I have been fortunate enough to teach in several beautiful countries as an ESL (or TEFL) teacher. However, teaching in Costa Rica has to be my favourite and most rewarding experience yet. I am still relatively new to teaching at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe, but I have already fallen in love with the school, its ethos, living in Liberia and the nation’s ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle.
I have always wanted to live and work in Costa Rica. On arrival, I was not disappointed. An incredibly safe and stable country, Costa Rica has a rich history and breath-taking landscapes. From tucked away beaches to volcanoes, you will never find a dull moment teaching in this tropical paradise. There is always somewhere new to explore and I intend to discover as much of the country as possible. I should also point out that the people (Ticos) are perhaps some of the friendliest, most hospitable people I have ever met and the food is delicious (tip: Try the Gallo Pinto for breakfast, which is both traditional and very tasty)!
But, aside from living in a beautiful country with great people (and food), why should an ESL teacher take the plunge and start a new life in Costa Rica? For one thing, the nation has plentiful opportunities for personal development and community involvement, especially in rural Guanacaste. There is a huge emphasis on living in the moment, enjoying life for what it is and taking time to be mindful of your surroundings and nature’s offerings. If you’re an ESL teacher who is too used to high-pressure, high-stress situations, teaching in Costa Rica might be the best thing for you, both as a career move and for the opportunity to pare it back a bit and appreciate the simple things in life.
Equally, school choice is super important and Costa Rica has a few cool offerings. However, finding Instituto Estelar Bilingue was the final push I needed to make the life-changing decision to pack my suitcase and relocate to Costa Rica in a longer-term role than I had previously taken on.
For me, as an ESL teacher, a fun, dynamic and supportive workplace is paramount. That is why Instituto Estelar Bilingue really stood out to me. Since arriving, the school has more than lived up to my expectations, even surpassing them in some cases.
The school’s ethos prides itself on collaborating with the wider community and giving back in whichever ways it can. Instituto offers several exciting volunteering opportunities for both teachers and students. From helping out at Club A (a local non-governmental organization) to taking part in Spanglish socials, there are plenty of ways to connect with the Liberian community and to meet friends for life.
In the workplace, I absolutely LOVE the Estelar methodology, which prides itself on promoting organic teaching and, with that, student-led conversation. I love the practicality of this approach. Watching my students grow in their confidence to ask a question or lead a conversation is beyond words.
I also feel super supported in the school. They’ve just set up a cool ‘Tico Mentoring’ programme, whereby each teacher is paired with a local mentor who is readily available to help with things such as housing, setting up a mobile phone contract and even finding the best places to go dancing. There is a real family-vibe in the workplace, where everybody is valued and respected. Recently, we even took an Estelar family trip to nearby Playa Hermosa (did I mention that world-class beaches are a stone’s throw from the school?!). Sitting there on the beach, taking in the beautiful scenery and laughing with my new colleagues, I felt like I was in paradise (well, who am I kidding, I totally am!).
So, if you feel like you might be stuck at an impasse in your ESL career, I’d strongly recommend checking out roles in Costa Rica and particularly at Estelar. Already, I can tell you that coming here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Hopefully you can find the same sense of fulfilment and inner peace I have discovered by doing the same.
This blog was written by Katie Jones who is an English teacher at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in Liberia, Costa Rica. She is from England and has an amazing ability to make everyone around her feel happy!