Teaching Abroad in Costa Rica Q+A

Costa Rica TEFL graduate, Gabe Smith, chats with us about teaching English in Costa Rica, how getting TEFL certified prepared him for teaching abroad, and offers some teacher tips for living in the land of Pura Vida!

Mathematics Class

Since graduating from Costa Rica TEFL in January 2019, Gabe has been teaching abroad in Costa Rica.

“The job placement assistance I received at Costa Rica TEFL allowed me to begin my journey teaching abroad in Costa Rica. My school, Berkeley Academy, is located in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. It is a private, multicultural school founded by Peter Swing, a Marine and UC Berkeley graduate. I teach a variety of subjects to third graders including mathematics, reading, writing, grammar, science, and social studies. My students are eight to nine years old and are very proficient in English. All of my classes are taught in only English. Currently, there are fourteen students in my class. My students are from all over the world and they are wonderful!”

Before beginning a career in teaching English, getting TEFL certified was a must.

Costa Rica TEFL was absolutely pivotal in my success in the classroom. Learning how to always engage students in the target language (English) was a central component of the TEFL course. It is something I carry with me today. TEFL helped me understand and identify the different types of learners. By identifying different learner types, I can implement a variety of activities and assignments that correspond to their styles. The communicative approach is something that I strive for in my classroom. I always make sure my classes are student-centered and that I do not talk too much. Additionally, Costa Rica TEFL has provided me with TONS of ideas for engaging activities. I use them weekly and will continue to use them throughout my teaching career.”

For those planning to teach abroad, a piece of advice.

“For any prospective teachers, I recommend to search around first before deciding where you want to live and teach. There are so many teaching opportunities! You can really tailor your experience according to what your interests and desires are. Another pretty cliché piece of advice would be to fake it until you make it! You may not feel you are qualified to be the teacher that you are….but trust what you have learned and believe in yourself. I did not think I was qualified at all for my current position, and I was pretty nervous starting out. However, I quickly realized that I love teaching and it soon became very natural. Trust yourself and remember why you came here.”

When teachers aren’t in the classroom, what is there to do in Costa Rica?

“Due to Santa Ana’s central location, it is really easy to travel around on the weekends! The town is both authentically Costa Rican and commercially developed. There is an abundance of amazing restaurants, as well as three very impressive plazas that have cafés, cinemas, and other stores. Jacó is a beach town located only an hour and a half away. There are even prettier beaches are just a little bit further from there! There is also the breathtaking Braulio Carrillo National Park, The park is only half an hour from San José. It has mountains, forests, and two extinct volcanoes. On weekends I go out in San José or to surrounding suburbs where you can find lots of young people to hang out with. It’s easy to meet other people here. Additionally, every Sunday there is a feria, or “fair,” in Santa Ana, which is an organic outdoor market where the whole town flocks to buy cheap produce.”

Living abroad and traveling has provided many life lessons.

“I’ve learned how to be much more independent while traveling. I had never traveled alone before coming here, and was always with my parents or friends. Traveling alone is completely different. No one is here to tell me what I should do or where I should go. Additionally, it has made me mentally stronger and more emotionally self-sufficient. I left all of my friends and family when I came here, and there are times when I miss them like crazy. However, I’ve learned to find beauty and enjoyment in small things, and peace in solitude.”

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