Posted 03/06/2019

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Morgan Engle

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Morgan Engle


TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

What is your citizenship? USA

What city and state are you from? Shawnee, Oklahoma

How old are you? 24

What is your education level and background? Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and a minor in TESOL

Have you traveled abroad in the past? Yes!  I went to the Dominican Republic in 2011, and I went to Siliguri, India in 2013.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study? I have never studied abroad.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I had friends in college who were from Spain, Brazil, Japan, the Dominican Republic and China. Getting to see how much they grew by stepping out of their comfort zones in the USA was really eye-opening. The relationships I had with them were the main reasons why I knew I wanted to travel abroad and teach English. I saw that English opened a major door in their lives, and I really wanted to be a part of helping people better their lives in that way. 

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?  The language barrier was the main concern I had about teaching abroad. I didn’t understand how I could teach someone if I didn’t speak the same language as them. I was also nervous about making enough money to survive. I saved money before I moved to Costa Rica, but I didn’t want to retreat back to the USA because my savings account ran out. I wanted to make sure it was possible to live within my means.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? My friends were super supportive (and jealous tbh haha)! Pretty much all of them have made plans to come visit me! My family, while also supportive, wanted to know how long I’d be gone and if I’d be safe. They asked a lot more questions, which, in retrospect, was very helpful. They were really excited for me to go out and experience everything, but they made it clear they’d miss me a ton while I was gone.


TEFL CLASS INFORMATION

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? When I was completing my minor, I had heard a lot about TEFL certifications, so I always knew it was something that I would have to have in order to teach. The ITA was really the only option for me because when I just googled “TEFL certifications” the ITA was the most common and highly regarded. It was kind of a no-brainer because companies know that teachers from the ITA are qualified. 

Which TEFL certification course did you take? I took the ITA course in person in Barva, Costa Rica in August 2018.

How did you like the course? I really loved the course! I met some amazing people that I still talk to! The course is pretty intense, so you find yourself spending a ton of time with the same people every day. Even on the weekend, we’d all take a trip to the beach or even just go see a movie or play soccer. We all got close really quickly, and it’s awesome now knowing that I have a place to stay should I ever travel to Spain, Korea, or Mexico! 

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? The training I received at the ITA has helped me in every way possible. Everything from grammar to classroom games to cultural sensitivity was covered in the course. Since it’s such a short course, everything they teach you is really practical, and they give you a lot of hands-on activities.

 

TEACHING ABROAD IN COSTA RICA

Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? I teach in Heredia, Costa Rica. Heredia is in the central valley of Costa Rica, and it’s where the primary job market is. 

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I have been in Costa Rica for 7 months, and I am here indefinitely. My husband and I sold most of our stuff to come down here, so we’ll be here for a while!

What school, company, or program are you working for? I work for the best school in the world: Intercultura! They’re an English institution for all ages and levels of students! I also work online for a company called VIPKID.

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. I am in the process of applying for a work visa. It’s really expensive and time-consuming, but my school pays for its teachers to get work visas! Until I have one though, I must leave the country every 90 days. It sounds like a hassle, but a mandatory 3-day vacation every 90 days is actually really amazing! 

Tell us about your English teaching job. At Intercultura, I work 18 hours each week. Full time for English teachers is 18-24 hours in class each week. I spend more hours outside of class lesson planning too, but I only have 6 three-hour classes each week. I work every night from 6-9pm and all day on Saturdays! Pretty much everyone works on Saturdays, so it makes for a really lively work environment! Right now I teach Intro students and Upper-Intermediate students. My students' ages range from 14-45. Online, I create my own schedule, so I can work as many or as few hours as I want any given week. I usually wake up at 4:30 am and teach from 5-7:30 or 8 each morning. It’s nice because I can take a really long nap in the afternoon if I want to! 

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? I found my apartment on AirBnB. When I came to look at it, I asked if I could rent it long-term, and of course my landlord said yes! I live in a “mini-loft,” emphasis on the mini. It’s basically one room with two stories. On the top ‘loft’ is my bed and beneath it is my kitchen and bathroom. It’s exactly the right size that I need, and it’s very inexpensive, so it’s awesome! I have the best roommate of all time…my husband! He is also an English teacher in Costa Rica, so he made the roommate search pretty easy for me!

COSTA RICA

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

Costa Rica is one of the friendliest areas I’ve ever been to in my life. The first week I moved here, I was trying to navigate the bus system with no prior public transportation experience, and I was horrible at Spanish! Thankfully, though, the people of Costa Rica (Ticos) are super helpful and friendly. For the most part, they really like foreigners as long as you try to speak their language and compliment their country. Someone on the street saw how lost I was and actually walked me to the correct bus stop and helped me figure out how much it would cost! I was shocked and so thankful! The expat community is thriving down here. The English teaching community is really big, so it was easy to make friends right away! There’s always a group of teachers taking a trip to the beach or needing to do a border run, and from my experience, most people are very inclusive! 

What are your monthly expenses? 

Rent: $250/person

Food/Groceries: $200/month (includes eating McDonald's like twice a week because I’m addicted.)

Trips/Fun: $100/month

Phone plan: Aprox. $8 every two weeks for the most basic cell plan

One thing I wish I knew was how expensive all of the toiletries here are!  I would recommend stocking up on shampoo, conditioner, face wash, hand soap, toothpaste, etc. because it’s more than twice the price of what I paid in the States. 

How would you describe your standard of living? My standard of living is comfortable bordering bougie! I eat out quite a bit, and I go on trips to the beach whenever I want. I even went bungee jumping last month! Finding fun and cheap things to do here is the easiest thing in the world, but if you’re trying to live in a place with AC and a personal washer and dryer, you may have a hard time. 

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? I would say between $800-$1,000 will cover you comfortably. 


ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN COSTA RICA

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Do your research but don’t expect anything! My husband and I researched for almost a full year before we moved here, and we never anticipated how difficult it would be to navigate the bus system. After about 2 months, we became really comfortable, but those first two months were for difficult because we felt really unprepared and frustrated with ourselves for overpreparing for the wrong things. I would also say to ask yourself why you want to be a teacher. Some days the language barriers in the classroom are really discouraging to my students, and I have to be prepared to go a zillion miles out of my way to help them. If you’re just looking to travel the world, do that! But maybe get your TEFL certificate and teach online with a company where you are given a script. The students here really deserve teachers that are invested in their language journey on a personal level. My students text me at all hours of the day to ask me to read their resumés or an email to their boss asking for a promotion. It’s so rewarding, but it’s also a commitment. Make sure you’re prepared to make that commitment to your students.

Would you recommend teaching in your country? ONE THOUSAND ZILLION PERCENT YES! Costa Rica has changed me for the better, and the teaching community is unlike any other support system I’ve ever known. I’m so thankful for my time in Costa Rica, and I know you will too!

 

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