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Teaching English in Costa Rica - How I Got to This Reality of Today...
Written by: International TEFL Academy
Last Updated: January 2, 2020
By: Ashley Strong
There are just some things that are unexplainable. Others can be put into words and many things, words just can’t do it justice.
Traveling has taught me a fair share of life lessons. It’s an opportunity to look at life from a new perspective, letting the current environment make its influence.
Since the start of my adventures, I’ve been asked a time or two Maybe a dozen more, What brought you here? What are you doing? My quick answer, I’m living my life. Experiencing. Witnessing.
Giving back to and being a part of a community other than my own. The long answer…. I am 26 years old. From the time I could write, I always wrote I wanted to be a teacher. Life, up until recently, had other plans for me. Upon college graduation, I began working for the number one trusted media brand, PBS in the United States for a little over four years being the Community Engagement Coordinator. This, I left to be where I am now.
I received my TEFL certification online in September 2013 from the incredible International TEFL Academy after volunteer teaching in Tanzania for three months at the start of 2013 and reconnecting to my desire, passion, love for and purpose of teaching.
Just days before leaving the States, I received my yoga certification from Yoga Six in Southern California!
Wow. I thought I was learning how to teach yoga, what I learned, was how to speak my truth, step into my light, dance my dance and sing my song. Photography is my means of community, giving me a voice that at one time was too hard to tap into. I excitedly published two coffee table books from my adventures throughout Tanzania, Africa – just this past year.
Eating with chopsticks is by far one of my favorite activities, no matter the food. I am in love with one of the most sincere South Africans a lady would be blessed to meet. Connection is why I exist. My love for my friends and family overwhelms my own heart at times. What is all this you ask? Why am I telling you this, Because writing this, sharing this, forces me to ask the question… Is this all what I am or Who I am? Have you asked yourself that question?
What is your answer?
My answer, It is still unfolding. Those listed above are both what I am and who I am. I am happy, I am proud. I am living a life I dreamt of. This is my reality. My reality, please let me share.
In January 2013, I paid to volunteer to teach English at a secondary school on Mafia Island, Tanzania. I had 132 students ranging from 12 to 18 years old. Where I rotated classrooms with two other teachers. I flat out fell in love. Fell in love with the students. With teaching. With being a part of a community so completely different than that of what I’ve known.
Immediately, upon returning to the States, I registered for my TEFL certification with the International TEFL Academy. Without a question, after a few email correspondence with the incredibly helpful staff, there I was. Life happened, time went by. And before I knew it, my online course was starting. And even more so, by this time, I knew I wanted to teach in Africa or venture to Central or South America. Hours and hours of research later, I was set on Costa Rica.
I spent the last four or five months in the States, just preparing. Preparing for life abroad. Connecting with people online. Joining facebook forums, Asking anyone and everyone if they knew people in Costa Rica and if they would connect me. Before I knew it, the connections kept happening, Even to the point of being connected to the ex-presidents family.
I asked everyone I knew, every question I had. I had phone calls with the International TEFL Academy where we revised my resume, cover letter and I asked the hundreds of questions at hand. All were answered with such ease and so much detail.
It was recommended to start emailing potential employers a month prior to arriving letting them know when I would be in the country and what I was interested in doing. That just seemed too close. I sent emails with a cover letter, resume, references and two letters of recommendations. Sent to those whom I was most interested in. I let them all know I was immediately interested in a skype interview and that I would be in the country at the beginning of January for an in person interview. I received responses right away. Some not hiring. Others wanted me to have a teaching/ education degree. Which didn’t exist. No answers. And some super interested.
I had preferences, Many things that didn’t need to be a reality. And others, that had to be a reality. I wanted to live with a local family. I wanted to be walking or public transportation distance from my house. I wanted to learn Spanish. All else, would unfold.
I left the States a month and a half earlier before going to Costa Rica. I spent that month falling in deeper love with my incredible boyfriend in South Africa. That is another story, One far too long for this.
Within the first week of being in South Africa, I received several emails for skype interviews. One I was most interested in. We scheduled a skype interview. Scheduled a second one. By the end of the second interview, I was offered a teaching job in the city. Within 24 hours I signed a year contract. Within the next 24 hours I was sent 3 options for housing, living with a local family. Within the next 48 hours, I secured my new home. Living with an incredible divine local couple, their two dogs and 3 other roommates.
And that was that. Here I am. Close to 3 weeks being in San Jose, Costa Rica. Two weeks of training, lots of training, and an insane amount of lesson plans. And this is my first week teaching all week.
I teach around 8 classes a week at close to 30 hours. I walk to the office. And ride the bus to my clients. Most of my students are adults, Working for corporations whom are paying for their English training. With classes ranging from one to eight students. On Saturdays I teach high school students for 4 hours straight. Of which have all received special scholarships to be in this class.
On the weekends I spend my time exploring the city, going to the local organic farmers market, venturing to Jaco. Trying to learn and speak in Spanish. Taking as many photos as possible. And all around loving life.
Of this reality, what would I recap and recommend? Do your research. Make connections. A lot of connections. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to state what you want. Communicate. Let your passion for teaching and life shine through.
I don’t believe in contacting schools too soon, get your name in their mind. Ask for help. Utilize your resources. Come with money Be open. Smile. Be very open. Breathe! Live. Love. Experience. Reflect. And be grateful!
Please know I am here for any and all questions.
I am happy to share.
You can also check out my blog, Mi Vida en Costa Rica http://www.ashleystrongphotography.com/wings-of-a-flower.html for more information, photos and someone living and loving every moment of life.
Want to read more about Ashley Strong:
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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