Teach English in Costa Rica on 4-Month Government Program

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Costa Rica
Costa Rica

About

Make a true difference in a Costa Rican community, teach English, and have an immersive language & cultural exchange experience!

We are working with Costa Rican Government’s “English Training for Employability” initiative, which will to provide intensive English education and life skills training to local Costa Rican communities. The goal of the program is to empower at risk young adults to gain employment at local businesses where a basic to intermediate level of English is required.

Program-at-a-Glance:
• Monthly start dates
• 4-month volunteer English teaching placements throughout Costa Rica
• Housing and meals with a local Costa Rican host family included
• Placements throughout Costa Rica
• Group orientation upon arrival

Upfront Cost: $650
$150 for insurance coverage for the duration of your program. (required for the program)
$500 program fee (you will also receive a $500 bonus payment upon successful completion of your contract)

Highlights
  • Make a real difference by improving the employability of at-risk Costa Rican youth through English education
  • Accommodation and 3 meals per day with a local host family
  • True Spanish language immersion

Questions & Answers

Reviews

90%
based on 3 reviews
  • Benefits 9
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 8.3
  • Facilities 8.7
  • Safety 9
Showing 1 - 3 of 3
Default avatar
Derek
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Opportunity to Impact Locals

If you are looking for a culturally immersive program that will be rewarding every single day look no further! As a first time ESL teacher, I found this program to be a great fit. Other teachers in my group had years of experience and also found it to be a great fit. I felt supported by Lauren and Savannah from Greenheart and I felt extremely supported by ALIARSE, the partner organization in Costa Rica. I arrived with 10 other teachers from around the United States and the United Kingdom. We completed an informative, in-depth orientation in San Jose where we had a chance to do mock lessons, find out our placement locations, get to know each other and the organization and our social workers. Then on Saturday, we left San Jose with our social worker(s) for our new location and new host family!

My host family was by far my favorite part of this program. My host family consisted of a host mom and dad and 4 siblings, two lived in the house and 2 visited often. We frequently had grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members at the house. This really immersed me in the culture and the language. My host family spoke some English but they agreed to only speak Spanish with me so that I could learn more. They invited me everywhere they went and we spent many evenings talking about culture, sports, music, Costa Rica and much more.

The Classroom:
My students were amazing, and I had an equally amazing social worker. I have never met a group of people who wanted to learn more than my students. They were in class every day ready to learn, always asking questions about words, pronunciation, and grammar they have heard. I was the second teacher in my location so the students had 4 months of English class before I started and it has been incredible to see them improve so much in 4 months. I'm able to look back at their first diagnostic test and comments from the first teacher to really see just how far they have come. Many of my students are mothers, some are single mothers. Some just finished high school and some have kids in high school. Almost none of my students knew each other prior to starting the program and in just 8 months they have bonded and formed a tight-knit, supportive community. They spend time together outside of class practicing English and only want the best for each other.

Each location has at least one social worker or more depending on the number of students. The social worker in my location is an incredibly special woman. She truly cares for each and every student, as well as the teacher. She always checks in with the students and provides so much support for them. Because the students come from impoverished backgrounds many of them have obstacles to learning. This is where the social worker comes in. She teaches soft skills, provides emotional support and helps the students mature.

As a first time ESL teacher, I found it very helpful that we were provided lesson plans from ALIARSE. This saved me a lot of time preparing. I still made notes and added some fun games and activities I had learned during my TESOL program, but I did not have to design a curriculum from scratch. There is also flexibility within the curriculum so that you can adapt it to fit the needs of your students. Also, the curriculum is constantly being improved based on feedback from teachers. The curriculum creators were very helpful in explaining the curriculum and providing support for it. Also, ALIARSE provides money for copies and transportation (I chose to walk to class, but if I wanted to take the bus, this would be covered by ALIARSE). This program is still fairly new so it is important that you come with an open mind and are flexible.

If you haven't lived in Costa Rica before it is worth your time. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting from the landscape to the language to the culture and the people. I have truly enjoyed embracing the "pura vida" lifestyle while here. The food is fresh and delicious. The fruit is cheap and from right down the road and came off the tree/bush/etc only days, sometimes hours prior! (Unlike the US where much of the fruit is months old and has traveled thousands of miles).

If you are looking for an adventure, to live in another country, to embrace another culture, to learn another language, to significantly impact Costa Rican people, to step out of your comfort zone, to meet teachers from around the world, to work for an amazing organization, to build your resume, to eat fresh fruit, to experience what "pura vida" truly means this is the program for you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Have an open mind, and be flexible because change is inevitable. Embrace the culture and language. Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the fruit!
Default avatar
Marybeth
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Opportunity to Leave an Impact

As a first-time ESL teacher, I found my experience in Costa Rica to be a great opportunity to learn about teaching English with lots of external support, as well as gain experience in the field. The program gives you the curriculum to work with, so there is no lesson planning necessary. While the lesson is already planned, there was still plenty of planning and prepping materials to do. With 6 hours of teaching a day (with breaks throughout), 4 days a week, the schedule is overwhelming at times (especially as a new teacher), but I learned to adjust to the workload.

The program is very new; however, the organization offers lots of support in terms of orientation, materials, and housing. A lot of those tasks and processes that would have been difficult otherwise were much easier with their help. All I had to worry about was teaching my students. Orientation was informative and practical, especially for a first-time teacher. The lesson plans were well laid out, but also offered the freedom (and encouragement) to personalize them by adding in new, fun activities or adjusting activities to fit the needs of the students.

The only aspect of the program that I felt did not fit the description was the promise of having a bilingual on-site coordinator. There was not an on-site coordinator and my social worker spoke almost no English which sometimes left myself and my fellow teachers feeling left out of the loop in terms of what was happening in the school building or with our students. The support from San Jose was helpful, but they could not offer the same kind of support that an on-site coordinator would be able to give to us. Also, while I was fortunate enough to be placed with 2 other volunteers in my location, I know others were not. It is a great idea to have 2 or more volunteers in each location, but it needs to be honestly advertised if there is a chance that you could be placed at a site alone.

My host family was absolutely wonderful. My host mom made delicious food, did laundry, and kept the house quite clean. My family did not hesitate to invite me on trips to new paces, to parties with their family, and to events in town. I enjoyed getting to practice my Spanish at the dinner table. That being said, I had somewhere between a beginner and intermediate level of Spanish before I got to Costa Rica and I still struggled to communicate for the first month. My host parents spoke no English, and it is very difficult to practice your Spanish when you have to speak English for 8 hours a day. My host mom did her best to speak slowly and deliberately with me to help me learn, but I was often left feeling like I couldn't have conversations that were as meaningful as I would have liked them to be. Knowing at least a beginner level of Spanish before coming into this program is must. Overall, I loved learning more about the culture by staying with a local family, and loved being able to share my culture with them as well. My host family helped make my experience an unforgettable one.

Aside from all of the technical aspects, I truly enjoyed my time working with the students in Costa Rica. I got to work with young adults (age 18-30) who were passionate and enthusiastic about learning the English language. These students are receiving the opportunity to learn English from the government for future employment, and it was amazing to be even a small part of that mission. I got to watch my students grow so much over the 4 months I was in Costa Rica. I felt like I learned just as much as the students did. These students, and this organization, gave me a life-changing experience that I will never forget.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make sure to be flexible and open-minded. This is a new program, so things are constantly moving and changing.
Default avatar
Sharmin
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

You are sure to make a difference :)

Introduction:
As an ESL teacher with some experience teaching abroad, I would like to share with you my experience of this program. It is a good program to do whether you are a newly certified ESL teacher, or a seasoned one. It brings together a good amount of teaching time, with the community life in Costa Rica, and the knowledge that you are making a real difference in students lives. It’s great to see the students being enthusiastic and learning, they want to do their best and you are helping them to make the most out of a great situation. They get to learn English through the Costa Rican government, and you are helping them achieve this and more with the opportunities the language will provide them in the future. I was already in Central America when I was informed about this opportunity, and was very happy to begin on a new adventure!

It is still a very new program. The interview process, and submission of documents were simple and fast. It was done through Greenheart travel and I was assisted by Lauren, she was very friendly and helpful and I received some introduction materials prior to the start of the program. There were a lot of useful materials in there and good guidelines for what to expect while in Costa Rica. If it is your first time travelling overseas, it will be super useful for you, but even as a seasoned traveller I found the information very good. I liked how the insurance and housing is provided within the program too. The only thing you need to worry about is your teaching.

Orientation:
Once the program had started, I went to San Jose to do the orientation. The orientation and program are run by an organisation called Aliarse in Costa Rica. It is still a new program so some of the pieces are still being put together. You will be told about your placement location and host family during the orientation. The orientation itself was detailed and we were told what to expect in the classroom, and were given lesson plans. We also had the opportunity to print our resources ready for the first week. We had a mock lesson with opportunities for feedback on our teaching methods, which was also very useful.
I liked that they were putting a good emphasis on the overall needs of the student because they really wanted their students to succeed and stay in the program and to also help them once the program finished in securing a job. I really like that this was a socially responsible program, and it is what the heart of volunteering is all about. I believed in the work that I was about to do, so I was feeling excited to do it!

With that said, we were told that our orientation would be for one week, but it was actually quite rushed, and within the second day I was told I’d be reaching my placement location - the very NEXT day ready to teach! We left early enough to reach my town and begin teaching straight away, it was quite overwhelming being taken to my placement that quickly. Additionally, the host family that I would stay with were also not confirmed until after we reached my placement town.

What the lessons are like:
Once we arrived in my placement location, I was introduced to my class and the rules were explained to the students in Spanish. (TIP: It’s going to be the best thing for you to learn at least a basic level of Spanish, even though you will learn very quickly while here, it’s going to be a greater experience if you already have an understanding of the language. Babbel and Duo lingo are good and easy ways to learn, but ideally you should practise your Spanish with a teacher before submersing yourself in this experience in Central America.)
The teaching materials are all provided through the program. Lesson plans are ready and there are many good materials for you to use. You can come in as a complete beginner with little experience, and still have the plans laid out waiting for you, you need to personalise them of course to make the best of the lesson ;)
You are teaching on average a total of 6 hours a day, with breaks as well. You teach four days a week, with Friday’s for planning and making copies of materials for the students. You can expect to do a lot of planning and marking, it is a full workload for sure. The cost of the copies are provided for by the organisation as well as the transport to the school so you don’t have other costs. I chose to walk to my school in the mornings because that was my preference in the little hilly town where I stayed.

Host family:
The people of Costa Rica are very “Pura vida” :) That means relaxed and easy going. They all are warm and good folks. When I entered my host family’s place, it was a nice feeling when we were welcomed with breakfast. And while getting to know them on my first day, they picked me up from my classroom to have lunch with them at home on my lunch break and then dropped me back to class. They were a big family of four, and very festive and loud. They loved singing and karaoke, and are a musical family with many dogs and one cat! I loved how they all got together to do things like that. You are treated like one of their own, and introduced to many more family members, grandfathers, uncles, cousins and so on.
With many international exchanges, it’s completely normal to sometimes have a miscommunication if you aren’t completely fluent in the host language. My program director and social worker were really helpful to me in a situation where there was some misunderstanding. It was nice to know that I would have help here, when you are in a new country without your regular support systems in place, it can be a little bit tricky to understand how to navigate situations. You’re in a new culture, with new folks, and many new customs to understand, and of course it is a lot to understand! They were available for me to talk to if I needed that. My host family showed me Tamale’s which are a traditional special occasion food eaten in Costa Rica, and I showed them Pavlova, a dessert from New Zealand where I am from.

More:
One of the things that appealed to me about this program was that you were not going to be placed alone. I really liked that we would have a social worker and an English co-ordinator in the classroom, and also one other fellow volunteer in the same town as you. I was happy about that! So far, in my town I am actually the only volunteer here and it wasn’t until a few weeks after starting that my social worker arrived in my placement town. We don’t have an English co-ordinator either. It is still a very new program so I can understand that some of the things are not yet in place, however it was very difficult for me in the first few weeks of starting this program. I didn’t know anyone here, my Spanish is not perfect and I was the only person in the classroom, it is a lot of work - and without the support in the beginning it was very hard. It was different to what I was told we would have in the program. I think that this might change as more pieces come together in future, and I also know that in other placement towns that there are more volunteers.

Overall
If you speak Spanish, are interested about teaching English to adults that want to learn and will do all they can to study AND if you are excited about travelling to a “pura vida” place like Costa Rica, I think that you will have a good time :) Keep in mind it is a new program, and things are still happening for the better. You will have a good time, and have a fun experience. Gracias!

What would you improve about this program?
This is a good program and it can be made better by:
- Giving volunteers the appropriate expectations about time to prepare during orientation.
- Having at least two volunteers per placement location and other support in the classroom ready before volunteers arrive.


Location

Location:
Costa Rica
Currency:
Costa Rican Colón
Weather:
Jan-Mar
83 F / 67 F
Apr-Jun
85 F / 69 F
Jul-Sep
85 F / 69 F
Oct-Dec
83 F / 67 F
Airports:
Juan Santamaría International Airport
( SJO )
Limón International Airport
( LIO )
Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport
( LIR )

A pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive series of national parks and other protected areas. Costa Rica began reversing deforestation in the 1990s, and they are moving towards using only renewable energy. Head to the cloud forest, relax on the beautiful beaches or visit a coffee farm.

About Greenheart Travel

Greenheart Travel is a 501(c)3 non-profit, mission driven organization based in Chicago, USA. We are passionate about providing immersive cultural immersion experiences for teenagers and adults in countries all over the world. We believe in the power...