prepared to entertain themselves for most of the day in any way which is enjoyable, with reading, hiking, cooking, tourism, as well as personal study. Olavo’s students have the additional schedule of the live Philosophy Seminar meetings and True Outspeak.

In the past, when the Noyes children were living in at home and going to college, there was a lot more activity in the home all the time.  But as the years have gone by and the young people have mostly moved out, the house is much quieter.  The people living here now are working full-time and doing a lot less “playing.”  But they are intelligent, kind, friendly, funny, and attractive native speakers of English, and they love a good conversation around the table.  The intellectual atmosphere and positive feel of the home is still constant.  Some students say they like the quiet more than the commotion.  Come and give us your opinion! (Back to top.)

14. What are the classes like?

For most of the year Margarita teaches Lessons OnLine courses, and  the immersion guests are welcome to sit in on those.  On days when she is not teaching, Margarita spends one hour privately tutoring students in the house.  In the past these have been lively and enjoyable sessions. In addition, guests should expect to fill much of their time with trips and excursions, as well as individual studies. The teacher can provide many resources for study and tourism according to guests’ requests. (Back to top.)

15. Can I visit and interact with Professor Olavo?

Yes, guests can to attend the radio program of Professor Olavo, True Outspeak, as well as his weekly Philosophy Seminar classes. Frequently, Olavo and his family will go out to dinner with the students after class, so bring money to rent a car and to eat out a lot. Olavo and his family are regular visitors at the Noyes home, and love to have guests come visit at Olavo’s home as well. (Back to top.)

16. What if I can’t come for the specified dates of the course?

If a Course is being offered during the time that you would like to come, it is best if you try to schedule your arrival and departure to coincide with the beginning and end of the month. That will help us keep our book study consistent. But the opportunity to come and visit and study is available all year round. Contact Professor Margarita or Pedro Cava to discuss your preferred travel dates. A pro-rata schedule of prices is available for guests who wish to come for less than a month. See Pricing for more info. (Back to top.)

17. If the teacher receives too many applications, how will she choose who to invite?

So far this has not been a problem, mainly because people have had so much trouble getting visas that we have had a lot of guests cancel at the last minute. GET YOUR VISA EARLY! Also, with the overflow housing in the conference building, we can accommodate a lot of guests. However, the teacher is very selective about who she invites to come visit in her home. Based on the application, the teacher invites guests who seem to be a good fit for the home and who are well matched with the other guests who will be present at the time. See Who Should Apply and Why Choose My Program? for more information and to see if you will be a good fit for this program. (Back to top.)

18. Why must I pay so much for transportation?

Transportation is necessary in the United States, and it is very expensive. There is no public transportation near Margarita’s home. Although the advertised base price of a commercial rental car in Richmond seems cheap, when the mandatory insurance and GPS fees are added, the cost can double and triple. Students must budget at least $1300.00 if they wish to rent a personal car for a month. Usually students split this cost between themselves to make it manageable. Sometimes it is possible to arrange a less expensive private rental with a friend of Professor Margarita.  Please contact customerservlol@gmail.com to discuss options for private rental. (Back to top.)

19. Why do I need to buy a computer and an mp3 player?

You DO NOT NEED TO buy a computer and an mp3 player, but much of the instruction at Professor Margarita’s house utilizes these technologies, and they are very cheap in the United States. You will not be able to fully participate in the program if you do not have them. It is a good idea to wait until you arrive to purchase them, and someone here can help you get the best deal. (Back to top.)

20. What do I do now?

If you have looked over everything and you still want to come :) then fill out an application and send it with the $10.00 non-refundable application fee, and start getting your visa.

God bless!

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