Interview with Nicole Johnson, Costa Rica Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Nicole I am 22 years old and from the United States.

What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Management. I have worked at an ice cream shop in the summer for the past seven years. I have been a shift leader, assistant manager, and then the general manager in the last four years.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I traveled to Amsterdam at age 12 for a soccer program, but then not again internationally until a couple of years ago. I went to Costa Rica with a school program for a week, and I think that was when I got the travel bug! I have also been to Jamaica for vacation, which was beautiful!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I was mainly motivated by the ability to travel. I definitely caught the travel bug when I went to Costa Rica, and I really wanted to go back! But I also was unsure of what I wanted to do after I graduated from college. I was a management (business) major because it was the best major to choose for someone who wasn’t sure what to do for a living. But once I finished, I was really lost on what to do, and then I came upon the TEFL program and figured I could try it out!

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

Going into this experience, I really wanted to try something different to see if it would give me a different perspective and a better idea of what I want to do for a career. I would say that I definitely succeeded in doing so. I realized that teaching is something that I could actually be really good at while taking the course. Now that I’ve finished the course, I am really excited to see where it takes me. I may not want to travel to teach for more than a few years, but I could teach online with the certificate or I could even get certified to teach back in the States.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied on my own.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

A couple of friends of friends had taught abroad before, but no one that I was able to really sit down and talk to it about.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

My main concern was that I wasn’t going to be a good teacher. I have never thought of myself as being a teacher. However, I think anyone can be a good teacher if they want to be. I am not a very high energy person, so I didn’t think I’d be great at it. But, during the course we practiced mainly on adults, which made me more comfortable to start. And now that I have some experience, I would be more comfortable teaching children. Plus, we learned so much and so many different techniques during the course, which helped a ton.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

I decided to do a TEFL course because I was lost on what to do for work after I graduated from college. I also wanted to travel and get certified to do a job that I could travel with. I chose TEFL Heaven for several reasons. It gave many different options for where to travel to, and because they guarantee employment after the course. There were a lot of good reviews on TEFL Heaven, and the people at TEFL Heaven were also very helpful and were quick to respond to emails and answer questions.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

I chose a face-to-face TEFL course because it gave me the opportunity to live in another country for a least a month. Plus, I can’t imagine taking it any other way. It was a really awesome experience and I was able to make some new friends in the class that have the same desire to travel as I do.

Which TEFL program did you do?

I did the program in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

I enjoyed a lot about the TEFL course! I had an incredible teacher who was personable and had a really great way of teaching. Sometimes, we would have long days of class, but she was always able to keep us focused and attentive. I also loved the TEFL course because I was able to meet so many new people! Outside of class I met a bunch of new people, but I met even more at the school. There were always new people coming in and out of the school from all over the world. I also made friends with many of my students that we practiced on in class. Taking the TEFL course opened a bunch of different networks and opportunities for me!

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

I think I felt extremely prepared to teach after the TEFL course. We learned a lot during class time, but we were also able to observe real ESL classes and then practice on real students.

How long have you been teaching in Costa Rica and how long do you plan to stay?

I actually have not been teaching in country. After the course, I came home to the states. I plan to go to Guatemala to teach, but I have some things to take care of at home before I can live in another country for six months. But I can’t wait to go and I’m really excited to teach there!

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I have not secured an English teaching job. However, my teacher referred me to a school in Guatemala, and they said they would have a position open for me when I’m ready.

What age group or range do you teach?

I think that I will be teaching mostly adults over 18 in Guatemala.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

When doing practice lessons in Costa Rica, it was really great to see the students really learning what I taught. To see a student have a moment when they really get it is worth all of the hard work!

How did you get your work visa?

I won’t need to get a work visa when teaching in Guatemala or in Costa Rica. I will simply need a tourist visa, and I may have to go across the border after 90 days to renew the tourist visa.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

I have not yet been to Guatemala, but I can say a lot about Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful country, especially in Manuel Antonio. It’s a small beach town that is a less than a ten minute bus ride to a cheap and less touristy town. Most of the locals there are very welcoming and are just as interested in learning about you as you are about them! You can take a bus for less than 50 cents and it stops anywhere you need on the main road. If you need to get somewhere more specifically, you can take a taxi for pretty cheap too. Usually not much more than 5 dollars if you’re not going very far.

You can expect a lot of rice and beans when it comes to food. Costa Rica doesn’t have a ton of variety for food, but it’s always good. You can never have too much of the fresh fruits and vegetables! You can get a full casados meal (rice, beans, salad, plantains, meat, and sometimes more) and a drink for about $6 give or take.

When it comes to nightlife, there aren’t a ton of different places to go in Manuel Antonio. But there are a couple of great places, and you can always go to Quepos, the more local town down the road, but the places aren’t as nice. Selina’s is the best place to go in Manuel Antonio. It’s actually a hostel, but the bar is usually busy and you meet people from all over there! For drinks, you can get two for one happy hour literally all day at some places, and most places have it every day for a least a couple of hours. Costa Rica has its own beer, called Imperial, and it’s really good.

There are a few different beaches in MA. There’s one main beach, and then there’s a couple of other more private and quiet beaches. Then there’s Manuel Antonio National Park, which has a little bit of a walk through the rainforest, but it brings you to the most beautiful beach! It’s definitely a place you need to go to at least once while in Costa Rica.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Costa Rica?

I would absolutely recommend taking a TEFL course. When going into it, I told myself that even if I hate the class or I’m not good at it, I still got to live in a foreign country for a month. But luckily it was an incredible program and I loved it. I would say go into it with little expectations. Not that you will be disappointed, but it gives you a better perspective than expecting a bunch of different things. Everyone has their own experience with TEFL, but everyone I have met has had a positive experience.

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