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

Costa Rica Q&A With Joy

Costa Rica Q&A With Joy


What is your citizenship?  USA

What city and state are you from?  Boston, MA

How old are you?  58

What is your education level and background?  Bachelor’s Degree, Communications Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Have you traveled abroad in the past?  Yes 

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?  Throughout Central America for vacations over the course of a decade and a little in Europe (Spain, Portugal, Switzerland)

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?   

Previous travel in Central America, especially Costa Rica, and the desire to do something very different in my life

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?  

If I would feel comfortable and find a niche as a resident rather than as a tourist; if I would like teaching and be able to do it well

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?  They were very supportive, peppered with some concern about me being so far away and living in a developing nation on my own.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?  

I wanted to be assured of employment via certification, and I wanted to be in the Central Valley area of Costa Rica.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?  

The one-month course in January 2015, at the Barva, Heredia location

How did you like the course?  

It was interesting and intensive, and at times I felt overwhelmed by numerous required exercises outside the classroom in conjunction with job and apartment hunting (especially toward the end of the month), but overall I think it was a good survey course to begin gaining teaching experience.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? 

The exercises and practice teaching helped me begin to see the reality of, and develop strategies for, interacting with students and teaching English.



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why?  

I wanted to stay in the Central Valley area where there are more job opportunities and a moderate climate (compared to the seacoasts).


How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?  

This is my ninth month in CR, and I believe I will stay long-term, but I am uncertain about the length of time.


What school, company, or program are you working for?  

I work at Politecnico Internacional at the Heredia campus and also do some private tutoring.


Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa.  

I do not have a work visa, and this is something that may eventually impact my decision to stay in CR.  It is expensive, disruptive and time consuming to have to leave the country every 90 days for 72 hours.  I would like to find a position with a company or school that would provide me with a work permit.


Tell us about your English teaching job.  

I teach primarily at an institute that offers IT and other classes that include an English program.  At this point I have taught at all levels, including English conversation classes for advanced students, my favorite type of class to teach.


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

I found housing through TEFL office staff for the month of the course and for several months afterward, then found an apartment near the city of Heredia (in the town of San Pablo) on my own through web search (Encuentra24.com).  I don’t have a roommate now, but I did for a couple of months.



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


The first few months were challenging in terms of the constant adjustments in expectations.  For the most part, I have found Ticos to be friendly and helpful.  Knowing a little Spanish has been very valuable; I don’t think I would be able to function without that.  As a middle-aged person, it has been a very different sort of social life here.  I have been lucky to have the company and friendship of several 20-somethings, but I have not yet found other people closer to my age who are living as I am.  I have met many wonderful Ticos in my age group, but the language barrier has kept me from developing close friendships.  I will have to make better progress at learning Spanish!  I would say that if you are a somewhat adventurous and independent older person, you will be fine settling in here. 


One of the big challenges in moving to Costa Rica has been learning how to get from Point A to Point B.  Most of the info. about bus schedules and routes is by word of mouth; the Google Maps app has saved me and I have been so grateful for it, since it includes starting points for bus routes!  Although many streets are numbered or named, locals don’t pay any attention to that, and locations are identified by the distance in meters from a landmark such as a bank, church, bar or hardware store.  One of the great things about being here is that for about a dollar you can hop on a bus and travel several kilometers away to explore a different town or a beautiful spot in the countryside.  Beauty is everywhere here--majestic mountain ranges, colorful flowers, charming architecture… 


I think the food is unexceptional and relatively expensive in Costa Rica.  At first I ate lots of empanadas, rice and beans like many Ticos, but that got old, and now I mostly eat chicken, eggs, veggies, pasta, fish, potatoes, and fruit.  You can shop the cheaper food stores to save money, buy produce from street vendors, and if you can cook a little, you will do well and not have to give up too much.  I have known 20-somethings here who lived mostly on boxed mac and cheese and beer and have seemed fine with that.


What are your monthly expenses?  

They were for the first eight months about $900 per month, not including the cost of “Visa runs”, for which I had to dip into savings.  Now that I have found an apartment to call home that is more expensive, I am finding additional work to support it.  I don’t often go out to eat or to bars, and that is a big money-saver.  I have definitely had to pick my priorities to make ends meet here.


How would you describe your standard of living?  

It’s relatively humble for a middle-aged American, especially compared to my previous lifestyle in the States, but I was willing to trade off a lot of things to have this experience and to escape long, harsh New England winters!  One of the things I miss most is having a car.


In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?  

Here in the Central Valley of CR, I think someone who is just here for a year would need to earn at least $850/month, assuming there would be roommates to keep the rent manageable.



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

I would recommend spending lots and lots of time doing online research over the course of several months to figure out where you want to be and which type of English teaching certification you want to pursue.  Carefully weigh the financial implications and the various trade-offs (e.g., do you want to make top dollar, or is it more important to be in a place you think you’ll find exciting?).  Learn as many details as possible (and from multiple resources to get a balanced view) about major aspects of daily life in the place you’ll be living, to minimize unpleasant surprises.  There will be plenty of adjustments to make no matter how well you prepare yourself for life abroad!

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