David Garner - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I applied for this program because I wanted the opportunity to live in a different country, to be able to work there, and experience a new culture. I knew also that it would give me new skills and potentially lead to a new career in a rewarding profession.
Why did you choose Maximo Nivel’s program in Costa Rica?
This program chose me more than me choosing it, at least the location of Costa Rica. There were various countries to choose from, but Costa Rica just felt right. I was torn between the two locations in Costa Rica, but Manuel Antonio felt right. I am really glad I went. I felt that a TEFL certificate and the promise of job placement assistance was the best way for me to go. I had taken a TEFL course in 2012 with a different provider so I knew it would be hard work, and I wanted to refresh my skills and gain confidence in myself as a teacher as I had never taught beforehand. I did want to choose a South American or Central American location, as I like the region and wanted to improve my Spanish, which is poor to say the least! I had never been in Central America though, and really fancied Costa Rica.
What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?
It’s difficult to have a specific favourite part of this location, however, I do have to say that the sunsets were amazing! I stayed in Quepos, which has a harbour and you just find yourself wanting to go there around about 6:00 p.m. to view the sunset, no matter how many times you've seen it already! I also liked that Quepos is a small town; you get a view of what it is like for normal people living there and see the same faces sometimes. The people in Costa Rica as so friendly as well, very welcoming. It is also a tourist area, and Manuel Antonio beach and National Park are a short bus ride away.
Manuel Antonio national park selfie
What made your program different from the first TEFL program you participated in?
I felt the program was unique in that the school was very welcoming and made us students feel like the most important people there (there were English and Spanish being taught in the same building). It is located very nicely, and has hammocks with beautiful views. There were only two students on our course in total, so it felt like we were receiving personal attention. You also get to know the students that come in and you get to teach, and it’s hard not to build up something resembling a friendship as you get to know them.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
We were very supported during the course. Our teacher Karen really was amazing and made sure we had her contact number and e-mail address so we could contact her at any time of the day with any queries. She also sent us links, handouts which we could use for more information, such as YouTube clips or TED talks.
Barbara is the overall manager and she was also very friendly and helpful, and made sure we had everything we needed. When I arrived, I got a welcome pack which had details of my host family and course information; at the end of the course, I was given a bus ticket back to San Jose, which I did not realise was included in the package!
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
It would have been nice to get more involved with the school outside of the classroom, as there were salsa dancing classes and various activities that they set up. However, there was only two of us on the program, so I don't think these activities took place that often on this occasion. Also, my main focus was achieving the qualification, so I wanted to make sure I could complete all my homework rather than staying behind for activities. However, I could have done this if I really wanted, but I chose to take the bus back Quepos as I enjoyed walking around the town.
What was a typical day like for you in Costa Rica?
I would generally wake up around 7:00 a.m. or just before. I chose a homestay accommodation, so I had my breakfast made for me and ready at 7:30 a.m. This was typically a rice and bean variation or sometimes an empanada. I would then leave the house about 8:15 a.m. and get the Manuel Antonio bus, which goes to the beach and national park; the school is about halfway to the beach/national park.
I'd be at the school early and ready to go. We would be in class until about 12 p.m., with breaks, and then take an hour lunch. There were lots of places nearby to eat (there's even a really nice falafel bar nearby which does really refreshing juices too). After lunch we worked from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then finished for the day. We would be given homework, this is very normal, so I would generally go home and start my homework, to try and get finished as soon as possible.
My evening meal was ready at my homestay at 7:30 p.m. I would then do some more homework or revision, depending on how much I had. I did always like to take a break in the evening and have a walk around town; I always managed to stop at a bakery shop and buy a cake. It was really hot, so I was pretty tired and ready to fall asleep by 10 p.m.!
What did you like doing on your freetime?
My favourite activity when I was there was visiting the national park. It was really good and a must do if you’re in the area. I paid for a guide too, which you do not need to do, but is advisable, because paying a little extra will make sure you see all the wildlife. The national park has loads of trails to walk through and two really nice beaches. You can stay in there as long as you want, the guide leaves you after about one hour. I saw lots of monkeys, sloths, raccoons, and birds, so it was well worth going.
I also liked going to the beach, as I am from England and have pale skin!
What was your accommodation like?
I had a homestay accommodation with a host family. I really liked this; I thought it would be a good way of meeting real people, seeing Costa Rican homelife, and perhaps practising my Spanish! I felt very lucky, as my room was like my own apartment. I did not have to walk into their main living room to get to my room, as there were spiral stairs outside the front door which took me to my room. I had my own key and my room had a section with a table, a fridge, and microwave. It had a fan set up near my bed, and my own bathroom too. I also had my own balcony which was overlooking Quepos, where I could watch the amazing sunsets.
Communication was okay with my family, they were very nice, although I would have liked to have been able to converse better with them rather than general area's of conversation. They were very nice though, and I feel like there was a mutual liking, and I feel really glad that I chose the homestay as it was really rewarding.
How has participating in Maximo Nivel’s Costa Rica program impacted your life at home?
I am now at home now, but I am going to be starting a teaching job in San Jose on the 1st of June (2015). I suppose San Jose will become my new home! So, this program has impacted my life a lot, as I was helped with my job search early on. The job I got was with a company that was recommended by our teacher as a company that get along well with Maximo Nivel, so this was the reason I emailed my CV to them. This has impacted my life massively as I am now in the process of starting a new life as a teacher in San Jose.