www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 11/17/2016 in Alumni Q&A

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Gemma

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Gemma


What is your citizenship?


What city and state are you from?

Melbourne, Australia

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor degree, I come from a background in media and advertising.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?


If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

I have been to over 30 countries and 4 continents.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

Teaching English in another country was something that I have been thinking about for years. I have family in Italy and when I have visited them in the past they have always said to me how lucky I am that English is my first language. They constantly emphasise to me that English creates movement and opens opportunities in countries where it is a second language. I have always thought that being born in a country of opportunity like Australia, that I have won the lottery in life. Therefore I have an opportunity to utilize something that is habitual to me to help others in their education and further their opportunities.


What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? My main concern was not getting a job, apart from that I like to believe that everything will work out. I don’t like to overthink about a place I am going to, worry or have expectations because I believe it will make the experience harder.


What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? My family and friends are used to me not being close to them. I lived and workedin the top end of Australia for 5 years before moving to Costa Rica. I have also travelled so much throughout my life that my friends and family are used to me being away. Costa Rica, however, was more of a concern for my friends and family just because for an Australian it is quite an obscure country to travel to and most Australians don’t know the first thing about the Costa Rica so I was stepping into the unknown.


Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?Through thorough research of various courses and sites this was the one that appealed the most to me. 

Which TEFL certification course did you take?  June 2016

How did you like the course? I loved it; it was the most difficult, enjoyable, mind-opening and rewarding month of my life. 

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? I believe it would be impossible for anyone to teach English without this certification. 



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? I teach in Barva which is in Heredia. I am teaching here because that is where I was offered the job. I came to Costa Rica with no expectations apart from going to where the employment takes me.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? I have been in Costa Rica for 5 months;I plan to stay here for a while longer as I am thoroughly enjoying it.

What school, company, or program are you working for? I work for Idiomas Mundiales.

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. I do not have a work visa. For me, having to leave the country before every 90 days is a fantastic thing. It gives me a reason to travel and see other parts of Central America, the USA the Caribbean (the options are endless) because I legally have to be outside of the country for 72 hours so it’s an obligatory travel opportunity. Who doesn’t want an obligatory travel opportunity?


Tell us about your English teaching job.

My job is fantastic and my students bring me so much joy, once that comfortable environment is created in my classroom there is no holding them back. I love watching them speak and learn whilst enjoying themselves, and sometimes the stories they have are just fantastic. I work afternoons and evenings and Saturdays, for me it is a great schedule as it gives me the days and mornings to myself before the rain hits. I also need to write quizzes and examinations and then do all the marking on top of lesson planning and organizing. If extra work is not for you then I wouldn’t recommend teaching English, a teacher’s job does not end in the classroom. I work at a school in the classrooms and also at a business offsite and there I teach in a boardroom at the company, so a little bit of a scenery change a couple times a week is nice. It is common in Costa Rica to teach at a business or company as English lessons are being provided to staff because English is the business communication language.


How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? This was a difficult process for me.  I do not speak Spanish so I was fortunate enough to have a great bunch of people that were willing to help me search. I wasn’t happy at all with my first accommodation so then I tried AirB&B and was lucky enough to find a great place and my housemate asked me to just stay and then pay him rent monthly. I am now however looking for my own place as I have lived on my own for many years and I am comfortable enough to do it here.


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

Public transport is good.  A bus will take you to wherever you need to go, however sometimes it will be a transit of 3 buses, or maybe 4! Learning where the bus stops are actually located is pretty difficult.  I have found that the best way is if you see a group of people standing at a random part of the street it is generally a bus stop. From there you then need to figure out the direction the bus will be going.  If it is going to your destination or coming from it, the best way to learn this unless someone has told you is to get on the bus and find out.

The nightlife is mainly bars, they’re super loud but always have great music. All bars are inside only in Heredia, there aren't any outdoor bars or dining around.

The expat community I know is other teachers that I have met or that I did training with through TEFL.

I don’t date.

The travel opportunities within Costa Rica are endless, for such a small country there is so much to see and there is so much variety and diversity! It’s just an incredible spot!

What are your monthly expenses? I haven’t paid too much attention to this but for rent, food, drinks, busses and other necessities I would say $400 US dollars a month.


How would you describe your standard of living? Pretty great. I pay rent, I eat, I drink, I go out and I travel internally in Costa Rica all on my wage. 

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? It all depends on the person and their version of comfortable $500-$600 US dollar is plenty for me. 


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

If you are considering it, then please just do it! It is the best decision I have ever made! Due to extra work and lesson planning and other factors outside of when you get “paid” I would make sure that it is something you are passionate about and really want to do otherwise it isn’t the correct thing for you. The world is huge and therefore there are jobs out there; just keep looking and don’t give up! If I can fly over 30 hours with a 17 hour time difference to somewhere I really didn’t know much about (past sloths, toucans and football) you can do it too!

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