www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 03/22/2016 in Alumni Q&A

Costa Rica Q&A With Mike

Costa Rica Q&A With Mike

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Mike


What is your citizenship? United States

What city and state are you from? Silver Spring, Maryland

How old are you? 35

What is your education level and background? Bachelor’s Degrees in Communication and Spanish

Have you traveled abroad in the past?  I’ve traveled on vacation, but this is the first time I’ve lived in another country for a year or more.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been? I went on vacation to Europe with my parents and once to Nicaragua.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study? I did my junior semester in Spain.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I’d always been inclined to teach, and I wanted to improve my Spanish.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? I was worried about whether I’d understand the grammar well enough to teach it.  I always hated grammar.  I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough material to fill a whole class.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? They were impressed that I was doing something so challenging, but wanted to know when I was coming home to settle down.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? In April 2014, I took a CELTA course in Washington, DC.  After the course, I knew I wanted to teach in Costa Rica, but I didn’t feel ready yet.  I wanted to know more about the culture and I wanted some suggestions on where to apply to.  In May 2014, I took the Costa Rica TESOL Level 5 TEFL class with Luke and Melanie.  I was blown away.  Not only did I learn about the culture and get contact info for 30 recommended schools, I also learned all the grammar I had been so worried about understanding.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?  The 120-hour Level 5 certification.  I wanted the best I could get.

How did you like the course? I liked it ten times more than the CELTA course.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?  It helped immensely with explaining grammar.  It also introduced me to fun, interesting activities I’ve used with every class I’ve taught.



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? The school that hired me is in Heredia, Costa Rica, so that’s where I’m now teaching.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?  I’ve been living here for over a year.  I’m planning to teach a total of 3 semesters here before I go to teach in South Korea.

What school, company, or program are you working for?  I’m teaching for Intercultura Language Institute in Heredia.

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. I don’t have a work visa.  I still have a bank account, and I always get paid on time without any trouble.  A work visa would permit me not to do a visa run every 90 days.  But, honestly, I like going to Nicaragua or Panama for short vacations.  Intercultura always closes the school for 3 or 4 days to allow the teachers to do their visa runs.  

Tell us about your English teaching job.  I love the school where I teach.  The best thing about it is the amount of resources and support they provide.  In fact, they have a file on their server with lesson plans from every former teacher.  It’s awesome.  I usually teach a night, but Intercultura also assigned me a couple morning and afternoon private classes.  Intercultura uses smart boards, so I’ve really enjoyed having the technology to show YouTube videos and enable students to manipulate things on the screen with a digital pen.  For example, one of the activities I learned about from Costa Rica TESOL is an online murder mystery role playing game.  I always have one student stand at the screen with the pen while the other students tell him/her where to go and who to talk to.  It really opens up new ways to teach!


How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

In Costa Rica, there are several ways to find housing online.  I used Encuentra24.com.  I found a nice house about a 15 minute walk from the school.  I now live there with 5 other English teachers.  It’s really cool.  I always have someone to talk to and hang out with.  We share activities to do in out classes, and lots of times we cook and eat together.  Each of us has our own full bathroom and we have hot water.  It’s a nice place!



Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country:

Since I’ve been here, I’ve gone to a huge rock concert, several parades, a “running of the bulls”, a coffee plantation, and several theater performances.  I’ve gone zip-lining, toured a coffee plantation, danced at Latin clubs, explored a very deep cave, and relaxed on beautiful beaches.  I’ve tried fruits and vegetables I’d never seen before, eaten full meals for $4, and had some really great coffee.  After four months here, I met a girl using the Plenty of Fish mobile application, and we’ve been together for over 9 months.  I’ve made lots of friends.  In the future, I know we will all follow each other’s adventures through Facebook as we teach English in different countries.  I think it’s so cool and I will now have friends I can visit all over the world!


What are your monthly expenses?  I make about $800/month.  My rent is $250/month.  Minutes and Internet on my smart phone cost about $20/month.  

How would you describe your standard of living?  I eat out every once in a while (there’s a $20 all-you-can-eat sushi place about 15 minutes from my house) and enjoy going to the movies.  The gym costs about $25/month.  I’m not saving any money, but I’m doing pretty well with my income.


In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?  I think $800/month is a good, comfortable income.



What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?  

Imagine you are 70 years old and your grandchild asks you about something fun you did when you were younger.  If you don’t have a story to tell, this could be that story!  

Ask what available resources the school has that might help you plan lessons.  Ask how long your classes will be.  Ask if you’re allowed to take a class outside the school – during class time – for lunch and conversation.  Ask how many hours you will have and what happens if they decide to close on of your classes due to only 2 students.


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