Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Clara Malone
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
25 years old
What is your education level and background?
I graduated from Indiana University in 2013 with a BA in Psychology & Spanish.
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
I studied abroad in Madrid in college, and while I was there I visited England, Sardinia, Portugal, France, Luxembourg (my family is from there), and various cities around Spain. I also traveled to Ecuador when I was in high school.
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I studied in Madrid, Spain in the spring of 2012.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I knew that after I graduated from college I wasn’t ready to settle down with a job at home. I wanted to travel, improve my Spanish, and experience new things. I decided that I would go to a Spanish-speaking country in some capacity, but it took a lot of research on the Internet before I decided that I wanted to teach English.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried about being able to find my own little community in a foreign country. I also didn’t see how I could become a teacher when I had zero experience.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends and family were very supportive of my decision. My mom was a little nervous when I decided on Nicaragua, but I assured her that it was by far one of the safest Central American countries.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy Nicaragua?
I knew that in order to be able to stay abroad I would have to be working. I considered working as an au pair somewhere, but I decided I wanted to do something that would give me a skill I could use long-term. I didn’t know much about TEFL, but after doing a lot of research and talking with some friends who had done similar programs, I decided that it would be the perfect program for me. I would be able to live in a Spanish-speaking country and provide for myself with the skills I could get from my TEFL class.
I decided on International TEFL Academy through my research online. What I really liked was that once I sent an inquiry for more information, I got an immediate response and I was actually contacted by my advisor. With other programs, I would send questions and not receive any information, something that made me weary when thinking of relying on those people in a foreign country. My advisor answered all of my questions and had a lot of helpful advice I needed to make the decision that was best for me.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I was certified through the four week in-class course at the campus in Leon, Nicaragua in March 2014.
How did you like the course?
Overall I really enjoyed the course. It was definitely challenging, and a bit overwhelming at times, but I loved my teacher, Heather, and I felt that I had a lot of support throughout the course. The practicum was the most nerve-wracking part of the course, but I also think it was what gave me the most confidence to begin teaching once I graduated.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I learned almost everything I know about teaching from my TEFL training. Without the course, I would not ever have felt confident enough to take charge of a classroom. I learned skills and techniques that I still use to this day.
TEACHING ABROAD IN LEON, NICARAGUA
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I ended up staying in Leon after my course ended, and I found teaching jobs shortly after. I arrived a few weeks before my course to travel around Nicaragua with a friend, and I fell in love with the country. I especially enjoyed Leon, and once the course ended I couldn’t bring myself to leave. It is an exciting university town with a fun nightlife and plenty to do for visitors, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s located 20 minutes from the beach.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Nicaragua since February 2014, and at the moment I don’t have plans to leave. Who knows what will happen in the future, but for now I plan to stay here. All in all, I have been teaching for over one year in Nicaragua.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I am currently working for the Centro Educativo Mantica Berio in Chinandega, which is a town about 40 minutes away from Leon. Last year, I worked at the Centro de Idiomas on the weekends as well as teaching an evening class during the week at ITA Nicaragua’s language school. I also worked as the volunteer coordinator for the volunteer program, Proyecto Barriletes, that is run through ITA Nicaragua here 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 currently working on tourist visa which is renewed every 90 days. Every other 90 days I go to Costa Rica to renew, and the times in between I renew in-country. I have had no problem from employers, or from immigration being here on a tourist visa. Nicaragua is nice in that two times a year, you can renew your visa in country, saving a couple hundred bucks. The last time I renewed my visa, I did it at the Metro – Centro mall in Managua. They have an immigration office there. It is an easy walk from the UCA bus terminal, and I take a direct microbus from Leon there. All you need is a few photocopies of the picture page on your passport, the last stamp in your passport entering Nicaragua, and 1500 cordobas, which is less than $60 US dollars.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I have found teaching English here to be both rewarding and challenging. I love the relationships I form with my students, and I enjoy seeing the progress that they make in their English. I have learned to work on being patient and being more organized, two necessary skills to have as a teacher. The way schools are run is very different here in Nicaragua than what I am used to in the states, so that has been a huge learning experience for me as well.
Working at Mantica has provided me with knowledge on how a pre-k through secondary school is run, and I have enjoyed being able to teach young people. Working at the Centro de Idiomas was an interesting experience as well, my favorite part of which was working with teenagers. And my evening classes at ITA Nicaragua were a chance to work with adults as well as be able to improvise a little more with my lesson plans, as we don’t have a textbook we follow.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Last year I lived at the TEFL school, where I worked in the evenings giving English classes. Recently I moved into a house near the school and the center of town.
COUNTRY INFORMATION – FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country:
Leon is a very exciting and youthful city, which is why I have been so happy here. I commute to work in Chinandega each day, which involves the whole gamut of public transportation. I take the local bus (sometimes a big bus, sometimes a big truck with a tarp covering the back) to the terminal, which costs 4 cordobas (27 cordobas is one dollar). I then take the microbus to Chinandega for about $1. Once in Chinandega I usually take a taxi to school for 15 cordobas. Then I repeat this process coming back. The buses are pretty easy to figure out once you get the hang of it, but it is definitely nothing like bus systems in the states. Oftentimes I will find myself on the way to work at 5am, hanging on for dear life off the back of a packed truck.
It is very easy to have an active social life here in Leon. There are bars and restaurants all around town, although they usually don’t stay open as late as they do in the states. Drinks are cheap, there is karaoke everywhere, and there is always something exciting going on.
My favorite part about living in Leon is our close proximity to the beach. Taking the chicken bus (picture a pimped out school bus) to the beach costs 12 cordobas and takes about 40 minutes. The beach is a very sleepy area, but there are a few restaurants and bars, along with huge waves.
I have been lucky enough to take some time for traveling while down here. I’ve traveled all around Nicaragua, as well as through Guatemala and El Salvador, and of course my visa runs to Costa Rica. All of the traveling I’ve done here has been by bus – when I went to Guatemala I took a private shuttle with 12 other travelers, but the rest of the time I have almost always taken public transportation.
What are your monthly expenses?
I am sharing a 2-bedroom house for $US 300 with a friend, which is actually quite expensive for me. I don’t make a ton of money, but it is definitely easy to break even. I can go out to eat, go to the bars and the beach fairly easily with the money I make here.
How would you describe your standard of living?
My standard of living is very nice. I live in a beautiful house near the center of town, and I am able to afford eating out and going out pretty often. I have to budget of course, and some months are tighter than others, but overall for the amount of money I spend I have a very nice life.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
If you find cheap enough housing, you could live off of about $400 a month quite easily I’d say, if you want to go out to eat and drink and travel a bit. If you don’t go out very often, $300 would be pretty reasonable.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN NICARAGUA
What advice would you give someone planning on considering teaching abroad?
Do your research, and find the right place for you. Talk to as many people as possible. And lastly do it sooner rather than later – you will not regret it!
Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Definitely. Along with many other people who have taken the Leon course, I have not been able to leave this city. There is a burgeoning TEFL community here in Leon, so you will never feel alone.