www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 07/26/2016 in Alumni Q&A

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Judy

Costa Rica Teaching Q&A With Judy


What is your citizenship?

Dual nationality British/U.S.

What city and state are you from?

Lived for 24 years in Irvine, CA.

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

BA (Hons) English, Post Graduate Certificate of Education

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Yes but never lived abroad other than in the U.S.

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

Most European countries, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, Peru, U.S.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?

Have never had the opportunity to study abroad.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

My son's idea – I wanted to travel, learn Spanish and I taught for 8 years in Britain.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Giving up everything to go, leaving my 20 year old son at university in the U.S., what to do afterwards, learning a new language (I had never studied Spanish), where to live, how to get a job, what Costa Rica was like, whether to sell my car, what to take, whether I would earn enough to live on, etc. etc!

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

It was my 23 year old son's idea so he was very supportive. My 20 year old was not so keen (he wanted me to have a plan B, C, D, E and F in case things didn't work out). My friends were very encouraging, telling me I was brave and that they would be living it all  through me.


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

I wanted to have a qualification that was recognized. International TEFL Academy offered this and I thought it would be a good idea to do the course in the country where I hoped to teach after the course.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

November 2015 in Heredia, Costa Rica.

How did you like the course?

It was great meeting like-minded people, mostly American, but also a Scot, a New Zealander and two Italians. I had heard it would be intensive. It was a lot to pack in to 4 weeks but it was possible.

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

The qualification was needed to get the job. The areas we covered in the course have been useful in my work, particularly the grammar.



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

I teach just outside of Heredia. It's cooler in the Central Valley. I did not particularly want to live and work in San Jose. Others choose to live there because there's more going on.

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

7 months. I intend to stay and teach for a year.

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

English2Go, a company that goes out to businesses to teach English.

Do you have a work visa?  If not, please elaborate on working without a work visa. 

No I do not have a visa so have to leave the country every 3 months.

Tell us about your English teaching job.

I teach either private lessons (one advanced student) or group lessons to businessmen/women at a company in San Joaquin del Flores. I work 21 hours per week and I am also team leader for a group of teachers.

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

A friend who did the TEFL course with me found a house for rent via craigslist or a local real estate agent (not sure which). It's a nice house in a good neighborhood. My work is 2 miles away. I am beginning to walk rather than spend time waiting for buses. There are a lot of public buses but they are often crowded.


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

Costa Rica is not all like the travel brochures. Everything you see in the brochures is here but like any country, it's different working here than coming on vacation. I asked a Tico what he thought the stereotypical Tico was like because I found it hard to describe a stereotype. He said 'Tico time' (being late) is common but he put this down to pubic transportation being unpredictable. He also talked about a laid back, easygoing attitude which can be a good or bad thing depending on whether you want to relax or get something done quickly. I think both are true. 

There are plenty of buses and they are generally cheap. Trains are much less frequent. You need to allow time and often an early start to get around. The nightlife depends on where you live and what you're looking for. There is plenty going on in San Jose. Where I live outside of Heredia is much quieter but I have Latin American dance lessons locally and there are plenty of bars and restaurants in Heredia. Movies are inexpensive compared to the U.S. and I enjoy soccer so there's always matches going on with three teams within easy traveling distance. I've had fun in San Jose at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. I meet up with English teachers but have not tried to join any organized ex-pat communities. I think the dating scene depends on how willing you are to meet people online but there are definitely opportunities. 

After finishing the course I spent 3 weeks in Nicaragua traveling which was great. Since then I have been back twice. It's easy to travel if you have time. Buses go all over the country but from where I live, you have to go to San Jose to start your journey to either coast, Nicaragua or Panama. If you want to see more of Central America it's perfect and as it's probably the most expensive Central American country, it's always cheaper to go to another country.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent ($300 each for a nice 2 bedroom house), utilities (water, electricity and internet about $55 a month), buses (up to about $130 per month if you're going home between classes) food/drink/toiletries etc (about $400 a month), going out at weekends about $140 per month. Rice, beans, bananas, pineapples, papayas, mangoes and watermelons are cheap but anything that's imported is more expensive than in the U.S. If you live on rice and beans, yes you can live inexpensively but I think it's impossible to live on $20 a week. If you're paying to get into tourist attractions (national parks etc), the cost of being here shoots up.

How would you describe your standard of living? OK but when I buy things I remind myself of my hourly pay and then I realize that it's definitely not cheap living here.

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

About $1100 per month.


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

Just do it! I really liked the fact that I was able to do the course here. It gave me a ready-made set of friends. For those who don't come here to do the course, it's easy to contact people through the alumni facebook page.

Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Everyone says they love their students and they say it for a reason. If you want to save money, it's not the best country to teach in. If you want to have a wonderful experience and get to know Costa Rica, it's great!

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