Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Janet Sweeney

Leon, Nicaragua Teaching Q&A With Janet Sweeney


English teacher in Nicaragua

Janet enjoying Nicaraguan life

What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Portland, Oregon

How old are you? 


What is your education level and background?

I completed two years at a four year university.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Yes, I traveled worldwide as a child with my family.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

Japan, Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Maylasia, American Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, India, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, England and Scotland.

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?

I did not study abroad.

Beaches of Nicaragua, Beaches of Leon

Janet enjoying time on the local beaches

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

A need to change careers near retirement. This allows me to get settled in a country I would like to eventually retire in. I will be back to fluency with my Spanish and have many friends before my actual retirement date.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Not having enough money to stay as long as I planned.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?

Everyone has been very supportive. I have four adult daughters and they have been so happy for me!


Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?

I chose ITA because of all of the “live abroad at your own pace” type listings on the internet. Teaching abroad seemed like it was the only valid, and actual job I knew I would be good at.  Then, out of all the TEFL listings; the International TEFL Academy presented themselves as a real school with real people behind it. There was a great deal of information online for all of my questions. When I first called, it wasn’t a “sales call”. Everyone was very real about the level of work that was needed to complete the course. Then after choosing Leon, Nicaragua, talking to Heather and Jon (The Nicaragua TEFL School Directors.) just convinced me this was the real, and supportive next step that I needed.

English Teacher enjoying beaches of Nicaragua

Natural beauty of Nicaragua, Poneloya Beach

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

I took the TEFL certification course in Leon, Nicaragua.

How did you like the course?

I think that everything that I learned was very interesting and usable. It was definitely hard work! But it is possible to complete, and the staff is extremely supportive. They were there to help me succeed, not to watch you fail.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

It has given me everything I needed to do the job well. Any questions I have can still be answered by Heather in Leon.


Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?

I came to Nicaragua knowing that I wanted to live here long term. I am teaching on a Ecolodge in the cloud forest located between Matagalpa and Jinotega.  This experience will give me a chance to develop a long term program, which is my personal, long term goal.

Related staff article: Find out more about the English teaching job market in Nicaragua here.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?

I have been here for five months, and I plan to become a long term resident.

English students preparing for a parade

English students preparing for a parade

What school, company, or program are you working for?

I am working for the Selva Negra Community Foundation at the Selva Negra Ecolodge.  I teach the workers, and children of the workers on the Ecolodge.

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.

Nicaragua doesn’t have a work visa so I renew every 90 days until I can get residency, which I plan on doing.  The last time I renewed my visa in Nicaragua, and you can do that once a year.

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I love this job because, although I am the teacher, it is for many different groups of people. Many of my students are employees of the Ecolodge or farm, but it includes their children too. I have two group classes and several individuals who I teach and tutor according to their level. I have classes with a group of younger children at the school located on the farm, plus I go over homework with some students who live here, but go to a private high school. I am able to do all of this living on site, and everything is within walking distance, although on a mountain!  Read more about the free job search assistance I received here.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

I am very lucky that this job came with a place to live. I have two roommates at this time who are college interns at the Ecolodge. I could choose to live at the lodge when space is available, but I prefer where I am which is quite basic, actually open air. I can really make it my own home. Plus we have television and internet furnished here.


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

I live in one of the big travel destinations, the coffee country in the north. If you check selvanegra.com you can see more than I can explain. There is city life in Leon, where I want to settle someday. There are cities to the south like Granada and San Juan del Sur. All of these have many things to explore including art museums, churches, beaches and more.

English teacher in Nicaragua

Janet celebrating her birthday with friends in Leon

What are your monthly expenses?

Since my basic room and food are provided here I am unusual. I would need at least $200.00 (+) per month to cover my extra expenses like medicine, doctor visits and incidentals. But I came here with those needs and this is much lower than in the USA.

How would you describe your standard of living?

I am living a healthier life, with a better environment and food than was available at home. A teacher is looked up to in Nicaragua, so I have a good societal standing.

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

This varies of course. With $600 US you can live a conservative lifestyle. If you travel and go out a lot you will need more.


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

I would say to think about what you really want from the experience. Realize that when you are in any other country, you can work to enrich the lives of the residents but you will be living by their rules and customs… and you will find that it is your own life that has been enriched.

Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Nicaragua is a wonderful country with wonderful people, absolutely!


Click here to see what another Leon, Nicaragua TEFL graduate, Shelby, has to say in her Q&A interview about teaching English in Nicaragua!


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