Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Chelsea Johnson
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from
How old are you?
24 years old
What is your education level and background?
I earned two bachelor’s degrees from Colorado State University in Business (Marketing) and Spanish.
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Besides where I studied abroad, I have traveled to Mexico, Jamaica, Kenya, Tanzania, Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Ireland.
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain and Valparaiso, Chile.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
After having studied abroad twice in college, I knew that after graduation I wanted to move to another Spanish-speaking country. I talked to several other people who had taught English abroad and it seemed like a good way to accomplish my goal of moving abroad again. I always loved being a student, so I thought I would try working in the classroom environment as a teacher. I also liked the independence of the endeavor- I wanted it to be a next step from my previous experiences abroad, and I liked the appeal of having job guidance support from International TEFL Academy Nicaragua.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I had already lived abroad, so I was mainly just worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a job or to support myself. I was greatly relieved however because during my Hybrid course at the International TEFL Academy of Nicaragua, I took part in job guidance workshops that explained the worldwide job market, and even helped me with my resume and cover letter. They also put me in contact with directors of English language schools in Leon, and Chinandega.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
The majority of my friends and family were really supportive and excited for me. My parents were kind of worried, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing it.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
ITA was recommended to me, and I looked into them after researching some other programs. I chose ITA because they were extremely helpful in answering all of my questions from the very beginning when I first expressed interest in teaching abroad. All of the information they gave me was very useful in making my decision to move to Nicaragua, and I loved the constant support I received from then on. All of my questions were answered and I was impressed by their knowledgeable staff. Also, I really liked the lifetime job search guidance: they give you all the tools you need to find a job, but you still have to be independent and make it happen for yourself. That was perfect for me.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the online course since I was able to take the course while working, and saving money at the same time. Even though I did the course independently, the discussion forum allowed me to interact with fellow students and make the most out of what we were learning. My favorite part of the course was the practicum, because I got to observe real ESL teachers in my hometown to get a feel for what teaching was like. I also taught my own independent class which gave me some experience before finding a job. I’m so glad that I did the extra practicum hours with the hybrid program at ITA’s Leon Campus. It was a really valuable experience because it allowed me to practice teach and gain real-world experience in the city and country where I actually wanted to teach. Also, I became a part of the ITA Nicaragua community, and they gave me invaluable support throughout my entire transition abroad. ITA Nicaragua made me feel at home and I made friends with other teachers who were doing the course!
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training taught me how to design lesson plans, create my own activities and curriculum when I need to, and it provided me with skills to be a better teacher all around. Most importantly, my TEFL training with ITA gave me real world experience which prepared me for my current position.
TEACHING ABROAD IN LEON, NICARAGUA
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to come to Nicaragua because I wanted gain more skills as an English teacher, and I achieved this in the ITA Nicaragua hybrid course. Plus there is a low cost of living here, and there is a lot of diverse nature not far from the city (volcanoes, beaches, etc.). I chose Leon because it is a city rich with history and culture that does not have too many tourists, and there are a lot of young people here. I also learned from ITA that there was a growing demand for English teachers here. Since it is an economically challenged country, I wanted to help Nicaraguans learn English and create more opportunities for themselves.
See Related Article: Nicaraguan Job Market
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Nicaragua for a little over 2 months, and I’m planning on staying at least 6 months, or maybe a year.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
Several weeks before I arrived in Nicaragua, I sent out my information to several schools (resume, cover letter, references, and two letters of recommendation). After my hybrid practicum program ended, I started my job search in-country. I made sure to add my local phone number to my resume and business cards, and visited schools and English academies in person to introduce myself and give them my information. In the end, I secured my job through a connection I had made with ITA Nicaragua.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I am working for American English Academy, which is a private company that teaches at several places in León and Chinandega. I am also volunteering with La Isla Foundation, a NGO that is in Leon.
How did you get your work visa? If you didn’t get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
I am working on a tourist visa. I was definitely a little skeptical about this, but in Nicaragua it is not common for foreigners to have a work visa. The tourist cards last for 90 days, so every few months you must leave the country for 72 hours and then renew your tourist visa. Everything has been fine and I recently returned from several days in Costa Rica where I renewed my visa. I am paid in cash for my hours worked.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
American English Academy provides classes at several organizations. I teach at Yasaki, which is a Japanese car plant on the outskirts of the city. My class is 11 adult students who are employees of the company. I like teaching adults because they are very hard-working and eager to learn. They have a pre-intermediate level, and I’m given a textbook to plan classes around. Our class is in the evening from 5-6:30 after their work day. Since it’s not in the center of the city, I have a taxi driver who takes me to class every day (the company pays for my transportation costs). I am paid 100 Cordobas per hour, which is about $4 per hour.
During the day I volunteer with La Isla Foundation. They provide Spanish classes to foreigners, so I teach English to the Spanish teachers and several Nicaraguan volunteers. Some of the classes are one-on-one, and some of them are groups of 2-3. I design all of the content and curriculum myself, depending on what the students need and want to learn. Between both of my jobs, I teach up to four classes a day, depending on the day.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I found an apartment through talking with mutual friends after a couple weeks of staying in a hostel. It was really easy to find, all I had to do was reach out to people and my connections helped me find it. It is a nice, modest home in a good location. I have my own bedroom with a shared kitchen, bathroom and living space. I live with two female roommates from the U.S. and Switzerland, who both work for NGOs here.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country:
Nicaragua is an extremely beautiful country and the people here are so nice. Being able to speak Spanish has opened a lot of doors for me, and I love interacting with the locals, whether it’s the artist who has a fruit stand or the men who handcraft artisan bracelets just for me. It’s an economically deprived country and a lot of people make money by selling things out of their homes or on the street. Leon is a young, vibrant city- there are several universities and a lot of cultural events. There’s always something to do, like attending a literary discussion, visiting the museums, going to the ballet, or just walking around. The whole country is very religious and there are historic churches all over the city. There is always something happening at night, and several different bars and clubs where you can practice salsa dancing. There is a good mix of locals and expats, and there are some backpacker hostels which often have events for both. Although a lot of places are within walking distance, it is also easy to hop on a “ruta” or a “chicken bus” to get around. Taxis are cheap too, and there are “interlocal” buses for traveling among different cities. This makes it easy to travel to another city for a weekend, and the beach is only twenty minutes away from León. You could probably sum up Nicaraguan food in three words: rice, beans, and plantains. Gallo pinto (rice and beans) is typical with most dishes, including breakfast. It is easy and cheap to find food on the street, whether it’s a snack of fried plantain chips or a meal at the “fritanga,” a street food kiosk where you can get a heaping plate of fried food for about $3. There are lots of fruits and vegetables available at the local open air markets, and if you want fresh homemade corn tortillas you might not even need to leave your house, as women often walk around the streets selling them and other treats.
What are your monthly expenses?
Phone, getting around, laundry, exercise, etc: $90/month
Traveling/Fun: depends on what and where
How would you describe your standard of living?
I have a comfortable standard of living. Even though a lot of things here are cheaper than I’m used to, I try to budget and save my money as much as possible. My home is comfortable, but I’ve grown accustomed to living without daily luxuries I had in the U.S., such as hot water or air conditioning.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I would say about $500/month is enough to live comfortably in Nicaragua. I knew that I would only be able to break even and not save money, and currently I have decided to volunteer half of my time.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN NICARAGUA
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would definitely recommend the TEFL course with International TEFL Academy. Teaching English in Nicaragua is great, but be prepared to work more than one teaching job at once. My advice would be to do as much research as you can about the country, and evaluate multiple countries before choosing the one that seems the best for you. Make sure to have enough money saved to establish yourself in-country before you start working. When looking for a job, be patient and don’t get discouraged, because the right opportunity will come along eventually. Be prepared to be flexible and have a “plan B” in case your first option doesn’t work out. Also, when moving to a new country, have an open mind about the culture, and try to learn the local language.