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LGBTQ&A: Teaching English in Heredia, Costa Rica with Andrew Meigs
Written by: International TEFL Academy
Last Updated: March 26, 2020
What is your citizenship?
Where are you from?
Houston, Texas, USA
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
What sparked your interest in teaching English abroad?
Adventure, self-growth, and wanting to learn Spanish.
What city and country did you decide to teach English in?
I am currently teaching English in Belen, Heredia, Costa Rica.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?Everyone I talked to said they wished they did the same thing at my age.
What were some of your concerns about teaching abroad?
What resources did you find helpful when deciding where to go?
Honestly, Google Maps street view (shout out) and my ITA Advisor helped me a lot (2nd shout out). I literally spent four months throwing all of my worries and questions onto these people and they responded with love every time.
Please give your thoughts on dating abroad.
Ooooooo oooo ooo. It depends on what you're looking for. So I'll talk about my side; I look for dating more on the relationship aspect.
In general, relationships require a LOT of communication. When you're in an international relationship, you need to put in even more. There will be times where you run up into some language barriers or cultural differences that you have to try to address, empathize, and talk about with your partner.
Also be aware of any pressure you may be unconsciously putting on your partner if you know you are going to be returning to your home country. Basically... COMMUNICATE :)
Was there anything about being a member of the LGBTQ+ community abroad that was unexpected?
I did not realize how accepted the LGBTQ+ community would be in many parts of Costa Rica. I mean, I was expecting it to be a hidden topic with underground gay bars, and that's not the case haha. Obviously the smaller towns stigmatize different sexuality but the larger cities accept it with more ease. For example, I could lie down in a large public park with my boyfriend.
Did being a member of the LGBTQ+ community have an impact on where you decided to teach English?
I'm not gonna teach in most of the Middle East, I'll tell you that. :)
Did you come out while living abroad? If so, how did your host country and experience influence that decision?
I did, actually! In the States, I felt so much pressure on myself to be a certain person, have a certain job, and live a certain life to a certain standard. Actively going against the grain and choosing to live abroad basically helped detach me from all of that. It helped me remove societal and personal pressures which aided in guiding me even deeper on the journey of "who am I?"
Tell us about finding your community abroad.
I was incredibly lucky to have met some amazing friends I cherish during my TEFL course. We traveled together for a few weeks after the course and ended up moving into a house together and, ironically, all teaching with the same company. Outside of this friend group, I put myself out there and met a close friend on one of the Couch-surfing Meetups that I go on adventures with. I also met my tico boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend).
What were some of your most memorable experiences teaching English abroad
My students, the friends, the beautiful places, the personal growth, the adventure. Everything is so memorable!
My online Chinese students drew pictures of us to show me, I had my Costa Rican students tell me how much they missed me when I had to leave for a few days, I met a great Costa Rican friend I go to Costa Rican events with, I watched the season finale of GoT with my friends (still a little triggered), I had family dinners with my friends and we threw a house party, I traveled all around the country, Panama, and Mexico, and I asked a Costa Rican to be my boyfriend on a beautiful beach <3
Did you have any difficult conversations abroad?
YES. They're a bit personal... Though the themes are... communication works both ways... and empathy and self- awareness are very important :]
Did you find that locals had any stereotypes? Or did you have any stereotypes about the locals?
A BIG Costa Rican stereotype is "Tico Time" (Tico is the other word for a Costa Rican). This means that you live that "Pura Vida" life and things run a bit late. So, throw your Type-A personality out the window along with your planned time-tables and 50 alarms because they will all fail you!!
Okay, that's a little dramatic. Ticos ARE on time for... some things...
Also, 99.81% of people outside of the U.S. dislike Trump, and that's the first thing some people will tell you when you say you're from the U.S.. The stereotype is that some people will automatically assume being from the U.S. means YOU are a Trump supporter too.
Basically, I am very proud to be from the U.S. for many reasons, but being from the U.S. can also carry negative assumptions (i.e. loud, obnoxious, demanding, selfish, rude, fat, etc.). I met many people from around the world and who were all shocked that I was from the U.S. because of how thin I was and how kind I acted. I'm all like "WHICH U.S. CITIZEN HURT YOU?! YOU DON'T DESERVE THAT!"
Were there any cultural boundaries you found to be different than your home country? If so, please explain.
In regards to friendships, Costa Ricans are very warm and welcoming! I think, in contrast, the people from the U.S. have a tighter boundary on who they let into their life. Even when talking to strangers, most are willing to invest time getting to know you and help you practice your Spanish. In comparison, if you don't speak English well in Texas, I think you would find many people who would immediately lose patience. In regards to dating... maybe "meeting the family". I think that's a bigger step in Latin American cultures than in the US.
What are your thoughts on safety in your host country abroad, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
I feel safe as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Costa Rica, but I mostly feel safe in bigger cities and beaches. I think Costa Rica is a very safe country in general! I do say that I would feel uncomfortable if I were more flamboyant and living in a smaller town.
Have you participated in any Pride celebrations abroad?
June 23rd is the San Jose, Costa Rica Pride Parade :D It will be my first one to attend!
Do you have any advice for people planning to move abroad to teach English?
So, I am an LGBTQ+ practicing Catholic.
That can be confusing in many aspects to either the "LGBTQ+ in-group" or the "Catholic in-group". Well, in my experience, these two in-groups seem to be more separated in Costa Rica compared to some of the amazing priests I found in Texas. Maybe it's a cultural difference, maybe I haven't explored long enough, maybe my Spanish isn't good enough, and maybe I'm just not looking in the right places! There's still quite a lot of variables that invalidate me from comparing the two areas haha.
But for anyone looking, let me, hopefully, save you some time! My favorite churches to go to are La Soledad in San Jose and St. Mary's International Chapel in Belen, Heredia. I have found love from the presence of these priests and their community.
Andrew graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He is a social introvert, meaning he loves to talk to people. He values self-awareness, watching Netflix by himself, and pizza. The Windows 10 desktop/lock screen photo is what fueled his desire to save up money and move to Costa Rica to teach English!
Want to watch more videos and read more articles from LGBTQ+ alumni that are teaching English abroad? Check out our LGBTQ+ Resource Hub!
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy is a world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. ITA offers accredited TEFL certification classes online & in 25 locations worldwide and has received multiple awards & widespread recognition as one of the best TEFL schools in the world. ITA provides all students and graduates with lifetime job search guidance. ITA has certified more than 25,000 English teachers and our graduates are currently teaching in 80 countries worldwide.
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