www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 05/29/2019

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Cara

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Cara


What is your citizenship?


What city and state are you from?

Rutherglen, Australia

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Science.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Yes to Bali, Thailand, China, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Finland, Latvia, Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?

I did an internship in Shanghai, China

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I’ve always loved travelling, but I prefer depth over distance. I wanted to travel and be financially sustainable, learn a new language and be immersed in a new culture. Teaching English met all of these goals; I get to know locals as my students, live in a foreign country and make money while doing it.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

I volunteered as a teacher in Africa when I was 18 and found it really difficult, so I was worried about teaching! I decided to give it another go, and the formal training I did in Costa Rica has made all the difference! I also thought I’d miss home, but I’ve been way too caught up in all the excitement here.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?

Most people got confused and thought I was moving to Puerto Rico. Then we sorted that out and a lot of people decided I was crazy, I think partially because they would have been too scared to even try, and partially because Costa Rica is literally the other side of the world from Australia. Now that I’m here, I think everyone wants to visit!


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

I knew I wanted to do a teaching course, so I spent hours researching the different types of certificates, and different schools who were certified to deliver the course, instead of writing my thesis like I was supposed to. I chose ITA because of their country comparison guide, and job search guidance, it was obvious that they had real experience helping their grads find jobs and contacts in all the big schools. Plus, I loved that you could do the course in-country!

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

I took the in-person TEFL course at ITA Costa Rica in January 2018.

How did you like the course?

The course was great. It was my first taste of Costa Rica, and I feel like I learned a lot of location-specific information that I might have missed if I’d done my course online. By the end of the course, I’d learned things I didn’t even realise were missing! It was an intense month, but in the end, I really felt like I was ready to teach and I made some friends for life!

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

You can teach without a TEFL certificate, and I did, BUT. It’s hard. The TEFL course gave me a mountain of resources to create fun lessons that tricked my students into learning, which was great. More importantly, it also gave me the skills to develop my own fun activities and test them out during the practicum on real, live students instead of my friends.


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

I’ve worked in Barva, Heredia and San Jose. I decided to stay in the Central Valley because there are more jobs here which also means a big group of other teachers to play soccer with every Wednesday!

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

I have lived here for almost a year and a half now, it’s a really lovely country. I’m actually going to Panama in a month to become a scuba instructor, and learn more Spanish!

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

I work for Idiomas Mundiales, I have some private students and I work online for Cambly, Preply and BlingABC. I also used to work at a university called Politecnico.

Do you have a work visa?

No, I don’t have a work visa - they’re expensive! It’s also really not so terrible to have a forced holiday every 3 months! Sometimes, the border crossings can be a bit nerve-wracking, if I was planning to stay here permanently, I would consider a work visa.

Tell us about your English teaching job.

I love my job! It started as a way to make money while travelling, but teaching English just makes me happier. I love my students, and I have a flexible curriculum with the freedom to have fun, and to focus on the things my students need to improve. I work weeknights and Saturdays, and my students range from 12 - 70 something, and from day 1 beginners to high-level conversational students - I enjoy the variety.

I also teach online because I can’t work full time at my other school, and I like it more than I thought I would. There are lots of options, but I mostly work in the early morning with Chinese children. They’re super cute, and the school pays really well.

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

If you’re looking for a house, I recommend AirBnB, www.encuentra24.com and hanging out with other English teachers, things happen by word of mouth here. I found both of the houses I’ve lived in via friends, and I have housemates. I could find somewhere to live by myself, but I like the company.


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

The local people are great, they call themselves "ticos," and they live a very friendly and mostly relaxed life. They love to meet new people and will strike up a conversation on the bus, at the park, at the beach…

Public transport is mainly buses and the train, which are colour-coded, very cheap and a bit unpredictable in peak hour. Uber is also good in the Central Valley.

The nightlife is pretty typical, but mostly in San Jose. There’s often live music which can be great if you find your scene, and lots of places to go dancing! The expat teachers area big social community, and there is usually at least one house party going on every weekend, as well as weekly social soccer games, movie nights, fun runs, beach trips, hikes and border runs.

I love the typical food here, it is a bit repetitive, but they do it so well. We always go to the farmer’s market on the weekends to stock up on all the local fresh fruit and veggies, and there are lots of good, affordable restaurants.

I don’t really date - everyone knows everyone - but Tinder is popular here, I have heard lots of success stories particularly from people who date girls.

I have travelled to Panama and Nicaragua for border runs, and a holiday in Peru. Other people have been to Guatemala and Colombia, but flights can be expensive. Within the country, there’s so much to see! With beaches, mountains, and everything in between, 

Costa Rica has something for everyone. I particularly enjoy scuba diving here, both at Bocas Diving Pirates in Panama and Scuba Dive Costa Rica in Playa Flamingo.

What are your monthly expenses?

Costa Rica’s currency is colones, and I try to live relatively cheaply, I don’t want to go home because I ran out of money! Rent depends on a range of factors, for me it’s been 130,000 colones - 157,000 colones per month, with some utilities included. I buy my groceries at the farmer's market, which is about 10,000 colones per week, plus around 5,000 colones of food from the supermarket. 

I spend around 2,000 colones per month on my phone bill and buses cost around 200-500 colones per trip. A beer at the local bar will set you back around 1,200 colones and a mid-priced meal in a local restaurant is around 5,000-7,000 colones, though I don’t eat out much. My salary is on the low end of the scale, at 4,500 colones per hour, and I make enough money to cover my month to month expenses. However, my border runs (every 90 days) come out of my savings, at about 80,000 colones minimum and scuba diving is an expensive hobby!

How would you describe your standard of living?

I certainly try to live day to day like a local, I take the bus, I eat locally available food, and I live in a comfortable but not fancy place, but I also like to go to parties with my friends on the weekends, eat out occasionally and go on trips around the country. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, but I’ve always been good at saving my money for plane tickets!

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

It really depends on the lifestyle you choose - it’s expensive to live the same way you lived at home. I earn about 300,000 colones per month and it’s covering costs, but I am looking into other options to help fund my scuba diving.


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad?

100% worth it! International travel is always a worthwhile thing to do, and teaching English is a great way to do it. There’s a great teacher community and lots of jobs, so you will definitely find a job, friends and lots of support to get through any new situations. If you are looking to travel sustainably, to get to know the people or lifestyle in a new country, or just love teaching, your TEFL certificate will be the best thing you ever do.

Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Costa Rica is brilliant, particularly for any new ESL teachers. The community here is particularly strong and well established, the locals are friendly, and English is so important that you will find your students eager to learn and practice talking. You might not make a lot of money, but you will have a great experience and lots of opportunities to see this beautiful country, learn Spanish (which isn’t too hard) and meet some amazing humans and animals. Sometimes you look back on your life decisions and think ‘wow, I really nailed that one’, and my decision to move to Costa Rica to teach ESL was definitely one of those.

Follow Cara on Instagram @carathecrocodilehunter!  

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