www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 06/05/2018

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Joseph Hanks

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Joseph Hanks


What is your citizenship? I am an American Citizen.


What city and state are you from? I claim Dallas, Texas; but I grew up in McAllen. Go Mustangs! 


How old are you? I am 28 going on 29 in July.


What is your education level and background? I majored in Philosphy and minored in Spanish. I have a long history of traveling at any chance I had.


Have you traveled abroad in the past? Yes, I have.  I have been to Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Panama, and of course, Costa Rica.


What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad? I needed to do something new that aligned with my love for travel and experience. It was about time my life took some actual direction towards what I knew I wanted to do – teach. Why not travel and live a different culture in real time?


What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad? I was concerned whether or not I would be able to afford my stay here. I wasn’t making a ton of money before I left abroad, and wasn’t sure how much I could drag my savings out for.


What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? They saw it as a natural step towards my ever continuing developing self. My mom thought I was crazy… she still does.


Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy? When I mentioned to a friend that I was ready for a life change and knew I wanted it to include teaching, he referred me to one of his friends that had been teaching in Spain. Of all the websites researched, TEFL Academy was the only one that responded to me in a non-robotic fashion. Real people from day one.


Which TEFL certification course did you take? I took the certification course in Barva, Heredia, Costa Rica in July 2016.  


How did you like the course? I loved it! The greatest group of classmates that I immediately gelled with; and that’s not even including the staff at hand. The greatest group of teachers and mentors I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. Shout outs to them all. You guys rock!


How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position? I was well aware of potential problems I might be running into as my career developed. Almost two years into teaching ESL and I can still hear my instructors’ advice playing through my head as constant reminders. Not to mention the availability and openness that the school in Barva offers to its graduates.



Which city did you decide to teach English in and why? I chose Heredia, or better yet, Heredia chose me. I was fortunate enough to land in the school of my dreams. Everybody looks out for each other out here. It’s a great community.


How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay? In July I will have been here for two years… no plans to stay, no plans to leave. As long as I feel progress, I know I’m in the right place.


What school, company, or program are you working for? I am working for Centro de Idiomas Intercultura.


Do you have a work visa?   I do not have a work visa yet, but am in the process of acquiring one. Working without a work visa just means I have to do a border run every three months and enjoy a neighboring paradise for three days such as Bocas del Toro in Panama.


Tell us about your English teaching job. I show up to my class ten to fifteen minutes before class starts (granted, I’ve already prepped for the lesson well ahead of time) and start getting a feel of the classroom as the students make their way into class. For most of my classes, I’ve been their teacher for almost a year. I remember my training and apply any new tweaks or improvements that I noted the class prior. I am constantly improving and welcoming feedback. I’m on stage for those three hours. We’re all having fun and learning how to be better people, not just speak another language.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? I started asking around where I worked and eventually I got a lead towards a group living situation. I wasn’t keen on it at first; meeting new people is fine with me, but living with new people is another matter. The house I’m living in has several rooms, each with their own dedicated bathroom. I have seven other roommates who each have their own private living space. We share some common areas, such as kitchens and the like. The roommates I have are some of the most astounding people I have ever met. It’s hard not to be inspired on a daily basis living with people from all around the world.


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country: The cultural aspects of Costa Rica can be summed up in one phrase: “Pura Vida.” Those words are what I live my life on a day-to-day basis. I can’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been happier. I recommend learning and adopting that phrase. The public transportation can take you from anywhere to anywhere. Once you start learning patterns and getting some inside information, there’s pretty much nowhere that’s out of reach; and cheap too! The nightlife is what you make of it. There is something for everyone here. If you’re a crazy tiger’s blood party animal, this place has got you covered. If you’re a more laid back BBQ and beers type, like myself, trust me, this place has got you covered. And everything in between. Social activities are in abundance out here. So many people are involved with so many different things. There are interest and groups all over the place. It’s not overwhelming, though. I still manage my private time to recharge my batteries. 

The food has become a staple in everything I make for myself. "Gallo pinto" is a gift from the heavens, and patacones… wow. Fry up some green plantains and change your life for the better. The expat community is great. They see a little of themselves in every newcomer that arrives, as do the new to them. Two worlds meeting and sharing each other’s life experiences. And the travel opportunities are amazing. If you are into huge jungle volcanoes, take a short bus ride and you’re there. If you’re into beach paradises, hop in a bus and you’re there. There are no excuses to not travel around here. Don’t forget we didn’t come all this way only to work! And as far as the dating scene… some of the most beautifully-souled people live in this country, not to mention the most beautiful people period. There’s somebody for everybody out here.

What are your monthly expenses? Varies. Rent: ~$240. Food: ~$100. Adventures: whatever else is left over from my salary.

How would you describe your standard of living? My standard of living is great. I’ve given up some luxuries that weren’t my lifelines. I focus on me as a person. That includes time for my hobbies, interest, physical and mental wellbeing. Life is lived. I’m alive out here, not just existing.


In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably? Define comfortably, is what I would say. But from other people and their experience, If you made anywhere from $800-$1000, you’d be living large. I was making it by for much less than that and using all my left over money to have adventures as often as I could.


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad?  I’d say to remember that you’re not going out into the world only to work yourself to the bone and stress out over the little things. You’re choosing teaching abroad for the new opportunities it can offer you to become the best version of yourself. You’re not doing this to make it big and earn loads of money… I will say I know some teachers who branched out and created their own operations and are doing quite well for themselves. Not my cup of tea, but it’s there for the taking.


Would you recommend teaching in your country? I’d definitely recommend teaching in this country only if you are willing to let go of any entitlements you think you have or deserve. We are all just people out here trying to enjoy our lives. If you want the opportunity to live your life one day at a time, one adventure at a time, then this is the place for you. It is what you make of it. And there’s a lot to be made.

Get in touch with us today to save your seat in one of our 4-week TEFL courses in Costa Rica!

Download Free Brochure

Everything you need to know about getting TEFL certified

Request Brochure Now