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Why People Choose to Teach English in Costa Rica

Teaching English in Costa Rica – December is the month when people generally start thinking about moving abroad. In Canada and the northern United States, winter has started moving in and those chilly winds and snow squalls inspire visions of sandy beaches and fruit-filled cocktails. With thoughts of how to live abroad running rampant, teaching English as a second language is a very common denominator among aspiring expats. In terms of the where, Costa Rica is a very common destination to fulfill that dream.

why people teach in costa rica 1While December tends to be the most common month to start thinking about making the move abroad, it is rarely the month of action; holidays, family time and parties usually get in the way of getting away. But with the first few months of any given year seeing the highest percentage of people leaving for a life elsewhere, those decisions are often times made in December when the weather starts to turn.

For many, getting away from the winter months that exist at home is a primary concern. Within this context, Costa Rica naturally becomes the destination of choice. With its high demand for English teachers, in addition to its great climate and laid back atmosphere, the Central American nation fits most requisites for a move abroad – and is a country that many fall in love with very quickly.

In the ESL world in Costa Rica, stories of teachers are often similar. Whether the original intention lied in a gap year, a winter escape, or simply a ‘let’s see what happens’ adventure, most don’t come to the country with the intention to stay for more than six months. However when speaking with ESL teachers in the country it is extremely common to find many who have been here for much longer – years, in many cases – than they had initially intended to. A common conclusion among visitors to Costa Rica is that the country has an unexpected hold on you.

In term of teaching, it is far from the dream scenario. With available hours always less than desired, commute time high, school demands many and pay little, teaching English in Costa Rica is not what most would describe as a job they would eagerly move to another country for.

But people don’t come to Costa Rica for a job. They come for a lifestyle.

People move abroad for different reasons. For some it’s money. For others it’s to run away from unwanted situations at home. For others, simply a change is needed. Those who arrive in Costa Rica in search of money very quickly realize it’s not the place for them. However, for anyone interested in a lifestyle change – and a way to fund it through teaching – Costa Rica is a great fit.

You learn to live slower. You appreciate the little things in life. Prioritization becomes inherently easier and you tend to develop a deeper and more profound understanding of what perspective is. With these changes most people realize that they are much happier living here, even with much less than they had at home.

This mindset also translates to the job. Going to your classes doesn’t seem like an annoying chore but rather an enjoyable exercise. While making little money and increasing school demands can take their toll on anyone, the lifestyle that Costa Rica offers allows us to appreciate what we’re really there to do: make a difference in our students’ lives.

This is by far the biggest reason why ESL teachers in Costa Rica stay for as long as they do. They don’t make a lot of money, are overworked, and work on weekends. But unlike many other jobs, in teaching there is a return on that investment. Whether it be a promotion at work, university acceptance, or a simple ‘I loved that class’ from a student, it makes it worthwhile.

If you’re thinking about making a move abroad to Costa Rica, you should consider what life you want for yourself. Don’t fixate on money or even on a specific job. Make a list of things you want in your life and see if Costa Rica meshes with that. If many cases, once here, teachers find that it does. A real tell tale sign? Almost everyone who leaves comes back at some point.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email [email protected]

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

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