English Teacher by Day, City Slicker by Night: Teaching English in the Capital of Costa Rica by Aaron Ramirez

Meet our graduate Aaron Ramirez, a Brooklyn, New York native turned English teacher in San Jose, Costa Rica.  From one concrete jungle to the next, he is making a life for himself in the capital of Costa Rica.

What is your take on San Jose?  I currently live in San Jose, Costa Rica and work as an English teacher. San Jose is a small city in the Central Valley which has a lot of culture and variety. Generally, it is busy through the day with many working professionals but everyone is relaxed and still has the “pura vida” vibe. There are tons of restaurants ranging from more Westernized foods (yay taco bell) to traditional Costa Rican and other Latin-American food. There are also many different bars and clubs sprinkled around the city that you would never find in the daytime. As a result, San Jose becomes a different city at night with many university bars close by. There are also dance clubs on the weekends and weeknights with some playing more traditional Costa Rican music (Plancha music is a staple here as it was the music that many people heard as they were growing up. They would listen to it as their mothers ironed clothing. Plancha means iron in Spanish.) . The other clubs play more popular/modern music like jazz, rock, and electronica.

Morning Commute

How have you maintained your social life?

I like to go out some weekends and try a different club or bar with friends from my school or I walk around the city and explore during my free time. I love walking around the city and visiting the local food markets or taking a ride out to nature that is almost everywhere once you step outside of the main city. Meeting people here might be a little difficult at first but if you speak some Spanish and interact with people in your daily life, it’s not impossible to make friends from many different areas and professions. You just have to be willing to search out new places to meet people just like in any other city in the world.

After getting TEFL certified with Costa Rica TEFL, how do you feel in the classroom?

Costa Rica TEFL prepared me for teaching abroad by providing me a solid background on how to teach English, how to teach different learning styles, and how to be really aware of student’s progress and connection to learning English. I also use or slightly modify many of the activities that we learned in the TEFL course to get students excited about learning English and to have fun while doing so. Costa Rica TEFL also showed me how to adapt lessons and grammar to different levels of English and learning styles in a way that they will understand and really absorb by using a mix of listening, speaking, writing, and reading activities that they can relate to their everyday lives and careers.

What do your current English classes look like?

I teach university students and adults general English including grammar, essay writing, pronunciation, and conversation practice in our conversation club. Students are in basic, high basic, intermediate, advanced, and fluent levels. I get between 2-4 classes per month on a twice-weekly schedule and occasionally a three times a week class.

For future teachers planning to teach abroad, what advice would you give?

Be open to the experience and to immerse yourself in the local culture. Find local events, see what’s posted at the local university or what’s nearby and connect with what you like to do. Even though you may be in a new city or country there are always going to be others who like the same things you do (however obscure they may seem). Also, don’t be afraid to talk to other travelers. We’re all figuring out the same things whether you’re a long-time traveler or completely new at it and it’s always cool to exchange ideas of places to go, things to see, or bars/restaurants/music to check out. Having a wide net of friends is key as a traveler.

What is your favorite thing about teaching English?

One of my favorite things about teaching is when students come up to me after class or while walking around school and genuinely thank me for the class or conversation I had with them and for helping them understand something they were struggling with previously. It happens more times than not and every time it does it reminds me of why I love being a teacher. There’s nothing better than seeing a student improve and build confidence and knowing that you helped guide them to get there.

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