Posted 06/04/2018

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Diana Moore

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Diana Moore

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

What is your citizenship?  US

What city and state are you from? Rawlings, MD

How old are you? 35

What is your education level and background? Master of Education, Curriculum Instruction and Design, Integrated Teaching through the Arts; BA Theatre

Have you traveled abroad in the past? Yes

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been? France, England, Ireland, Italy, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica (twice before moving here)

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I was working 90 hours a week in the US for very low pay, teaching English, running the drama department at my school, working at a local theater and acting professionally, and I burnt out big time. Traveling is my passion, so I thought, “Why not just teach English in a different country?” 

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? I literally set up a fail-proof plan with my friends that if I moved and ran out of money, they’d pay for my plane ticket home, so I wouldn’t be trapped in a foreign country, broke and alone. 

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? They said I was their hero, that I was doing something so many people dreamed of but never went through with, that they supported me 100%, and that they’d live vicariously through me. I am so blessed to have such an amazing support system!

TEFL CLASS INFORMATION

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? I figured that if nothing else, getting TEFL certified could maybe be a step toward my US certification if I wanted to return to teaching in the US. As for my course, I was a skeptic until I was able to talk with Luke personally and have some questions answered before I made my final decision. 

Which TEFL certification course did you take? TESOL Costa Rica/ITA Costa Rica in September 2015

How did you like the course? I loved it. Melanie and Luke were pros, and I could tell I was learning from some of the best ESL teachers out there. (Although at times, I did find the work load more challenging than my M.Ed. course load.)

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? There is, of course, some pedagogical overlap between TEFL teaching and teaching English to native speakers, but I honestly doubt I would have been able to be successful in this field if not for the course. I use the training I received in the course every single time I teach. 

 

TEACHING ABROAD IN COSTA RICA

Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? At first, I taught near the beach in Esparza, Puntarenas. That was horrible because I just couldn’t deal with the heat, the low pay, the high costs for everything and the 80+°F classroom temperatures (even though there was air-conditioning!). Then, I decided to move to Heredia, near Barva, where I had taken the course. There are many more jobs, and I knew I wanted to work at Intercultura, specifically, because I had loved the campus and the class I taught there as part of my practicum. 

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? 3 years, and I plan to stay forever! I just received my Permanent Residency status!  

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

Do you have a work visa?  Intercultura filed the paperwork for my work visa, but I never received any word on that. After the papers are filed, you are legally allowed to stay in the country and do not have to complete border-runs every 3 months, so that was a plus. Life happened, and I got married, had a baby, filed for residency, and voila! 

Tell us about your English teaching job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I teach 22 hours a week and was promoted this year to head of the children’s program, so I work an additional 20 hours per month in an administrative role. The staff is like a giant family, and my boss is genuinely the best boss possible for me. I constantly feel supported, valued, appreciated and important. 

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? I got lost driving around to find a different apartment I had seen in a Facebook group for Heredia rentals. This gorgeous house with a huge yard had a “For Rent” sign out front with a number to call. I called, thinking it’d be way out of my price range, but it was super reasonable. The landlord came right over and gave me a tour, and I signed the contract a few hours later because I didn’t want to lose it by waiting to make a deposit. I am married, so my husband is kind of like a roommate. It’s a 2 bedroom for about $450 per month (plus utilities, unfurnished), so it would be affordable and comfortable for 2 roommates to share. 


COSTA RICA

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country: I never really joined the “dating scene” here, as I started dating my long-time friend when I moved here. (Though he is Costa Rican, and there are many ups and downs in a bilingual, multi-cultural relationship.) Public transportation is cheap and available almost everywhere here if you have the time to commit to using it. It can take several hours to go short distances, so Uber is a better (yet more expensive option) if you’re pressed for time. Thankfully, Uber is way cheaper here than in the US; however, most other things are  more expensive, especially on such low salaries. You can travel a lot if you want it badly enough; you may just have to give up other things (mainly eating out and drinking at bars all the time and buying imported foods and goods). Culture shock is real, and you will need some American situations sometimes. San Jose can offer you these types of experiences, but it may cost you more than you might expect. If nothing else, perhaps just spending time with coworkers outside of work can ease the transition. You should also expect some degree of reverse culture shock whenever you return to your native country after spending time abroad. 

What are your monthly expenses? Not including travel expenses, about $1250 for a family of 3 (14-month-old baby) with a brand-new car (and $300/mo. car payment) Our travel expenses vary widely from month to month and range from $30 day trips to $350 long weekends, and we try to visit the US at least once a year (about $2,500+ for a 2 week stay) 

How would you describe your standard of living? We live simply but comfortably. My salary covers most of our expenses, and what my husband makes is for traveling and extra expenses. 

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? I know people who have lived happily on $550. I also know people who were miserable making over $1000. It depends on your mindset, what is important to you, and what you are willing to change or substitute for what is necessary over what is desired. 

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN COSTA RICA

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? If you want to stay for a year or more and be happy, do your research before you come. Visit first, if possible. Understand the time commitment, what is and is not paid work time, healthcare, cost of living, transportation, and basic information about the location. Talk to other ITA alums in the area before arriving, if possible. Know what you want and what you can do without, reasonably. 

Would you recommend teaching in your country?  Yes! It’s paradise, but it does require some preparation, budgeting, and flexibility to be truly happy here.


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