Teaching English in Costa Rica – Advice from an ESL Professional

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    At first glance, teaching English as a second language seems perfect. It’s a job that pays you to expand your travel horizons. Little formal training is required, and the plus side is that if you’re reading this, you already know English. It’s also true that Costa Rica currently has a high demand for ESL teachers. However, before you book your one-way ticket, there are some things you should consider.

    Costa Rica is currently a hot spot for foreign development. Many corporations that you are familiar with, including Intel, Bayer, DHL and Del Monte, have main offices in Costa Rica. The country is relatively safe compared to its neighbors and quite a few natives speak English, making it a good investment for companies. This in turn means that many corporations are looking to teach their employees English, and that many Costa Ricans want to learn English to bolster their job prospects.

    Despite this, you will not make as much money teaching English in Costa Rica as you will in places such as South Korea, China, and some Middle Eastern countries. There are many things that contribute to this fact, but the bottom line is that teaching in Costa Rica will give you just enough money to get by and make frequent trips to the beach. If you have debts haunting you in your home country or if you’re trying to save, this might not work for you.

    Another thing to consider is that most jobs will not help you pursue a work visa. Some well-established academies and high schools require that their employees have visas, but the majority will be keen on letting you take time off every 90 days to hop over the border and renew your tourist visa. On the one hand, this allows you a built in three-day weekend and the chance to see another country. However, if you’re not comfortable with this arrangement, make sure to speak with potential employers about this before accepting any jobs.

    One of the most difficult adjustments to working in Costa Rica is recognizing and coping with the differences in how businesses are run. You may be used to a work environment that is more rigid and conventional, but in Costa Rica, you may find that you must be flexible and open-minded in order to succeed at your place of work. You may be assigned new classes or new students without adequate warning. Your hours may change or the highway you take to work may be inexplicably closed. Preparing yourself for this unpredictability in advance will save you many a headache.

    While the above-mentioned factors will certainly not hold true for every teaching position, there are indeed more variables to consider when contemplating a move to Costa Rica. You must decide whether to live in San Jose, the capital and largest city, or an outlying town. San Jose offers more job opportunities and all the accompanying benefits of a metropolis. A job in a beach town will mean access to paradisiacal coastlines, but also a stiflingly small population and little access to many of the luxuries you may take for granted in your current location. If you fear a situation in which everyone in your town knows your name, and what you did on Friday night, moving to San Jose might be your best bet.

    While these considerations may seem daunting, teaching abroad is almost always a very rewarding experience. While every job is different, many positions at private academies only require you to work part time, leading to a very stress free lifestyle. Another benefit to working in a country where demand for English is high is that most students are very eager to learn, making the teaching experience that much more enjoyable. In fact, your students will likely serve as invaluable resources in helping you adjust to a new language, an unfamiliar city and a different culture.

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