Teach English in San Jose

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A Guide to Teaching Abroad in San Jose

Pura Vida! If you are coming to San Jose, make this phrase part of your everyday vocabulary. Translating to “pure life” or “simple life,” the phrase encapsulates the way of life in Costa Rica. Locals use the phrase to say hello, goodbye, and everything’s cool. Pura vida means don’t sweat the small stuff, no worries, no stress. If this sounds like a great way to live, then you should teach abroad in San Jose.

What you need to know to teach in San Jose

There’s a lot to consider if you are chasing that pura vida life and choosing to teach English in San Jose. Should you get a TEFL certification before you arrive? Are you looking for a short-term or a long-term gig? Don’t get discouraged, read on for help making the big decisions!

Popular ESL jobs in San Jose. Most English jobs are in private language schools, and for adults who want to improve their language schools to find better jobs and opportunities. You’ll need to be a native English speaker, have TEFL or TESOL certification, and a university degree. Jobs in small communities are often less strict with regards to requirements, as are jobs as private tutors. 

Short-term vs. long-term teaching jobs, and other tidbits on job structure. To teach in San Jose, you can get a full-time or part-time contract, or even several part-time contracts if you’re good at time management. Less formal private lessons, not in a school or institution, offer more flexibility than contract work. Contracts will usually have you working 10 to 25 hours a week (which gives you plenty of time to explore!). The day is generally split up, with school and work starting early and going until noon. Then there is a break, and class/work resumes from about 4 to 8 in the evening. 

Teaching English vs. teaching other subjects. English is probably the most in-demand subject to teach abroad in San Jose, since English is such an in-demand skill in today’s economy. As a native English speaker you can offer your students more than just language learning. You can teach them about your home and culture too. 

Life in San Jose for ESL teachers

The capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is considered to be one of the safest cities in the region. It’s well connected to the rest of the country and its neighbors, making exploration and travel very easy. When you’re not lesson planning, go get scuba certified, hike a few volcanoes, and venture through the rainforest. San Jose is home to several museums and parks. In your free time from the classroom go discover the city’s growing foodie scene.

On Saturdays that you aren’t exploring the rest of the country, check out the Feria Verde de Aranjuez. It’s a weekly farmers market that brings local artists and farmers to sell anything from produce to crafts to everything in between. Wandering the market is the perfect way to practice your own second language acquisition or unwind after a long week of memorizing grammar structures!

Costa Rican food is not very spicy. Go try the local fare in a soda, a local restaurant serving traditional food at an affordable price. While you’re there, have some casados. Literally meaning “married” in Spanish, it’s a dish consisting of rice, beans, and meat, and usually comes with plantains and/or tortillas. And now all you want is to get your TEFL certification in San Jose, right? Yum!

GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop for foreign teachers

If you’re going to teach in San Jose, you’ll have to learn a few more phrases in addition to pura vida. Headstart: Chepe is what Ticos (the local word for Costa Ricans) call San Jose. 

When you get a job teaching, some placements will provide you with a homestay or will help you find living arrangements. The opportunity to live with a family and learn about their customs, habits, and hobbies makes a homestay a unique and exciting experience. A family can show you a unique side to San Jose that you might not experience otherwise. Additionally, most placements will not provide insurance, so you’ll have to arrange your own travel insurance. Check with your provider at home to see if you will be covered abroad. Some policies will, but many will not. There are several companies that can offer travelers insurance to give you peace of mind while you’re abroad. 

Most schools will not sponsor your work visa until you’ve been working for a year. Many teachers work on a tourist visa, which expires every 90 days. To renew it, you’ll need to leave the country. This could be an excellent opportunity to see more of Costa Rica’s neighbors—weekend in Nicaragua? Yes please!

If you want to teach abroad in San Jose, there are plenty of opportunities. English teachers are in high demand in Costa Rica. Teaching in San Jose is an adventure in and of itself, but in Costa Rica there are endless other adventures to experience too!

If you’re ready to eat your weight in rice and beans, read our comprehensive guide on teaching abroad in San Jose.

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A Guide To
Teaching Abroad in San Jose


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