www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 07/25/2018

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Shaunna Nichols

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Shaunna Nichols


What is your citizenship? I was born in the USA.

What city and state are you from? I have a house in Beaverton, OR. I was born in Colorado Springs, Co. 

How old are you? 34

What is your education level and background? I have a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management from George Fox University. I am midway through an online MBA program and will continue to study my MBA starting next year. I am a Veteran of the US Army, and I have worked in telecommunications, high tech, and small business offices since I was in high school. I love teaching and before I left the United States to live abroad I was a substitute teacher in the Portland area in Oregon. 

Have you traveled abroad in the past? Yes!

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been? Oaxaca Mexico, La Paz Mexico, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, Puerto Penasco Mexico, Mazatlan Mexico, Puerto Escondido Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Aruba, St. John, Puerto Rico, many other Caribbean Islands, Munich Germany, Berlin Germany, Naples Italy, Venice Italy, Rome Italy, Milan Italy, Hong Kong, Shenzhen China, San Jose Costa Rica, San Salvador El Salvador, Uvita Costa Rica.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study? Oaxaca, Mexico to study Spanish.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? It has been something I have always wanted to do. When my husband passed away last year, I decided it was time. I was ready to make a change in my life and continue to explore the world. Teaching English fuels my passion for teaching and helping others get ahead in their lives and being in a new place allows me to explore and feeds my desire to see and do new things on a daily basis. 

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? Making sure I was well qualified to teach ESL, leaving my house rented and working with a property management company, and traveling with my dogs - and getting them ready for travel.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? They all laughed and said they wondered when I was going to go leave! Anyone that knows me well, knows that I love to travel and explore, and this seemed like a great fit for me to go feed my passions and learn more about myself in the process. Living abroad also gives me a greater perspective on what is important in my life, and what I can contribute to those around me.



Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? Of the online reviews ITA was the most widely accredited and accepted certification.  The alumni reviews were mostly positive, and the staff was super responsive and able to help me find all the answers to my questions. They also were able to help point me in the direction to get start on paperwork and vet checks for my dogs making sure they were healthy enough to travel. 

Which TEFL certification course did you take? I chose to take the in-person class in Barva, Heredia, Costa Rica in February 2018. 

How did you like the course? I thought the class was well put together and well organized. I really enjoyed the outdoor garden classroom, the practical teaching, and the central location in Heredia/Barva area. 

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? I landed two jobs after finishing my certificate; one as an ESL teacher, and another as a math teacher. The course prepared me for teaching ESL to all levels. I am comfortable working with kids and lesson planning and playing games to help them learn English. I also feel like the way the material was presented during the ITA certification process allowed me to better my own knowledge of English grammar, something my adult students love to learn!



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? I moved to the Southern Coast of Costa Rica in a small city near Uvita, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I took 3 months to adventure and explore the area before I started looking for work. I wanted to be near the beach where I could learn to surf, walk my dogs, play in the jungle, and be apart of the local community. It was really important that I be able to work with a large diverse population. 

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I have been in the country since February 2018 and plan to stay as long as they will have me! Or until I am ready to move on to my next adventure in life. 

What school, company, or program are you working for? I am working for Uvita Christian Academy. It is a private, bilingual school in the rural beach town of Uvita. 

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. No, working without a visa is not a problem. Most places understand and willing to work with foreigners to teach English. I make border runs every 90 days to renew my visa. So far, I have made a trip back to the US, and one to El Salvador for my visa trips. 

Tell us about your English teaching job. UCA sponsors ESL classes and private tutoring for the local community and their school age students. I currently teach one 3-hour class of level 2 English to adults and have 2 private tutoring classes at an hour each. The school has three ESL teachers and a growing demand for ESL classes in the surrounding areas.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? Originally I found a place on Craigslist in Dominical for me and my dogs. One week before I was set to move his renters changed their plans and I was left scrambling to find a new location. I found a studio cabin with a washer and dryer in Playa Hermosa on Airbnb. I reached out to the owners and talked about my unique situation - traveling with dogs, not having a car, and needing a longer term rental. They were able to accommodate me. Once I had been in the community and found friends and made connections with my neighbors they were able to help me find a longer term living arrangement for me and my dogs. I now rent a one bedroom house with a fenced yard for $250 a month plus water and electric. I do not have roommates.  



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

When living in Costa Rica, you need to be open to embrace the "Pura Vida" mentality, especially in coastal communities. Their students often miss school or are late because of the surfing conditions, trips, or conflicts with working schedules. The larger the expat community, the more more expensive areas become.  This also impacts the nightlife scene. Uvita and Dominical have a larger retired expat community so being younger here is challenging if you are looking for a hip nightlife scene. There are bars and restaurants, but most things are closed down and rolled up by 9:00 pm. When it comes to public transportation in this area, because it is more rural, the bus system runs on a limited schedule. Because of the limited bus schedule, hitchhiking, rideshare/carpool, and taxi cabs are more common. Uber doesn't operate in remote areas of Costa Rica like the Osa peninsula.

I am in a phase in my life where I do not date, so, no insights - but since everything rolls up at 9:00 pm and there aren't any night clubs, the dating scene here, I would guess, is slow, and an older demographic. 

What are your monthly expenses? Rent $250, water & electric $100, food $65 a week, I also budget $25 dollars a week for coffee and 2 meals out. 

How would you describe your standard of living? Simple or basic living. I walk to the grocery store and depend on neighbors for rides to and from work.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? $800+ if you want to shop, eat out, drink out. 



What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? When considering working in Costa Rica or anywhere, do your research! What is the cost of living? Can you handle not having an internet connection where you live? What kind of lifestyle do you want? How do you want to fit in with the locals? What kind of a community do you want to be apart of? All these things will make it easier to decide if living in another country is right for you. 

I really enjoy the more relaxed coastal vibe of the south pacific coast of Costa Rica! I enjoy surfing, hiking, the community of locals and expats, and the chill vibe.


Would you recommend teaching in your country? I would recommend it. I like being here, to the point where I would consider applying for residency. But, you need to consider cost of living.  There is only a 20% difference than the cost of living in the US, and the rate of pay and your living style expectation will depend on what you are comfortable with. Saving money is not possible on a teaching salary unless you are eating rice and beans, not going out, and only drinking water. If you want to be outside and interacting with locals, then you will most likely be breaking even every month. 

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