After ten years of doing Accounting in the states, I felt the need for a big change. I had previously lived in another country and was beginning to feel the need for a new culture and a new experience. I decided to try to teach English in a Spanish-speaking country, so that I could work on learning an immensely useful language, while helping others do the same. Costa Rica called to me for many reasons; friendly people, a year-round beach climate, and unique teaching opportunities.
After 12+ hours of traveling, I arrived in Liberia to warm faces and even warmer weather. My stomach was in knots, I was tired, and I was in need of a shower. The founder, Bethany, arranged for a trusted taxi driver, Diego, to pick me up at the airport and bring me directly to the teacher housing, which was incredibly helpful, as communicating and navigating a new city on very little sleep is incredibly difficult. I was welcomed by Bethany and my new housemates and promptly directed towards the much-needed shower.
I chose Instituto Estelar Bilingüe because they value a work/life balance, communal living, and community engagement. Estelar provides the opportunity to teach students of all ages, from three years old to adult. They also offer classes in many different formats, so I really feel like I am developing a diverse set of skills. In addition, we have the opportunity to volunteer with Club A, which provides free classes and activities to children from low-income families. Did I mention the uniquely diverse staff of English teachers? There are teachers from all over the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and Trinidad. The students here have a truly unique opportunity to hear the English language in many of its forms and accents, and I am able to make connections with other English speakers with different life experiences than I have.
My first day teaching was completely nerve-wracking, but Bethany, the director Brad, and the other teachers
are always so open and welcoming, and honestly happy to assist you when you need it, so that’s really helpful for new teachers. The students are excited to learn English, and to tell you all about their city and the surrounding areas. They will tell you which beaches to go to, where to get the best “gallo pinto”, where to buy affordable clothing and groceries, and how to make the best “patacones” at home. I still struggle every day
trying to make learning grammar exciting and fun, but every chance I get, I watch and listen and learn, and add new ideas into my teaching style.
While Costa Rica is pretty expensive, and Liberia is especially hot, it is incredibly easy and cheap to visit beautiful local beaches every weekend. In less than an hour, for about $2, you and your new friends will be floating in the most beautiful warm blue waters, sipping on a fresh coconut. You can watch the gorgeous sunsets at Playa Hermosa, and if you’re lucky enough to come during rainy season, you can watch the thunderstorms from a “soda” (typical Costa Rican restaurant) with a local beer in hand.
While I was extremely overwhelmed with a new house, a new job, a new country, and a new language, I feel as though I am adjusting well. I feel like Estelar has been there to guide me, and without holding my hand, has provided constant support. They didn’t give up on me when I felt like something was too hard to achieve; instead, everyone understood, as they had all been in my shoes before. I have only been here a little over a month, but every day I continue to learn new things, travel to new places, and make stronger connections with teachers and locals. I am more confident in my teaching and I feel at home in this little city with my like-minded teacher family.
This experience definitely shows you what you can live without, what you are capable of achieving, and what is truly important. You won’t find hot water or air conditioners here, but you will find friendly faces, open and helpful colleagues, and a helpful support staff. I am excited to start participating in Spanish classes, which I know will make me feel more confident around town, and open me up to all sorts of other new experiences that Costa Rica has to offer.
If you are interested in teaching English, learning Spanish, and stepping out of your comfort zone, Estelar will be an amazing place for you!
Blog post contributed by Hailey, an English teacher at Estelar Spanish school, from Oregon, USA.