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Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica English Teaching Q&A with Natalie Price
Written by: Natalie Price
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Charlotte, North Carolina
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Chile, France, England, Australia, New Zealand
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I studied English and Spanish in college and have always loved language. After working in sales & marketing for a few years after college, I was ready for a more exciting and fulfilling experience. I have always had a passion for travel and kids - I decided to put these, along with my education, together and pursue my dream of teaching abroad.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Making enough money to support myself, finding a job, getting around & settled into a new country. Missing my family, friends and my dog!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My parents were a little confused as to why I would want to leave for so long, but as they learned more about the process and how much I really wanted to do it, they became very supportive and excited for my experience. My friends had my back from day 1!
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I felt it was the best way to be prepared for a teaching position and to acquire a good job abroad - two of my main concerns about the whole process. I chose International TEFL Academy after much research because the team there was helpful, accessible and professional. My adviser, while not being too pushy, encouraged me and stayed on top of my decision to commit. (It's easy to research for a long time, and never actually go all the way through with it.) ITA offered a program that provided excellent resources, convenient schedules and an in-class practicum that I feel is vital to preparation as a teacher.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
How did you like the course?
I liked TEFL the course. I worked full time while completing the course online. I spent nights and weekends reading and working on assignments, but in no way did I feel overwhelmed. My instructor was very accessible and responded promptly to any questions I had. The material was interesting - I especially enjoyed the theoretical readings about teaching English as a foreign language. They reassured my desire to do this type of work. The grammar review was extremely helpful, and the lesson planning unit is invaluable to my current work as a teacher. The practicum requirement (student teaching/observation) was also a great way to ensure I had some time in front of a class before arriving in Costa Rica.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training prepared me, most importantly, to write clear and effective lesson plans. It also prepared me mentally and emotionally for the position I am in with classroom management skills. The resources also assure me that there are many job options available for me around the world, which is always nice to know.
TEACHING ABROAD IN COSTA RICA
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Costa Rica because it is a beautiful country known for its stability and friendly people. I also knew I could get lots of friends and family to visit! I was offered a job in Ciudad Quesada, so I moved here as opposed to San Jose.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in the country for a month and plan to stay at least another 6, possibly one year.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
I applied to many schools online, but actually networked with a fellow teacher online and took over his position when he left.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I work for Green Forest School - it is a private school.
How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
I do not have a work visa and my school does not sponsor teachers to receive them. Costa Rica allows visitors with valid passports a 90 day travel visa. "Perpetual tourists" are very common here, and have been acknowledged by the government, as long as they follow the rules in renewing their visas. Although there are many opinions on this topic, I haven't had any issues. I plan to travel outside the country once my visa is up, and renew it upon reentry.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I work 40+ hours a week. School is from 7am to 3pm daily, and I work on grading and lesson planning every day (I am bad at getting ahead, but I feel I will get better at this with time!)
I prefer not to discuss pay as the school has requested, but I live comfortably here - plenty for rent, food & weekend travel. It is honestly not much less than what I made at home in the States, but with a lower cost of living. I spend most money on groceries - they are not very cheap. I try to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy from local markets to save money, but a trip to the supermarket is pretty much necessary weekly. I have not "saved" or put away any money while here. I also came with some modest savings to get me started.
I teach language arts, science and social studies to high school students. It is a bilingual school, so the disciplines outside of English are very basic and are just to get the students familiar with other subjects in English. It is actually a refreshing break from the grammar lessons and literature. We have multiple school holidays and 1 day of paid vacation a month.
Most students here speak almost perfect English. The administration does not. It is difficult to communicate with the directors, but I speak some Spanish which is very helpful. The students are very helpful as well. There was not much direction when my position began and I relied heavily on the teacher whose position I took and on the students.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
The school has an apartment for their foreign teachers. I have 2 roommates in a 2 bedroom apartment. One is my boyfriend who joined me after another teaching position opened up, and we share a room. It is tight living quarters for 3 people, but it is very cheap and a very nice apartment. It is also located on the school's campus which is extremely convenient. Initially we thought we may search for another place to live, but we opted to stay here for safety and convenience.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Buses here go almost anywhere for very cheap, but it does take a while. We often use taxis which are easy to find and cheap for short distances. There are many shuttle services for long trips which are more expensive, but faster and more convenient especially when time is an issue or you only have a weekend to get somewhere and back. Renting a car here is also an option, but requires a credit card for a security deposit and you better know how to drive manual! Costa Rica is a small country, but it could take all day to go just a few hundred kilometers because of the mediocre transportation infrastructure. It is definitely improving, though.
We have experienced some nightlife in the larger cities & tourist destinations of Costa Rica, but not much here in San Carlos. To be honest, I haven't missed it much. Not to say we don't enjoy cold beers and fruity drinks often! I am just not much for clubs. There is a great latin dance culture here I have not yet tapped into, but will try to soon!
I spend a lot of time with my fellow teachers - both Tico and Gringo! We travel together on the weekends. The beauty of traveling in Costa Rica is you can do it as luxuriously or frugally as you wish and the options are endless from eco-lodges & tours to natural spas to raging beach parties.
The expat community here is huge. There are English speaking TV channels and radio stations. There are few expats in Ciudad Quesada, or English speakers for that matter, but once we leave here we run into to all sorts of people from the States, Australia, Europe, etc.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
My rent is $200/mo - this is very cheap because the school owns the apartment, but most other apartments we have looked at have been about $300/month.
I spend about $100/week on groceries/food.
I spend probably $100/week on social activities which includes lodging & travel to and from weekend destinations.
I brought a phone here from the States, but have not yet activated it. I use it as a WiFi device mainly. I use Google Hangout to call home and WhatsApp to communicate with friends both here in Costa Rica and at home. Facebook keeps everyone updated on what I am doing! I will probably get a SIM card for the phone soon.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I live comfortably here, without a doubt.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Depends on your definition of comfortably, but anywhere from $600-$1,000 a month.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN COSTA RICA
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
DO IT. DO IT NOW, AND DON'T THINK TWICE!
Because once you get there, a few weeks in, you will wonder why you waited so long TO do it. It is the most amazing experience to overcome those fears and anxieties and I am still doing it every day here.
What if I don't make the bus?
Or what if I can't communicate with the director about this issue or what if no one understands that lesson?
No matter this issue, it always works itself out in some way. It may not be the way you had initially thought it would, but it always does, and I can't help but smile when the realization comes. You are far more capable than you think you are. It is a constant challenge to plan lessons, plan weekend trips, and to even plan my next statement in Spanish to a new friend, but the satisfaction that comes from those moments of breakthrough with students and new friends and new places are so beautiful and so fulfilling.
I would most definitely recommend Costa Rica because it is a mild transition into a new culture. You can immerse yourself completely, and then you can take a break at a bar in a beautiful beach town and speak English with a Tico or a fellow traveler and have a cheeseburger if you need to. It is a slow paced and friendly place to get your feet wet with international work & travel.
Natalie studied English and Spanish in college and has always loved languages. After working in sales & marketing for a few years after college, she was ready for a more exciting and fulfilling experience. So, she decided to combine her passion for travel and working with children and pursue her dreams of teaching abroad.
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