Posted 03/16/2020

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A with AK

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A with AK


TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

What is your citizenship? I am a United States citizen.

What city and state are you from? I am from Norcross, Georgia.

How old are you? 23.

What is your education level and background? I graduated high school in May 2014 and I have about a year and a half of course work from Georgia State University. I was originally getting a Bachelors in Business Administration with a Minor in Spanish before I decided to take some time off from school.

Have you traveled abroad in the past? Never.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I really wanted to travel, and I had been working a lot of odd jobs for some time and wanted to change my environment. A few years prior, a peer of mine told me about how she was moving to Chile to surf and teach after graduation and I always thought that sounded really cool.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? My biggest concern was how different things would be compared to the States. I had never traveled out of the country before and had no idea what to expect. Do they sell the same products? Have the same stores? I wasn’t sure.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? My parents were totally supportive of me starting this journey which was a relief. Some of my friends thought I was crazy. At first they were a little concerned but overall excited for me. A lot of people now think it’s really cool and ask me all the time how I did it.

TEFL CLASS INFORMATION

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? One day, after complaining to my mother for the billionth time how I wanted a change of pace, she suggested I go travel and teach. Prior, I had never really looked into it, so I decided to google “jobs to travel and work”. Immediately hundreds of TEFL schools popped up and ITA was the first one on the list. After some research on the best school for me I decided to go with ITA because they just had an overwhelming amount of information, resources and support.

Which TEFL certification course did you take? I took the Barva TEFL Course in May of 2019.

How did you like the course? I absolutely loved the course. Everything just made my move so much easier. The school is the cutest little indoor-outdoor class. Everyone in the course had that similar “free spirited I just want to experience new things” vibe. The homestays, the instant connections, the support you get from the Barva school really helped my transition. Everyone always asks me how I moved out here all alone at 23, but I wasn’t alone at all.

As soon as I got off the plane, someone from the course came to greet me and take me to my new home. The second day, I went on a tour organized by the school with some fellow TEFL students and instantly met people. The course was definitely work but the people and the environment made it so much fun.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? For me the biggest thing was the grammar. Not only were there things I didn’t know but also there were things I knew but didn’t know how to explain in a way that would make sense. The TEFL teachers explained things in a way that made things easy to comprehend. I think being able to explain something simply and clearly is a big take away from the course that I use today. Also, coming from Foreign Language classes in the U.S., the course showed me a whole other approach to learning and teaching a language. Barva even had different schools and companies come and talk with us about teaching positions available, so I was able to land 2 jobs by the time my course was done in June.

TEACHING ABROAD IN COSTA RICA

Which city did you decide to teach English in? Heredia and San Jose

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I have been living here for 10 months now and I haven’t decided when I would like to leave yet.

What school, company, or program are you working for? I work for Wizard and Intercultura.

Do you have a work visa? If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. No, I don’t have a work visa. That can be a pain at times, having to take a border run every 3 months. It can be an inconvenience and expensive depending on when you go. I would suggest if you can get a work visa to get one. However, it is an opportunity to travel a little bit to neighboring countries and take a day or two off, even if that means travelling on a bus to Nicaragua or Panama for a day.

Tell us about your English teaching job. At Wizard, I primarily teach adults. There are a few teenagers but no kids. Wizard is more of a Business English school. I teach private and group class at companies such as Bayer, IBM, and DHL. They also offer classes on-site in Heredia and San Jose. My days can start as early as about 7am but classes are about 2 hours per class except for Fridays and Saturdays. 

My current full-time job is at Intercultura an international language school. They have exchange students come from around the world. Here they offer kids classes, adults classes as well as many extracurricular activities. They have workshops, meetings and training to continually develop your teaching skills including a community of expat teachers to help with whatever you need. Here I also teach private and group classes but only on site in Heredia. Classes can range from an hour to 3 hours. I love teaching at both jobs since they give me two totally different experiences, teaching styles and people to work with.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? A friend and I from my May TEFL course decided to move in together after the course ended. We both posted in the ITA Costa Rica Facebook page to see if anything was available. Originally, we found a really nice place in Barva walking distance from the TEFL school, however after I got my job at Wizard, I thought it might be too far from the San Jose area. After that didn’t work out, one of the administrators at the Barva school let us know that a friend of hers was looking for some tenants to move into his condo immediately. It was only 10 minutes from both Wizard and Intercultura which was perfect.

COSTA RICA

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country: There is plenty of things to do here in Costa. Sometimes I feel like I will never see half of the beautiful places it has to offer because there are so many. You can take a bus to the beach for a day in Jaco or travel a little further to Limon or Guanacaste within about 4-5 hours depending on transportation. I personally enjoy taking the buses. Especially if you go with a group of people, and they are usually fairly cheap. Public transportation can be an experience if your usual mode of transportation is a car in your home country. For me taking the bus isn’t the issue, it's waiting for the bus that can be hard to track. Some buses run every fifteen minutes, others every hour just depending on where you are. There are apps however, such as Moovit, that can help navigate the bus systems.

The nightlife offers a variety of options. Bars, clubs, concerts all type of activities happening every weekend. I always check Facebook for interesting events nearby. When I want to do something more chill, me and friends may go out in Heredia Centro. This area is a college town so there are lots of young people and bars to hang out at. If I’m looking to do something more dressed up, we may go to San Jose which might be a little more crowded or expensive but definitely worth it if you want to dance or have a really exciting night. Most of my holidays are fixed due to my teaching schedule but usually we get a 3-day weekend about once a month as well as a week off after every tri-semester for travel.

What are your monthly expenses? I pay around $375 a month for just my portion of the rent. This includes utilities, a gym, a pool and other various amenities offered in the condominium like security and a game room. I live with one roommate and we share a lot of expenses such as groceries and toiletries. Our budget is enough to live and still enjoy a beer after classes or a weekend trip to the beach when we can.

How would you describe your standard of living? I think before I came here I lived a pretty high maintenance life. I was accustomed to treating myself when I wanted to and moving here was a change of pace. I also was not in favor of living with multiple people. I do pay a little more than you may have to because of where I choose to live. I definitely had to cut back on the unnecessary, but it was a sacrifice I wanted to make to come here. 

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? I say it depends on how you would like to live, who you would like to live with, and how often you would like to work and travel. For a solo person around $800-900 dollars a month should cover most expenses. However, if you have bills or prior engagements in your home country you may need more or a savings already.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN COSTA RICA

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? My advice for prospective teachers would be if you are thinking about doing it and are able to, DO IT! Even if it’s just for 6 month or a year, DO IT! The experience has completely changed my life. Traveling is the anecdote to ignorance and will open your eyes to so many different perspectives.

Would you recommend teaching in your country? Costa Rica is a beautiful country and in my opinion offers a lot of similarities to the States that makes it an easy country to transition to and a great “First Country” if you have never left the U.S. before like me.

Alumni Q&A

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