Why did you pick this program?
I picked this program as I was looking for an opportunity to travel, or make a new place my home for a certain period of time. Learning to be a teacher seemed to be a really good way of doing that, and seems to be a really rewarding profession too.
I do like South America, but had never been to Central America. For some reason, Costa Rica just appealed to me. I also want to learn Spanish, I have been learning Spanish in the UK privately, so I wanted to be a Spanish speaking country. Not that my Spanish is improving a lot....
What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
I wish someone told me the best bars to go to, the best restaurants to eat in etc. In reality, there isn't really anything, as I already knew the course would be demanding and I'd have to work hard. I have no regrets whatsoever about the place I chose, and the family stay I chose to stay with. I'm always on the lookout for a nice place to eat at a good price though!
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
That sometimes in life you have to leave your home comforts, the things that you THINK you need/enjoy. When you go out of your comfort zone, it can be difficult but ultimately very rewarding. I can wake up in the morning and know that I chose this, and know that I am living independently finding my own path.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I would advise my friend to take a chance. Its normal to be a nervous, to wonder if you can do it. Everyone I'm sure must think that to an extent. Make life exciting, if you are asking the question in the first place, then it is probably what you want to do deep down I believe. I found that there are always people in the same boat, and lots of opportunities to meet and make new friends, its really not that different, its just adjusting to different surroundings.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
I think the hardest part for me about going abroad was purely unknown of what my future would be. When would be the next time I would be paid a wage for working? How far would my money last? I did save up for this to cover eventualities, but I knew deep down that I was either going to complete the course and get a teaching job, or travel around until my money runs out, go home then find a job in the UK! Though travelling around would have been amazing, I know at some point I would need to work!
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I really look back fondly on my time living in Quepos whilst completing my TEFL course. Though I don't have many funny stories to tell as I think back! However, I did spend a couple of weeks in Ecuador before I arrived in Costa Rica at an Ayahuasca retreat. I really do have some stories to tell about that, and would recommend it to anyone as long as they do their research into the retreats. I have some amazing and profound memories and stories just waiting to be told!
What made this experience unique and special?
Living in Quepos was special and unique to me, just because after four weeks it felt like a second home. Its a small town, and watching the sunsets are really something! I found that I saw a lot of the same faces around town, and the people are so friendly and talkative. That really hit me in fact. Also, I was a short bus ride from Manuel Antonio beach, and there is even a national park next to the beach. I would really love to go back there again!
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Well there are no beaches close to my home, not good ones anyway. I could not have visited such a amazing national park so close by. Nor could I see the Costa Rican 'Pura Vida' mentality. Generally, I found you just need to smile and say 'Pura Vida' to any local if you are in any doubt and unsure what to say. That usually worked for me anyway!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
That you do need to work hard and do your best to achieve the qualification. However, you can still enjoy the environment, take in the surroundings and meet local people. So be open minded, be positive and believe, and you will enjoy yourself. You may never return to that place again, so make the most of it!
What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?
This trip allowed me to live with a lovely Costa Rican family, enjoy their meals, learn and become an English teacher. I am now working in San Jose as a teacher, I am still finding my way and the future is still open. This has been a really meaningful trip so far, I don't know how long this will last and what my future path will be so I am just going to try and roll with it!
What helps you get through the Costa Rica heat?
If you are in Costa Rica then I recommend drinking fruit smoothies! They are so refreshing and healthy, as you can get real fruit mixed with either water or milk. I always say 'sin azucar' to make sure they don't put sugar in too. There are lots of flavours and you can get a combination of fruits and they are really nice and cold and complement the heat really well! There is such a lot of locally grown fruit, more so in Manuel Antonio I would say, compared to San Jose but its really easy to get them anywhere you go.