Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Conor Nolan

Leon, Nicaragua Teaching Q&A With Conor Nolan


What is your citizenship?

ITA Nicaragua Graduate, Conor Nolan

ITA Nicaragua Graduate, Conor, atop Telica Volcano

United States

What city and state are you from?
Greenfield, Massachusetts

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?

University Graduate

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
I have been on vacations to Spain, Canada, and the Bahamas. This is the first time that I have lived abroad.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
After graduating college, I began interviewing for sales and marketing jobs in the Boston area. I was excited to start my career and live on my own, but I was not quite ready to settle down at a full-time office job. After talking to a friend about his experience teaching in South America, I decided to give it a try. Winter was quickly approaching, so I escaped the cold weather and moved to Nicaragua. Before learning about this program I had never thought of becoming a teacher. Now I have realized that teaching is an exciting and rewarding career, and I plan on teaching for a long time.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Teacher Training, English Teacher Training, TEFL Teacher Training, ESL Teacher Training.

Conor with his graduating TEFL class in January 2015.

One of my biggest concerns was being homesick. It was very hard to leave my family and friends, especially because this was my first time living outside of the United States. I was very fortunate to have become friends with my TEFL classmates and I felt comfortable in Nicaragua right away. The weather, food, and people here are all so great that it feels like Leon is my new home.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family was very supportive of my decision. They encouraged me to take this opportunity to travel because I might not have the chance to do it later in my life. I feel very lucky to have the support of my family. When I told my friends about my decision they were very surprised. Most of my friends were graduating from college, moving into new apartments and starting full time jobs. Although they were surprised at first, some of my friends are actually thinking about getting TEFL certified now.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I wanted a chance to live abroad while earning money. When I first made my decision to get certified I was communicating with another company. After a phone and Skype interview with the other company, I began to look into International TEFL Academy. ITA seemed much more professional to me than other TEFL course providers. The ITA advisors answered all of my questions quickly and they were very helpful. I would recommend ITA to anyone wishing to get a TEFL certification.

Conor with fellow ITA graduate Sonya with a class of English students

Conor with fellow ITA graduate Sonya with a class of English students

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

The onsite course in Leon, Nicaragua. It was extremely cost effective for me to come to Nicaragua, and earn my TEFL certification there.

How did you like the course?
I loved the course! My instructors, Carmen and Heather, were so helpful and I learned a lot from their classes, and from observing their teaching. Almost every day we were either practice teaching, giving presentations, or doing group projects. All of these activities helped me to become more confident as a presenter. The course was very challenging, but now that it is over I feel proud to have been a part of it.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I am still looking for jobs in Southeast Asia currently, but my TEFL training has helped a lot. Teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate are highly sought after.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates? Prior to coming to Nicaragua, the course director provided me with housing options in Leon, and assisted me in making my reservations with other people in my TEFL class. I was able to view the recommended options online before I left home, and I had a pretty good idea what to expect when I got there.

The first place I lived was a hotel that housed about 15 people. Each person had their own room, and most rooms had their own bathrooms and showers. There was a shared kitchen and a nice garden in the back. (We all spent a lot of time in the hammocks.) I lived with 4 other students from my TEFL class and I really enjoyed it. It was nice being able to walk to school with my classmates and work on homework together. The only downside of living where I lived was that I had very limited exposure to locals. I did not get very many opportunities to practice speaking Spanish or to learn about the culture. Overall, I am very happy with the place I lived during my course.

Conor and fellow ITA graduate Kaitlin on their travels around Nicaragua

Conor and fellow ITA graduate Kaitlin on their travels around Nicaragua

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country:  

During the course, we were super busy, but we went out on a few planned events on the weekends with our class, organized by the director of the school.  This was nice to relax, and see what Leon has to offer with our classmates.

I mostly get around on foot, but if you need to take a taxi it will cost 20 Cordobas (about 75 cents) during the day, and 30 Cordobas ($1) at night to go anywhere in the city. My favorite thing to do in Leon is go to the beach. The beach is about 15 minutes away, and you can get there one of two ways. If you take a cab it is around $12. I would recommend the “chicken bus”. It is 50 cents per person and it is quite the experience. There is no passenger limit on these buses, and you better be ready to get on and off quickly.

I traveled around the country after my TEFL class with a few other students. We took the chicken buses everywhere we went. A three hour drive from Leon to Matagalpa cost about $3. A week and a half of taking buses around the country probably only cost us about $20 each. Buses are not for everyone though. You don’t always get a seat, and sometimes you have to be willing to let the driver throw your bags on the roof of the bus. Basically there is a cheap way to do everything in Nicaragua, you just have to be willing to sacrifice some comforts you may be used to.

Rooftops of Leon

Rooftops of Leon

What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: Around $180 per month

Food: $150 per month

Social Activities: $80 per month

Transportation: $20 per month

Nicaragua is a great place to live a cheap yet comfortable lifestyle. When I first moved here, I went out to eat almost every day. I have started saving money by cooking at home. If I eat at a restaurant, I typically spend around 150 Cordobas, which is about $6 USD. In my opinion, the most delicious food can be found at any street vendor or fritanga.

How would you describe your standard of living?

I live very comfortably. I have my own room with my own bathroom, and I live with a friendly host family. At my current house there is a woman who cleans the house every day. I would not be able to live like this on such a small budget in the US.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Around $400

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Moving abroad has been the best decision I have ever made. Just make sure you do a lot of research before you leave so you can choose a place that will suit your needs. As far as teaching here in Nicaragua, you can make a good living if you combine classroom hours and private tutoring. However, I will say that the best paying jobs are in Asia.



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