www.costaricatesol.com - ITA Costa Rica
Posted 03/22/2017

Q&A with Catherine

Q&A with Catherine


What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Cinnaminson, NJ

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor’s Degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Yes, study abroad/vacations.

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

Spain, Italy, Portugal and The Netherlands.

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

Seville, Spain

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I really enjoyed living abroad and had met some ESL teachers while there who seemed to be enjoying the experience. In my last semester of college I decided I wanted to go abroad and better my language skills while gaining valuable teaching experience before beginning my teaching career in the US.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

My biggest concern was money. I wanted to make sure I was moving to a country that I could find a job quickly and make enough to cover monthly costs.

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

They were definitely surprised but extremely supportive throughout the entire process. I have an amazing support system.


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

I read online that most ESL jobs require you to be TEFL certified. After doing some research, ITA seemed to be the most well known.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

TESOL Costa Rica in Heredia, Costa Rica, November 2016

How did you like the course?

I loved the course. I went to college to be a Spanish teacher in the US, so I already had a background on skills to teach a foreign language and wasn’t sure how much the course would expand on what I already knew. I was pleasantly surprised to learn so incredibly much in the short 4-week span through daily classes and my practicum teaching experiences. The course was definitely challenging, but extremely rewarding. The instructors, Melanie and Luke, were so helpful every step of the way. I considered doing the course online, but I am so happy I took it in Costa Rica instead. The job search was a lot easier with the resources provided by my instructors.

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

I am now able to understand how an ESL lesson should flow, whether it is grammar and vocabulary or skills lessons. I now know the importance of error correction and how to do it properly. You also leave the course with a resource folder full of activities to help with lesson planning in the future.



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

I decided to teach English in Heredia. I knew I wanted to be in a city and Heredia is a much smaller and safer alternative to San José.

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

I have been in the country for 4 months and I plan to stay for 2 more.

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

I work for two companies, Idiomas Mundiales and Pro-Language Corporate Language Solutions.

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

I do not have a work visa, so I have to leave the country every 90 days for 72 hours. Most teachers go to Nicaragua or Panama. Schools here are fully aware of this and understanding when it comes time to make your border run.

Tell us about your English teaching job.

At Idiomas Mundiales I teach English to children, teens and adults. We are provided with a textbook and activity book to use in the classes. I enjoy the “small school” environment a lot. At Pro-Language all of the classes are off-site. I teach at a well-known Costa Rican cookie company and an American biotech company. I use a Business English textbook in my classes. My students are very motivated because their companies normally pay all/half of the class fee if they pass each month.

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

I found somewhere to live through talking to other teachers during my TEFL course. I live downtown in Heredia and I love it. The house is super close to everything from super markets to bus stops. The only downside is that it can be noisy because of traffic. It’s basically 2 full houses that were combined together with a shared living room space. There are 4 of us on one side and 3 on the other.


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

Cultural Aspects- In Costa Rica pedestrians do not have the right of way so you need to be careful when crossing streets. “Pura Vida” is a way of life here, which often means some students are on ‘tico time’ and come late to class. This also happens in social settings. It is common for men to yell/whistle/stare/beep their car horn at women they find attractive. Ticos love to be helpful, so when you ask them for directions they would rather take a guess and give you incorrect directions instead of saying they don’t know. I have found it’s sometimes helpful to ask 2 different people…just to be safe.

Public Transportation- I take the bus to all of my classes. Once you figure out the stops it is very easy and inexpensive. Bus schedules for city buses may exist here, but rarely are followed. Give yourself enough time to get where you are going and you will be fine.

Nightlife- There are a lot of bars in the Heredia area. If you are looking for more of a club scene, San José is easy to get to. Uber is a great/safe way to get around when you are drinking if the bar/club you want to go to is not in walking distance.

Food- The biggest misconception about Costa Rica is that it is cheap. Food can often be expensive, so I advise going to markets or ferias to buy produce and meat. You will find cheap prices there. There are also many restaurants in the area to choose from.

Expat Community- I have found there to be a large expat community here, specifically of teachers. We all live and teach in the same area, which gives you a great support system.

Dating Scene- Similar to the States, you can meet people at bars or any kind of social events. Apps are also used here as a way of making friends or dating.

Travel Opportunities- There are so many opportunities to travel in this country. Whether you want to go to the beach, volcano, rain forest, etc. it is all doable. I suggest talking to other expats and ticos to find the best ways to get around. The buses are usually cheap and I have found the most success staying at hostels that have been recommended by someone instead of just looking it up online.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent/Utilities- $250/month



It is important to budget your monthly expenses each month once you have a job. It is especially important to do so if you want to have money leftover for beach trips, bars, restaurants, etc. Even playing in a weekly soccer game with friends can cost $2-4 each (field rental), so you have to take everything into consideration.

How would you describe your standard of living?

I live comfortably, but I cut it very close sometimes. I make enough to live and support myself in this beautiful country, but I don’t save a dime. Because this was a 6-month plan for me, I am okay with that. I work between 15-18 hours a week, which is considered part-time. If I were planning to stay for longer I definitely would work more hours each week so that I had some cushion in my bank account.

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

Everyone’s “comfortable” is different. But I would say $600-$1,000/month, depending on how much your rent is. I suggest saving at least $2,000 ahead of time. You need to be able to support yourself during the course (if you take it here) and also consider the fact that you might not find a job right away.


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

Go for it!!! Teaching abroad is an amazing opportunity and I am so happy I did it. I have gained experience and have met so many wonderful people. This experience will have a lasting impact on me.

Would you recommend teaching in your country?

I would definitely recommend teaching in Costa Rica. There are so many different teaching opportunities and they are all always in need of teachers. Do your research, make a plan, and take a leap. You won’t regret it.

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