www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica

| Updated: 03/06/2023

Advice from a Grad: A Beginner’s Guide to Confidence

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

Grad Cara (January 2018) is your standard millennial who hates that her travel photos will never sparkle like reality. She is a collector of places that she calls home, but home-home will always be her little country town in Victoria, Australia. 

Alumni Q&As

Comfort Zones

Most of us have a bucket list, whether it’s written down or floating up in the clouds with your head. If you’re on this page, probably ‘visit <insert place here>’ is on the list. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve just got ‘explore the world’ because choosing just one place is like naming your favourite flavour of ice cream - impossible. 

For too many, the list remains just a list. They wait for the right time, a mad travel buddy, a solid bank balance or the metaphorical straw that breaks the camel’s back. The push might never come. 

It’s currently winter in the northern hemisphere (gross) and hot enough to melt the cone along with the ice cream in Australia (shout out to home-home). BUT. The only thing we are permanently stuck with is ourselves*. Be confident in yourself. 

It’s not easy to leave our comfort zone, our homes, our friends and our routines. This is where confidence comes in and for me, this is the most important part. If you have confidence in yourself, anything is possible! Humans are resilient creatures, and home can be anywhere that you find a community. 

4-Week TEFL Course Expectations

The TEFL Course

Now I live and teach English in Costa Rica, and every day something reminds me how thankful I am that I took a deep breath and bought one-way flight. I’m often asked, why Costa Rica? And the answer is that I could have been happy in any country between the tropics. I chose Costa Rica because of TESOL Costa Rica, a TEFL/TESOL accreditation school affiliated with the International TEFL Academy. I researched TEFL courses more than I researched my new country, and ITA’s knowledge and reputation really reassured me. My admissions officer, Andrew, was particularly instrumental in building my confidence to travel halfway 'round the world to be an English teacher. 

I had taught before, in rural Malawi, and while this built my confidence that I could deal with any new challenge I was still nervous about teaching because it hadn’t gone so well without formal training. The TEFL/TESOL course was intense, but I was open to suggestions and new ideas, and by the end, I felt ready to be a teacher. 

I took the course in January 2018, and the next step was to start some real deal actual classes! The first time I walked into a new classroom was nerve-wracking in the best way, like all new beginnings. At 22, I was often one of the youngest people in the room, but my students had no idea. I carried myself with confidence, not because I thought I was perfect, but because I knew that whatever happened, everything would work out. 

On one such ‘first day’, I walked into the classroom, met my class of university students and explained that yes, my name means face in Spanish. The ice was broken and we were friends. Over the course of an hour, I wrote an entire whiteboard of important dates and how to introduce yourself in English. Then I went to erase it and I realised I’d written entirely in permanent marker. I had two choices, I could either laugh or cry. I chose to laugh, and from that day on my students were confident enough to try to speak English because I had shown them that acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them is a sign of strength. 

I’ve never written ‘tomorrow’ on the board and spelt it correctly the first time. I’ve forgotten words in English in class. I’ve had students help me open markers when I broke my arm. And I know that as a result, my students confidently make mistakes and trust me as their teacher to keep them in confidence. The absolute best part of being an English teacher is the students, and watching their skills, vocabulary and confidence grow gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Whether they’re funny by accident or on purpose, class is often my favourite part of the day. 

11 Inspiring Teacher Movies

Being Vulnerable

My students have also taught me the importance of vulnerability. Partly the distancing effect of a second language and partly the open atmosphere of class means that students have told me about budding relationships, their personal investment in the same-sex marriage debate, and the intimate details of a devastating divorce. No one has ever had a better listener or less-judgemental friend than their English teacher, and this space to be accepted in their vulnerability helps both of us to feel that we are not alone. Regardless of your experiences in life, being vulnerable takes courage and increases the respect and empathy you feel for each other and leaves everyone feeling supported. 

Finally, this give and take of confidence is not confined to the classroom. I have the confidence to learn and speak Spanish in my daily life, because my willingness to be vulnerable first allows others to follow me. The people who have heard me maul the Spanish language the worst are those I now count as my closest friends. 

New arrivals to Costa Rica think my Spanish is amazing! (Disclaimer: it’s not, but I can have a conversation now.) When I tell them that I only knew 3 words before I came and have never had a class, they open their eyes very wide. But I always knew it was possible and now they do too, and so my confidence inspires their own. 

I also enjoy confidently being a bit of a loser at social soccer every Wednesday. Soccer doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s fun to try and I know my lack of skills makes it more accessible for other people. 

This confidence comes into play when I meet new people as well. A lot of my close friends tell me that they want to make friends at hostels, but don’t have the confidence to make the first move. I’d hate to miss out on a friend over something like that, and I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable in a room full of people. I’m nervous too, but I often smile and introduce myself first. I’m always adding to the list of new countries and new friends to visit! 

Confidence is not something that the world has a finite supply of. All it takes one deep breath and a leap into something new. As the challenges grow, so does your confidence. As your confidence grows, so does that of everyone watching you, and they all give it back to you. Teaching English is a job and a lifestyle that I love, and I am grateful to ITA for the confidence it took to get to this point. 

PS. If you haven’t yet been inspired to google ‘opposite side of the world’, go listen to ‘Love For Me’ by Coda Conduct. 

*And pigeons. Pigeons are everywhere. 

Follow more of Cara's adventures on Instagram  @carathecrocodilehunter.  Ready to start your own journey of living and teaching abroad?  Get in touch with us today about taking our 4-week TEFL course in Costa Rica!  

Don't forget to share this post!