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Posted 03/22/2016 in Alumni Q&A

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Maggie

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Maggie

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Maggie


What is your citizenship? USA

What city and state are you from? Seattle, WA

How old are you? 23

What is your education level and background? I have my Bachelors in International Studies, Latin America and a minor in diversity. I attended University of Washington and graduated in 2012. From 2012 to 2015 I worked in banking, and finally decided that I wasn’t living my dreams. That is when I decided to come to Costa Rica to teach English.

Have you traveled abroad in the past? Yes.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been? I have traveled to Mexico, France, Spain, and Canada. Most of these were vacations, although I have spent the most time in Mexico.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study? I did study abroad in college. I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for almost 4 months. While there, I studied Spanish intensively.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I have always wanted to go back to school, and while researching graduate programs I came across a great MA/TESL course. I decided that before investing in graduate school, I should test out my teaching skills. I decided to do TEFL so that I could experience teaching and traveling before committing to grad-school (and student loans!)

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? I like to be in control and have a plan. Jumping into life in a new country really challenged me and made me learn to go with the flow. I was concerned about getting a job after the TEFL course. Luckily, the process was very easy and Costa Rica TEFL really helped me with the application process towards the end of my course.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? Luckily, my friends and family were very supportive. They told me that you’re only young once, and you might as well be doing what you enjoy. You can always save more money, or work 40 hours a week, but you never know when another opportunity to travel and learn about other cultures will present itself.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? International TEFL academy seemed to have a great reputation and a great placement rate for jobs after graduation. I am very happy I went with this program. Although the week before leaving can seem a little disorganized, everything came together before I arrived in CR.

Which TEFL certification course did you take? I went to the Heredia, Costa Rica course.

How did you like the course? The course is definitely intensive, but I liked the challenge and felt prepared going into my first day of work after graduation.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? I use a lot of the activities and strategies that we learned in my classes, but most importantly the hands on experience we gained during the course helped me with my confidence.



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? I teach in Heredia. At first I wanted to volunteer in a small town, but I am so glad that I decided to stay in the city. Heredia is smaller than San Jose and is very relaxed. It is still close enough to San Jose to take advantage of the buses going to all parts of Costa Rica. The weather here is also a plus. Most days stay between 70 and 80 degrees!

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I have been here now for about 4 months. I plan on staying another 4 months until the end of the semester at my school.

What school, company, or program are you working for? I work for Intercultura. Intercultura is one of the bigger schools in the San Jose/Heredia area. I teach 5 classes (17 hours a week) which is not quite full time.

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. I do not have a visa, but I do visa runs every 3 months. I went to Granada, Nicaragua last month and loved it. The bus ride was long, but totally worth it. Granada is a beautiful city, and it was great to see another part of Central America. My next trip is to Bocas del Toro, Panama. I am very excited for this trip as well. One nice thing about the visa runs is that it encourages you to take a trip out of the country and explore the region more.

Tell us about your English teaching job. I love my job at Intercultura. I mainly work with Intermediate students between 20 and 30. I have one kids class on Saturdays  (9-12 year olds). I love my intermediate classes because they are still excited to learn and I can really see their progress. We are lucky at Intercultura and have smart boards in every room. This really makes lesson planning fun and the classes are very interactive.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? I live with 5 other teachers in a shared house. I enjoy the set up because there is collaboration with lesson planning, I have made great friends, and there is always someone around to hang out with. I feel like I have found a little family here that helps when I am feeling homesick.



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

Culturally, Costa Ricans are very generous and helpful. At times, this can be bad, especially when you ask for directions. Ticos may offer you help, even when they don’t actually know the answer. Ticos also can be non-confrontational. If you are a very direct person, this can be frustrating, but it is part of the culture. Lastly, be prepared for cat-calls if you are a woman. It is to be expected, and its best to just ignore it.


The busses here are pretty reliable, although they are owned by different companies. This makes it hard when you are trying to plan a trip. Many of the schedules are not online, and you have to learn where to go and what bus to take by word of mouth. Once you know what bus to take, the process is pretty easy. Taxis are very convenient and not too expensive. Many take cards and you can call them to come pick you up. This is especially convenient when it is raining.


Activities and food are relatively expensive. Many of the tourist attractions charge a foreigner fee that is about double what Ticos (Costa Ricans) pay.  The food here is good but sometimes can be bland. Gallo Pinto is the typical dish, which is rice and beans with the typical condiment here called Lizano. It is delicious and I could eat it every day. Be prepared for lots of rice and beans if you are living with a host family. Yuca and plantains are two of my favorite additions to my diet since moving to Costa Rica. Also, make sure to try Caribbean food (there is a dish called Rice and Beans that is made with coconut milk).


Traveling is relatively easy. Most busses leave from San Jose to the various beaches and national parks. The buses range from 5 to 10 dollars, and are pretty comfortable. You can find hostels in many of the beach towns for 10 to 15 dollars a night.


What are your monthly expenses? I pay about $230 a month in rent (all utilities included), $40 dollars a week on food, and $100 dollars a month on fun. That is about $400 in expected expenses. Currently, I make about $600 - $700 a month (working 17 hours a week).

How would you describe your standard of living? I don’t spend money willy nilly, but I do enjoy eating out, the occasional splurge, and I usually do a weekend trip about once a month. Clothes and shoes are very expensive here, so my shopping habits have been reigned in.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? I think about $600 to $1000 dollars a month will let you live comfortably, depending on if you want roommates or what type of excursions you want to do on the weekends. Try to come debt free- it is hard to send money to US accounts, and there is not a lot left over for credit card payments, car payments, etc.



What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country? My advice would be to just do it! Make up your mind and start planning. I decided to come about 6 months before I moved. I paid the deposit on the course and committed myself. Once I did that, I was motivated to save more and to start planning. I love teaching here and most people are able to find work within the first month after graduation.


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