Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Courtney Schoch
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
I am a citizen of the United States and am in the process of obtaining residency in Nicaragua.
What city and state are you from?
I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia but currently reside in both Cleveland, Ohio and Leon, Nicaragua
What is your education level and background?
My education background includes a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Aeronautical Science with specializations in Aeronautical Safety Systems and Space Operations as I am a regional airline Captain based in Newark, New Jersey. I am also a certified flight instructor for student pilots.
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
I have traveled abroad for both vacation and work purposes. The countries include England, Scotland, Mexico, Canada and Belize. Nicaragua is the first foreign country I have lived in.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
In 2015, I married a Nicaraguan and quickly became acquainted with the conditions of extreme poverty. I lived in a coastal village and also in the capital of Nicaragua, Managua with his family. As time went on it became apparent that speaking English was a skill that can provide various job opportunities for Nicaraguans in order to help improve their quality of life. The desire to help this community lead me to obtain a TEFL certification from ITA, and in January of 2016 I completed my Hybrid program (Which is an add on to the Online TEFL course.)at their campus in Leon, Nicaragua. Shortly after completing my certification I created a project called Runucate. Runucate’s mission is to provide English education to Nicaraguans.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
The culture is different compared to the United States. My main concern was the treatment of women and complications that could be encountered in a foreign country. An additional concern was my minimal Spanish. This was of great concern to me because I would be living in a new city far away from my husband who often helped me with the language and culture barriers. This spilled over into concern about navigating the transportation system, currency, markets, clinics, etc. However, each one of these concerns became learning experiences and really much easier to deal with than I had imagined. I found the Nicaraguans to be very friendly and accommodating to the travelers in their country.
Read related Blog post: 8 tips for women living in Nicaragua as an English Teacher?
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Many of my friends and family members were supportive but there was apprehension and confusion due to the major contrast to my current career and lifestyle. They now contact me almost weekly in anticipation of hearing stories about life in Nicaragua and ask when they can come visit!
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I took the online/hybrid TEFL course. It is a combination of online course work followed by completing my practicum and getting extra lesson planning support in Leon. It was nice because I was able to complete the Hybrid program in 4 weeks, and during that time I also received one on one observation during some of my teacher practicum. This helped me professionally to grow as an EFL teacher.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy Nicaragua?
I researched several programs and found that ITA Nicaragua was the best choice due to reputation and curriculum. It also fit the high demands of my work schedule by providing a large portion of the course online.
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course immensely because it was fun and organized. Having the ability to complete a large portion of the course work online was a benefit because it was not possible for me to take time off of work to attend the four week course.
The hybrid course offered hands on teaching to local Nicaraguans, so I felt there was a high degree of experience gained from this part of the course in addition to learning the local culture. León is a great city because it has so much to offer with a large diversified population but still has a small town feel.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training has helped me because I now have knowledge and tools to add to my teaching skill set. It has also provided me with the confidence to create lesson plans and teach independently in small communities without supervision.
TEACHING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I currently volunteer teach in León, Nicaragua. I chose this city because it is diverse, clean, economical, and safe. Previously I taught part time in a small village north of León with my family.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Nicaragua on and off for over 2 years. I plan on living here full time in the future.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I do not work for a school at the moment. This is by choice due to my inconsistent work schedule as a pilot and traveling between the United States and Nicaragua. I plan on teaching in the future but for the time being I provide funds to local Nicaraguans to attend English classes through my personal education program, Runucate.
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 do not have a work visa because I do not stay in the country for extended periods of time, one to two weeks a month. I do not get paid for my teaching services so a work visa is not required.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I currently offer to teach and assist ITA Nicaragua’s private language program in the evenings when I am in León. If this is not possible due to scheduling conflicts, I travel to a small village where my husband lives and do independent teaching in small groups on a volunteer basis. I occasionally provide telephone classes and correspond with my students online to help facilitate their learning experience. One day in the near future I hope to have a consistent schedule and have more time to dedicate to teaching.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
ITA Nicaragua helped find my apartment in León. Initially I stayed with a family in a private room with a shared bathroom during the time I attended school. The location was clean, conveniently located, and the family was very accommodating. I did not and do not currently have roommates. My current apartment is awesome! I am very happy with the location, cost, amenities and services provided.
COUNTRY INFORMATION – FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, and travel opportunities in your country:
There are many social activities to meet your personality including yoga classes, salsa dancing, meetups, cultural events, the beach, and an awesome selection of restaurants. The expat community is very helpful and offer a monthly gathering in León. The ability to reach out to others on numerous expat Facebook pages is available also.
A central bus terminal in León offers direct transportation to other cities for an inexpensive price – usually less than $5 USD per person. I prefer this economical method during the day when I travel to Managua. A private taxi from León to Managua costs approximately $70. The bus to the beach is very close to my apartment and costs 13 Córdoba’s to ride one way. The bus ride is 30 minutes the longer wait is waiting for the bus to fill up before departing. I’m married so I am not certain about the dating scene. The country is very conservative culturally. My suggestion would be to definitely read up on the culture before you visit.
What are your monthly expenses?
My circumstances are unique because I am employed as an airline pilot and frequently travel between the United States to my work base in Newark, New Jersey. My monthly expenses include rent of $180. This includes air conditioning, cable, Wi-Fi and electricity. The public transportation is reliable and safe. Finding housing by word of mouth through locals is often less expensive.
At night taxi is a better option especially if you are traveling to/from to Managua. In Leon, you can travel in a taxi anywhere within the city for 20 Córdoba’s (approximately $1) per person.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I have the equivalent of a middle class standard of living here. My apartment is clean, air conditioned with 24 hour security provided and I have not had any problems. I lived in Managua prior to moving to León with my sister in law in a very dangerous area of town. In addition to living in Managua and León I also lived with my husband in a small country village off the Pacific coast in what could be defined as extreme poverty.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
$500-600 is adequate to live comfortably in León on a reasonable budget. Owning a bicycle is a must in my opinion. It definitely helps keep transportation costs low.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN NICARAGUA
What advice would you give someone planning on considering teaching abroad?
Research the country and look at living conditions realistically. Try not to make it worse than it is or better in your imagination. Be realistic and always double your budget to be conservative until you have a better understanding of your situation and lifestyle. The most important thing is to flow with the changes and challenges that are sure to accompany all the excitement and experiences you will experience on your TEFL journey!
Always pay attention culture!
I would recommend reading up about Nicaraguan culture before you visit. This country is conservative. Some tips:
- Women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and pants/shirts/skirts that are no shorter than 1-2 inches above the knee.
- Men ‘catcall’ women all the time – Ignore it. This is what many men do here.
- Learn some Spanish. You can communicate with the locals but life will be much easier for everyone if you have the basic vocabulary along with knowledge of local phrases.
- Try not to insult the lifestyle of Nicaraguans, they work very hard for what they have.
- Do not discuss politics in public. It is a sensitive subject.
- Do pet the stray dogs. There are many dogs roaming the city and countryside. Most are passive but it would be a wise idea to read up on protection against dogs.
Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Yes! Without hesitation! Nicaragua is a beautiful country in both landscape and people. As a matter of fact, my daughter is planning to attend ITA Nicaragua in Leon next year after high school graduation.
You can follow Courtney via her website at:
You can also read about her in a featured article published in “Air Line Pilots Association, International Magazine”: