www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 12/12/2018

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Tierra

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Tierra


What is your citizenship?


What city and state are you from?

Eugene, OR

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Communication, and Christian Ministry.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Yes. I have been to Mexico, Australia, Guatemala, and Panama.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

The idea of teaching English abroad had never crossed my mind until early 2018. I had a desire to travel and learn about different cultures, but never to be a teacher and do that. I was inspired by a friend that was going to get her TEFL certification in Costa Rica. She had so much excitement in her speech that it made me excited for her, but I didn’t think I could do it too. She encouraged me to come with her and become an English teacher. And so, I did! It wasn’t until I got to CR and realized that teaching English as a foreign language is so gratifying and truly valuable to non-native speakers. I not only get to teach people, but they also teach me. I am constantly learning about culture, language, and experiences.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

My main concern was the language barrier. A huge part of what makes a person is their ability to express how they feel or what they think. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to truly be myself with the little knowledge I had about the native language.

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

The news came at no surprise for my friends and family. Some were wondering when I would be moving to the next destination and why I waited so long. Others, family, were wondering why I was moving so soon. I am so thankful for how supportive my friends and family were and are. There were concerns about me moving to Costa Rica, but with assurance, and a lot of research, their minds were at ease. I have an adventurous heart and a yearning to experience different cultures. My friends and family know this all too well and unconditionally support me through it.


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

I had inspiration to get TEFL certified and chose international TEFL because it’s a great way to immerse yourself into a community with prospective job opportunities.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?


How did you like the course?

I enjoyed the course a lot. They do not lie about it being an intensive course. I learned a lot about grammar, classroom management, and cultural appropriation. I even met people who are now friends. It was a great experience.

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

The TEFL training had made me a confident teacher. The practicum teaching is a great introduction to teaching in a classroom. I feel comfortable and confident in front of my class!


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

I am teaching at a company based in Heredia, but I travel all over Heredia and San Jose. I wanted to stay in the central valley because of the central location it has to the coastlines and the mountains. I also like traveling for my classes because I get to see more of the city and live a local experience.

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

I have been in Costa Rica for 8 months and planned to stay 1 year. Time has gone by incredibly fast and 1 year doesn’t seem as long as I thought. I may stay for a year and a half.

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

I work for SpeakHabla located in Heredia Central.

Do you have a work visa? 

I do not have a work visa, so I am on a tourist visa. With a tourist visa I can stay in the country for 90 days. Every 90 days, I must leave the country for 72 hours. This is a great way to visit neighboring countries, such as Panama and Nicaragua. It is called a border run and I often do it with other teachers! It’s like a mini vacation.

Tell us about your English teaching job.

SpeakHabla is a language institute that has private contracted teachers. We are contracted with companies in Heredia and San Jose province. This means that I travel a lot for my job. I teach private classes and full-size classes. A full-size class can mean 2-8 students in a class. My students are working adults at every level of English. I can teach a starter student in the morning and an advanced student in the afternoon. I really enjoy teaching for SpeakHabla!

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

I was very fortunate to find my house. I started working for a language institute and met another teacher that had a room in their house. I sent a message to the landlord, who spoke English, and let him know I was interested in renting a room in the house. I have 8 roommates in a big house in Central Heredia. There are Spanish and English speakers in my house, so it makes it a great place to practice both languages. My house is two blocks from Central Park and so close to public transportation.


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

Public transportation is excellent! At first, it was difficult to figure out the bus routes, but I got it, eventually. I take buses everyday to work. There are a lot of bus stops in Heredia Centro and they go from Alejuela – San Jose. Some bus stops are in unusual spots, but if there are people standing in a line it’s usually a bus stop. Uber is also an essential transport in CR. I often use this if I am going out with friends or need to get somewhere quickly.

Nightlife is great in San Jose. There are so many bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from. Barrio Escalante, San Jose, has a great selection of restaurants. Heredia Centro has a good selection of bars and restaurants too. I live very close to the bars and a favorite of mine is Tribbu, two blocks from Central Park. There are also tons of food options in Heredia. If you’re into Chicharron, you’ve got lots of corner shops, and if you don’t know what that is you’ll soon find out when you’re here. If you’re vegetarian, like me, there are restaurants with veg/vegan options! Kabuli Plan V is my favorite vegan restaurant to take friends to and it’s decently priced.

There are a lot of teachers that live in Heredia Centro and San Jose. Most of the "gringos" you see in Heredia are teachers and it’s kind of strange if you see ones who aren’t. The largest expat communities are in beach towns, such as Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio, and Guanacaste.

Dating is a bit different here. I was on a dating app to meet locals, but it ended up being travelers, mostly from the US. I quickly deleted it because the dating pool was small. Teachers often date other teachers, but there are a lot who date locals. One thing I was told is that ticos/ticas live with their parents until they are married. So, if you’re dating a local, they will most likely spend a lot more time at your place than you will at theirs. Traveling to other parts of CR is so easy! So many bus options to the pacific coast and the Caribbean. There are also busses to the mountains, Monteverde, or a few hours north, La Fortuna.

What are your monthly expenses?

My monthly expenses consist of rent, food, transportation, and leisure activities. My rent is one payment that includes all amenities. For food, I shop at the Feria, which is a local food market. It is so cheap and I buy enough for one person for 1 week to 1 and a half weeks. The Feria is the best option for veggies and fruit! I take a bus to every one of my classes, so my transportation budget is high. The most I pay for a bus if 565 colones, which is about $1. My leisure activities are going to bars, clubs, and restaurants. For this budget, I try and limit spending to once a month or once week.

How would you describe your standard of living?

I had to minimize a lot of my usually activities when I came here, but it is a different culture and the standard of living is different. I live comfortably and am able to travel so it’s a good life right now. I don’t eat or drink the same things I used to because CR is expensive. I drink beer instead of cocktails and I eat at home rather than a restaurant. 

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

I recommend adjusting to the standard of living in the country and work out the budget from there. For me, 500 – 600 USD is a comfortable earning every month.


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

If traveling is something you want to do, but don’t have enough money to do, then teach English! This is an amazing way to experience culture for 6 months to a year or more. And at what cost? An investment toward a lifetime certification. I would say you need to research the country you are going to and more specifically the city you plan to live/teach in. Knowing the customs of the culture before going is so important and saves you some embarrassment. It sure saved me from myself a few times. Teaching English will open you up to opportunity and allow you to travel to so many countries! If you need someone to tell you to come well here it is, “Come with me!”

Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Absolutely! Come to Costa Rica and have an experience for yourself. I have loved teaching in Costa Rica and I think it’s a great place to start teaching abroad.

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