By: Chrystal Smith
For one year (September 2015 to September 2016), I lived and taught English in Heredia, Costa Rica. This cultural immersion was an exciting year of teaching, learning, self-discovery, and transition to the person I am today. During my time abroad, I learned to be flexible with day to day life, welcome the unexpected and gained an understanding that we have great things in store for us when we remain open. In my willingness to seek a life outside of my comfort zone, I became more in tune to an authentic and consciously aware version of myself. I expanded my lens of the world and looking beyond a life of privilege gave me much more respect and appreciation for perspectives other than my own.
After a year of adventure, I returned to the U.S. not only as a refined version of myself, but also to embrace a new journey: Motherhood. I am now a mother of a 19-month-old media (half) Tica daughter, Isabella. She is my daily reminder of the beautiful transformation that took place by the simple act of letting go and welcoming the unknown. As she is growing and learning to talk, we spend a lot of time practicing Spanish together. It is amazing how quickly a developing brain can pick up two languages. And although I have been back in the U.S. for two years now, and my daughter helps me keep the pura vida alive within my heart and soul.
Aside from motherhood, after returning home I had to ask myself some big questions: What next? Which direction will I take? With only an Associates degree under my belt, the competitive job market seemed very intimidating. The cost of living in my hometown had made dramatic increase in the year that I was away. So, instead of working a dead end $11 an hour job that is hardly a living wage for a single mom, I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. I am now a full-time student in my Senior year at Evergreen State College. I am studying Spanish and Education. After I graduate with a BA June 2019, I plan to continue on to the MIT program to become a Spanish teacher.
For the past year, I have also spent several hours a week teaching beginner Spanish to Elementary students at a non-profit after school program. I get to sing songs, play games and engage the students in a variety of activities. I want them to see that learning another language is fun and exciting. I love to see children learn, grow, and gain an appreciation for culture and language aside from their own. Any chance I get, I try to incorporate what I learned about Costa Rica into the classroom curriculum. My experiences abroad have been such an inspiration to my students.
I also recently became a tutor for Cambly where I tutor international ESL students from all around the world. Tutoring has been a lot of fun and also a great way to sharpen my skills as an ESL teacher. I don’t have a set schedule, which is perfect for me given me. I just log on whenever I want for as long as I want to make some extra money. My TEFL course and the time I spent teaching abroad prepared me a lot for both teaching Spanish and tutoring ESL students. It has been a challenge balancing motherhood, school and work but also very rewarding.
Teaching English abroad opened many doors for me. It gave me life experience that made me a better person but also became a catalyst for me to begin a new life path here in the states. Considering that I spent 13 years as a hairdresser before moving abroad to teach English in 2015, my life has significantly changed in so many ways. Now, my life is much more meaningful and adventure and travel will always be a part of who I am. Continuing on and completing my education makes me very happy and gives me the reassurance that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. I feel more than ever that I am fulfilling my soul purpose, as a mother and a teacher.
My name is Chrystal, I am 35 years old from Olympia, Washington. I spent 13 years as a hairdresser and after completing two years of community college, I moved to Heredia, Costa Rica to teaching English. After living abroad for a year, I came home to embrace a new journey.
Read more about Chrystal's adventures: Teach English in Heredia, Costa Rica: Alumni Q&A with Chrystal Smith