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Posted 07/28/2016 in Alumni Q&A

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Jamie

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Jamie


What is your citizenship?

American/United States


What city and state are you from?

Woodstock, CT


How old are you?

27 years-old (almost 28 J )


What is your education level and background?

I graduated from Susquehanna University in Central Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Secondary Education.


Have you traveled abroad in the past?

I had been abroad one time previous to teaching English in Costa Rica. I traveled with a group called G Adventures through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.


What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

After having taught High School English for four years in Central Pennsylvania, I found myself wanting something different from my life. I never studied abroad in college and always regretted not travelling abroad and seeing the world. Although I loved to teach, I was living in a small town that I realized I had finally outgrown. I knew teaching was a passion of mine and started to consider teaching abroad. After conducting some research on the internet, I stumbled upon a program called Greenheart Travel, a company which helps to connect you with opportunities in which you can study, teach, or volunteer abroad. Through them, I found the TEFL course in Barva, Costa Rica. One of the best, if not the best decision of my life!

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Sure I had concerns before teaching abroad. Was I making a mistake leaving my stable job, apartment, car, friends, family, and the security and comfort of my safe life? How would I adapt to the culture? I can still speak Spanish, right? Tequila? Cerveza? Gracias!

I think everyone has some concerns before taking the leap; that’s only natural. However, my concerns were easily assuaged once I arrived and got into the routine of things. My host family was absolutely amazing and immediately made me feel comfortable. My roommates are now my best friends, and Luke, Melanie, and Georgia as well as the other students became a family. Sometimes you just have to forget about fear. And doubt. And take the leap!


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

My friends and family were very supportive of the decision. They knew it was something I had to do for me; in order to learn, grow, and transform into the person I’ve become and to help me on my own personal journey of continual becoming.


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

I decided to get TEFL certified because I knew I loved to teach, but I also wanted to travel and push myself outside of my comfort zone. Getting TEFL certified was my best option and the International TEFL academy is an intensive level 5 course which thoroughly prepares you to teach ESL wherever you may find yourself. This Academy is distinguished and exceptional!


Which TEFL certification course did you take?

July 2015 course in Barva, Costa Rica.


How did you like the course?

I thoroughly enjoyed the course! At first it was a very humbling experience. I was an experienced teacher. How different can teaching ESL be from teaching English in the United States? I quickly realized that it was very different! I didn’t know anything about my own language! However, the course thoroughly prepares you for the classroom. Luke and Melanie are so knowledgeable, supportive, and you leave the course having made life-long friends. It’s not just a classroom. It’s a place to learn and grow; a community of learners; a community of friends.


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

My TEFL training helped me to feel competent and confident. I was provided an ample amount of materials for the classroom, as well as teaching strategies that would help me guide my students to becoming successful. I was amazed at how prepared I felt and how effective the teaching strategies were. It was amazing to see the growth in my students, and this never would have happened without the thorough training I received during the course.



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

I decided to teach in Barva-Heredia, Costa Rica. As I mentioned, I had been to Costa Rica once before but only for a couple of days. The place beckoned me to come back. If I could do it again, I would make the same decision! Barva is an amazing community! While it is small and tight-knit, this is why I loved it! The people are so friendly and welcoming and take a genuine interest in you. There are amazing Zumba classes and cultural events all the time. Living in Barva was the authentic experience of living abroad. Local street markets on Saturdays, awesome Zumba classes during the week in the Barva park, and very easy to get to the surrounding cities. Barva isn’t just a town. It becomes a home.

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

I lived abroad for a year and encourage others to stay for at least a year or longer! 


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

I was working for Idiomas Mundiales ( J ) and teaching both at the school as well as a medical company called Vention, in which I taught Starter and Elementary level students. I also worked for a company called Instituto Norte Americano, a company comprised of a small team of traveling teachers, all of whom traveled to various businesses teaching Business English.


Tell us about your English teaching job.

I always looked forward to my classes! The students are by far the best part of teaching. Melanie was the most supportive Head Teacher. She was always there to guide us and offer us the support we needed. While we worked out of books which helped to provide the structure, the best part of the classes were pushing the students to converse in a natural and organic fashion, as this is where it helps them in the real world. Seeing the students improve over the year was one of the most rewarding feelings of my life. My classes began as Starter level students, the most basic level of English. We couldn’t have conversations and I had to really get used to using my “Starter Voice.” However, by the end of the year, all of my classes had advanced a level and we were holding conversations colored with humor and love. The more you give, the more you get!


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

I met the two most amazing girls who lived with the same family as I did during my homestay. Georgia did a great job connecting us because they are now my closest friends. We ended up deciding to move in together. We all loved Barva, and fortunately found a beautiful home which we then rented together for the year. It is very easy to find people to live with as it’s inevitable that you make friends during the course and a lot of people decide to stay and teach in the surrounding cities. Luke and Melanie are always willing to help you find a place to live as well. As I have mentioned, you are ALWAYS supported!


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

Inevitably, there will be ups and downs. You’re living in a foreign country. That is only natural. However, there are DEFINITELY more ups than downs. For me, learning the language proved to be a challenge at first. Sure I took Spanish in high school but I was a little rusty. However, my language came back to me and the more you dedicate yourself to interacting with the locals, making Tico friends, and immersing yourself in the culture, the easier the language immersion becomes. I believe the world can learn a lot from the Ticos. In fact, here is a link which explains it perfectly: http://matadornetwork.com/life/10-things-need-learn-costa-ricans/

The public transportation is reliable. Once you figure everything out it’s smooth sailing from there. And if you have questions, you can always ask someone! Yet I encourage asking more than one person, as the Ticos often give you an answer even if they don’t necessarily know it! They just want to be helpful!

If you’re into the party scene, there are plenty of parties and plenty of friends to make while you’re out there. You can play it chill at a local bar and sip on a few beers, or, go all night! You steer the sail! There are plenty of other expats to meet, and of course, great food to enjoy, whether it’s at a soda (a little local restaurant) or during a street fair or cultural event. I had no problems finding travel buddies to catch a bus to closest beach. Renting a car is also a great option and wish I had done this with my friends sooner! If you’re looking for love here, keep your heart open. The Ticos are lovers and respect such in others.


What are your monthly expenses?

Monthly expenses for me were a bit higher because we were living in a house as opposed to an apartment. I wasn’t able to save; I pretty much broke even. But I didn’t go to Costa Rica to make money. Happiness comes first here!

How would you describe your standard of living?

Honestly my standard of living was similar to that in the States. We were very lucky to have amenities and a fully furnished house. So posh! However, this was a choice of ours and we were so drawn to Barva and the community we decided that that was the place we wanted to call home. It wasn’t about the money. It was about feeling a sense of place and belonging. And in terms of these aspects, my standard of living was priceless.


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

I believe someone needs to earn around $700-$800 to live comfortably and this does require you to budget. Shopping at the local street markets on the weekends helps you to save money! Again, for me at least, it was nearly impossible to save but most people don’t do this for the money. They do it for the experiences and life-long relationships you make!


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

My advice to you is….DO IT! Take the leap! If you can save a little money before travelling abroad it definitely helps! Leave the fear. The doubt. Take the leap into the unknown. Everyone I know who has done this leaves with no regrets. Teaching in Costa Rica, in my mind, is the best option. If your heart and mind is open, it isn’t just a foreign country. It becomes a home, and the people you meet become your family. While I no longer live in Costa Rica, it is still very much a part of me, as well as the Pura Vida lifestyle. If I could do it again, I would. You will learn. You will grow. And you will transform into the person you knew you were always meant to become!

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