Saturday, 1 December 2012

Teaching in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot going for it. Spanish is spoken there, so many people who studied high school Spanish will be able to brush up on their skills. You can either study Spanish at a language school or you might be able to arrange teaching English in exchange for Spanish lessons. There are other ways to live in Costa Rica. You might also want to take a look at teaching at international schools and teaching exchanges and fellowships to find out more.

Costa Rica is close enough to the US and Canada, so is a nice option for teachers who don't want to experience a drastically different culture, like Asia. The weather is fantastic and the sheer beauty of the country will have you eagerly waiting for vacations so that you can go out and explore everything that Costa Rica has to offer from the beautiful beaches to the steamy rain forest.

Most people who go to Costa Rica do so for the lifestyle, not for the money. Be aware that while you may live very well, hit the beach in your free time, fantastic meals for less than $5 and being able to afford a maid, you may not bring a lot of money back home when you leave.

As far as safety goes, just as you wouldn't flaunt expensive goods in London or New York, you shouldn't do it in Costa Rica either. Try to dress like a local and keep your expensive items under wraps and locked up and you should be fine. Below you can find a lot of information about teaching in Costa Rica, as well as recommended institutes to work for. For FAQs about Costa Rica, please visit the Costa Rica section in the FAQs for teaching in Latin America.

Where to Live and What to Bring
Many people head to San Jose because it's the capital, however, many people have fallen in love with Heredia. It has a great nightlife and is not as hectic as San Jose. It's also home to Intercultura, an institute that constantly gets good reviews on Dave's. The Central Valley is a popular choice to live in as is Escazu, Santa Ana, Cariari, Sabana, and Rohrmoser.

Bring twice the money and half your stuff and you should be fine. Be careful about bringing too much with you. Toiletries and electronics are more expensive, so bring those things with you. However, you can buy just about anything you need in Costa Rica or have it shipped to you later if you decide to stay. Remember, you're probably not going to move to Costa Rica permanently, so don't bring your entire life with you. The weather gets pretty cool at night, so bring a sweater. You'll also need an umbrella and rain coat, but you can easily buy them there.

Learning Spanish
The place where you work might be able to offer you Spanish lessons. If they don't then you still have a lot of options open to you. You could try getting a language exchange partner, finding a private teacher, or enrolling in an institute. You can find exchange partners and private teachers on Craigslist. And you can find institutes at Go Abroad.

Mature Teachers
Many people want to continue working after they retire and Costa Rica is perfect for that. Ingles Empresial and Whittemore de Costa Rica have been known to hire older teachers. As an older teacher you have a lot to offer, so stress that during the interview. Taking a TEFL certification course also might help you out.


Bringing the Family
Again, if you are at teaching at international school or married to a Costa Rican, things are much easier. For those wanting to go to Costa Rica with their partner, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, if you can both get jobs, then you should be ok.

If you have kids, that's a whole different matter. Schooling is going to be an issue, it'll be nearly impossible to pay for an international school on the salary you can make as an ESL teacher. If they're Spanish speakers, they might be able to go to a local school. Or if they're young enough, you could simply send them to school and have them pick up the language. Another thing to consider is daycare. And don't forget more people means that you'll be spending more money. Bottom line: if you're going to bring kids into the equation, you're going to have to do a lot of planning and budgeting.

Getting a Job
Costa Ricans place a high standard on meeting people face-to-face, so you'll find that while you may email your CV out to many employers, few will respond. Teachers who work in Costa Rica recommend simply coming and knocking on doors. Recruiters aren't used to find job and if you scout the job boards, you won't find many teaching positions for Costa Rica, except for maybe the Tico Times and Craigslist. If you're a qualified teacher, you might want to look into teaching at international schools.

The thing about teaching in Costa Rica is that some institutes may only offer you a few hours a week and those will be split shifts staggered throughout the city. That means that you'll spend a lot of time travelling, and you probably won't be paid for all the time and effort that goes into commuting across the city. It's worth asking where the jobs are and if there's extra pay for in-company classes.

When cold calling, wear professional clothing. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers that come to Costa Rica are young and inexperienced, or simply looking for a way to make a bit of extra cash while living in paradise. There are reasons why many companies will not hire young people. So if you're young, you can counter these stereotypes by dressing and acting professionally. Have your CV printed out with your contact information for Costa Rica. You should be able to buy a pre-paid (pre pago) cell phone so that employers can contact you. Put your photo on your CV as well; it's a basic part of a CV in most of the world. Read more about creating a teaching CV. As far as interviews go, be polite and professional, just as you would if you were applying for a job back home. Take a look at this sample interview at Innovative English.

Visas
If you work for an international school, then you're in luck and you'll get a visa. Ditto goes for being married to a Costa Rican. Otherwise, the majority of you are looking at border hopping to Panama every 90 days and staying there for at least 72 hours. It's not that bad and pretty common. In addition, it's a great excuse to take a short vacation and visit another country!

Getting a TEFL Cert
Ideally, all teachers would get one, however, they're not cheap and you'll need to take a month off work to complete one. There are plenty of TEFL training institutes in Costa Rica. You can find many at TEFL certification abroad. In addition, look at is a TEFL cert necessary?


Recommended Institutes
Most institutes will want you to be able to commit at least six months teaching with them. So if you're thinking of staying for a shorter amount of time, you're going to have more difficulty finding a job. There are many other good institutes out there, but there are also bad ones. Try reading warning signs of bad institutes to learn the signs of a bad place to work.

Recommended Universities
Finding a university job in Costa Rica is going to take time, effort, and most importantly connections. You could be highly qualified and still not get the job simply because you don't know the right people. This is just another great reason why you should go to conference and meet people.

Recommended International Schools
If you want to teach at an international school, you're going to have to be a qualified teacher in your home country and have at least two years teaching experience. Read more about teaching at international schools

Cost of Living
Costa Rica isn't as cheap as you might think. Housing will be your biggest cost, but you could decrease that by sharing accommodations, living in student areas, or a simple flat. If you want a decent apartment, be prepared to shell out about $400 a month. Compare that to about $150 for shared accommodations.

Bring a bit of extra money to help you get started. You probably won't get paid for a month after you start working and it might take you a while to get a full schedule of classes, so a couple thousand dollars will help make the move easier. If you want to live like locals, that means using public transport, eating at home, and having a modest apartment, you should be ok. However, if you want to live the high life like an expat, realise that you're going to have to have a lot of extra cash to fall back on. If you learn to budget, you should be fine.

Private Classes
Many teachers choose to supplement their income by teaching private lessons. There are lots of opportunities to teach businesspeople English. It's a great source of income, but be aware that you will have to put time and effort into planning your lesson plans and may also have to travel. You can find more information in the private student guide and tips for teaching 1-to-1 lessons.

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