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Teaching English in Brasilito, Costa Rica - Alumni Q&A with Michael Fusi
Written by: Michael Fusi
Last Updated: August 28, 2020
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Rockville, MD, USA
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I wanted to travel more and this seemed like a great way to see the world from a local perspective.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Safety, health (zika virus), traveling with pets (we brought our pet dog and cat with us), cost.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends were all very supportive and excited for me. My parents thought it was an awful idea. I gave up a high paying career in financial services for something with so much uncertainty - they said.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I knew that a TEFL certification is what a lot of employers are looking for in a teacher. My girlfriend Courtney discovered ITA and the success of its graduates led us to choose the program.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Certification.
How did you like the course?
I thought the course was great. The instructor did a great job providing feedback on all assignments and communicating well. The course is well designed and gave me a good idea of what it is like to be a teacher abroad. I especially liked the YouTube videos from Wayne and the rest of the teachers - they were very helpful and I find myself coming back to those even now! The practicum was invaluable experience. I was not a teacher before getting TEFL certified, so this was really my first time in front of a classroom. I taught a group of ESL learners at a local church and it was a great atmosphere and experience.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The biggest thing was understanding how to create a detailed lesson plan. My lesson plan is the framework for everyone of my classes. From the course I learned what stages to include and how to structure an effective lesson.
How long have you been in Costa Rica and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living in Brasilito, Costa Rica for the last three months and I hope to be here for at least one year or more.
Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
I wanted to be close to the beach!
What school, company, or program are you working for?
During which months does your school typically hire?
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I just came on my passport, so I have to leave the country every 90 days.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Native English Speaker.
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
My partner Courtney and I both work for a small nonprofit named Abriendo Mentes. Our organization's mission is education and community development. We are volunteers so we do not get paid. We teach classes classes to adults 3 nights per week. I teach the beginner level students and Courtney teaches the intermediate level. We only teach about 5 hours per week, but are also very involved in our nonprofit with different community events. We live in the Guanacaste province and teach in two small communities - Brasilito (where we live) and Potrero. For income I teach online for VIPKid in the mornings. I have not been able to save off of this salary, but am close to breaking even each month.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
It took some time to get used to the heat here. This is the hottest part of Costa Rica and it is in the 90s fahrenheit every single day. We came in the middle of the dry season when it is truly a desert- like environment. Our house has AC only in the bedrooms so we are able to sleep comfortably. We will often go work during the day at the one coffee shop in town, which is also the only business in town that has air conditioning.
Public transportation where we live is not very good. There is a limited bus service that runs about once per hour. We rely on the bus and taxis. We have found a reliable taxi driver who is now our friend. We can call him at any time of the day and he will come give us a ride.
It is common here for people to offer shared rides in their private vehicles, which are called "collectivos". We were a bit apprehensive to ride these at first, but now have found them to be a safe and cheap way of getting around. We hope to buy a car soon as well.
There is not much nightlife to speak of where we live. It gets dark early here, around 6pm, and the whole town seems to shut down after that. There is a much more touristy town named Tamarindo 20 minutes south of here that has much more nightlife.
We go to yoga class almost every weekend at a hotel where a lot of American and Canadian tourists stay. They even give members of our organization discounted rates!
On the weekend we like to explore different beaches in the area like Tamarindo, Flamingo and Las Catalinas. For social life the transition was easier for Courtney and I because we came here together as a couple. We often get together with our coworkers on the weekend to hang out. Our organization does a fundraiser at a local restaurant every Friday night and will sometimes do beach barbecues on the weekend.
There is a big expat presence in this part of the country. We are often meeting people from the US and Canada who live here either part time or year round. Most of the expat community here tends to be older, retired couples.
We have rented a car twice to travel over long weekends. We went to Manuel Antonio park which is towards the southern part of Costa Rica and it is one of the beautiful places I've ever seen. Last weekend we went to Monteverde which is in the mountainous region of Costa Rica. Here it is very green and the weather is much cooler.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
Our organization rents a house for its volunteers so we were able to move in there upon arriving in Costa Rica. This made the transition much easier knowing we had a place for us and our pets to live! Our house is a typical Tico style home. We live in a small town and many of our students even live on our same street! We really get to feel like we are part of the community. When we arrived we had one roommate but she has since moved out. Now it's just my girlfriend and I, our two pets we brought from the US, and 3 street cats who live on our property that we now take care of. :)
What are your monthly expenses?
How would you describe your standard of living?
Our standard of living is pretty good. It's much different than an American standard of living, but our house is one of the nicest in our neighborhood. Some things that I found to be very different from the USA - no whole house air conditioning, no hot water, occasional power/water outages, can't flush TP, poor tap water quality. It took a bit to adjust to these things but it came with time.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would recommend teaching in Costa Rica, but not if you are trying to save money. I volunteer now, but have received offers from local language schools, and the going rate for teachers seems to be about $10/hour. It is important to come with a cushion of savings to get started. I also think it's more realistic to live with roommates. If I wasn't splitting costs with my girlfriend it would be hard to make ends meet financially.
Costa Rica is such a beautiful country and if you like the beach and nature I think you will be happy here. One of my goals is to learn Spanish and this is a great place to do it. Costa Rica is very diverse. There is the Central Valley where all the big cities are, then the rest of the country is much more rural. I would suggest exploring Costa Rica first and determining which area you like most, then looking for a job in that area. I've been told that it rains hard every day during the rainy season. This is another thing to consider. I haven't lived through the rainy season yet, but am excited to see what it is like.
Mike moved to Costa Rica in January 2019 along with his girlfriend, Courtney and pet dog, and cat. They both quit their corporate jobs in Washington DC to live internationally and experience a different way of life. Mike now teaches English exclusively online and loves the flexibility that it gives him. In my free time, Mike likes to run, travel and make videos. Check out his YouTube channel FitzRica if you would like to discover more about what life is like in Costa Rica!
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