Leon, Nicaragua Teaching English Q&A With Rachel Beebe

 

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

 

What is your citizenship?

I am a citizen of the United States of America.

 

What city and state are you from?

I am from Columbus, Ohio.

 

How old are you?

I am 28 years old.

 

What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Secondary Education with a Specialization in Spanish (6-12) and English as a New Language Teaching (K-12). I also received my TEFL certification with ITA Nicaragua in July 2016.

My working background has been in non-profit education based mentorship programs which focus on at-risk students. I have worked with almost all grade/age levels in an informal education or programming aspect. I managed an after-school program for at-risk middle school students for two-years prior to moving to Nicaragua. I also mentored and tutored 9th grade students at-risk of dropping out of high school for the years prior to my manager position.

 

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Mexico – July 2015

France – October 2011

Mexico – Jan-Jun 2010 – Study Abroad

France – July 2007

Spain – June 2007

Honduras – June 2006

 

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
Xalapa, Veracruz, México – January – June 2010

 

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I had always dreamed of teaching internationally through high school and college. I wanted to use my talents of teaching, mentorship and my love for travel in unison!

 

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

Would I be able to balance the workload/class size with the amount I would be paid? Would my paycheck match the work I would be putting in? Would I have a work/life balance that I would want? Would I even be able to enjoy my ‘abroad life’ if I worked as well?


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

My parents were deeply concerned about me moving to a third-world nation with deep conflict history with the U.S.A. They ultimately were understanding that this change was my decision and accepted it. Above all they were worried about my personal and financial security while living abroad. Both of these worries are unnecessary.

My friends and close family members all knew that living and working abroad was a personal goal of mine and they were extremely supportive in my decision. I had been planning, talking and dreaming about the possibility of living and working abroad for years. There was no surprise of this idea; simply a “Finally!” from them all.

 

TEFL CLASS INFORMATION

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

I took the in-country TEFL certification course in Nicaragua July 2016!

 

 

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

Honestly, I saw an advertisement by google on the side of my browser one day and I clicked for more information. I searched more information about the company, to see if it was a hoax, and I was easily convinced that it was a legitimately internationally acclaimed, high-quality TEFL certification course. I then selected Nicaragua because it was a new place and it was cheap(er)!

 

 

How did you like the course?

As a trained education professional, this course was a strong refresher on pedagogy and language learning techniques. Overall the course was comfortably challenging for me personally. The mental workload did not overwhelm me due to my previously overwhelming workloads. I felt that my professional training and practical experience as an educator definitely led to my successful completion of the course without stress.

The TEFL classes are led by two amazing instructors. They frequently used interactive and authentic teaching and assessments that guided my fellow TEFL students and I to deeper and greater understanding of material and techniques.

 

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

My TEFL training has helped me now in my current teaching position by reigniting my passion for education. Throughout the course, I learned new techniques, solidified my strategies and learned many new activities to use on my own.

Learn how a TEFL certification can boost your career.

TEACHING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA

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

I made the decision to live and teach in Leon, Nicaragua where I did my TEFL course. I made this decision because I was presented with an excellent job opportunity in Leon and I already had a network of friends there from the TEFL academy. In hindsight, I would have liked to travel more before making my final decision. Leon is a hot location and I would have been able to enjoy the cool climate in a different city in the mountains (Matagalpa, Esteli, Somoto, etc.).

 

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

Currently, I have been in Nicaragua for 11 1/2 months. The great majority of my time in Nicaragua has been in the city of Leon. I will leave just two weeks shy of 1 year, with a month Christmas break in there. ( Late June 2016 to Mid-June 2017)

 

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

I was contracted by a Nicaraguan/U.S. family to privately tutor their 4th grader in all subjects in English (Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing, Reading, Art). They desired a teacher with broad education background who would be committed to a whole school year.  I found this opportunity through networking and TEFL colleagues.

 

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.

Do to the nature of my homeschool teaching, I was able to work and be paid without contract and without visa. The parents simply paid me twice a month, . I have been given the impression that the Work Visa application process in Nicaragua is a very long (6-12 months), complicated and not a guaranteed process. The parents thought it best that since I was only going to be working for a year with them that we side-step the process and handle business in cash.

 

When discussing my purpose for being in Nicaragua I had told them that I was traveling, and learning Spanish. However, locals understand that many English teachers or international workers simply live and work off the books, for ease.

 

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I homeschool teach a 9-10 year old girl who is Nicaraguan/U.S. Her parents are interested in eventually moving to the U.S., father’s country, where they can, among other things, enjoy more formal education for their growing daughter. They requested me teach California State materials in all classic Elementary subjects in English (Math, Social Studies, Science, Reading, Writing, The Arts) With my broad experience in education, I was able to find materials easily online and through Amazon, which the father picked up on a trip to visit family.

 

I teach wholly in English, however, English is her second language. She is fluent in English, but had great difficulty at first with writing skills as well as spelling. She struggles with pronunciation and often gets alphabet letters mixed up. She has shown great improvement over the year and I can tell she is very satisfied with her progress in English!

 

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

Some TEFL Certification classmates lived in the house I live in now. They moved back to the states and their room became available for me! I share a 4 bedroom house with other foreign long-term visitors. Currently, I live with a girl from Austria, a girl from Georgia, U.S.A. and a couple from The Netherlands. I am so lucky to have found the house I found. It has a spacious, open format with a lush garden in the center of the home.

 

COUNTRY INFORMATION – FUN!

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

Cultural Aspects: I honestly believe – You need to just be here. Come find out for yourself. Nicaragua is amazing! 

Nightlife: Many bars have themed nights throughout the week. Thursday night is a big out night here, while Saturday is more reserved for house parties. You can always find a place to have a relaxing dinner with friends, or a wild night – you just need to know where to look.

Social Activities: Nothing beats a two-hour air conditioned movie with friends! On the cheap side of things, there is always plenty of people watching material in the central park and busy streets around the town. Buy an elote and chit-chat with friends while watching children run, play and skate to their hearts content!

Food: I am a big foodie and the variety of restaurants never fails me. You can get a taste of anything here, but expect to pay a good price for imported products. I try to stay local, fresh and homemade. I have saved a lot of money, learned about new foods and gotten healthier in doing so! Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and cheap! Gallo Pinto (Bean and Rice mix) is served with every traditionally Nicaraguan meal. Cheese and/or fried cheese are also served with every traditionally Nicaraguan meal. More on the food scene here.

 

Dating Scene: As always, when in a foreign country, you are the rarity, take precautions and don’t be foolish. If you wouldn’t believe it/do it in your home country, don’t believe it or do it in a foreign country. That being said, everyone dates differently. So as I said for the ‘Cultural Aspects’, I stand by here as well: You just need to be here. Come find out for yourself!

Public Transportation: I enjoy walking, if possible; however, I do enjoy a private taxi ride. Taxis are easy to find and will quickly get you to your destination for about $1/$1.30 at night (25/30 Córdoba’s). Taxi drivers vary from cautious to road rage, choose wisely. Rutas are glorified trucks with seats and covered with a tarp where people sit or stand crunched in together for only $0.15 (4-5 Córdoba’s). Long distance travel is simple, but can be seemingly unorganized or unscheduled. If you know the city you are travelling to, one can search online for the usual times that the busses leave from Leon. Once you have a time, arrive at least 30 minutes early to buy your ticket and get a seat on the bus. Simply go to the bus terminal, and look for a bus that says the location you want to go to, then hop on. Someone will eventually talk to you to have you buy your ticket. If you don’t see your destination, ask someone who looks like they are in charge (someone by a bus selling tickets, or in a ticket booth or someone yelling different cities, etc.) They can guide you to the bus you are looking for.

Managua-Leon express microbuses to ‘La UCA’ (/Lah OO-kah/) are most likely air conditioned and non-stop! Worth the extra $0.70 if you ask me!


Travel Opportunities:
All along the Pacific Coast is easy travelling for a week or weekend trips. The Caribbean side is more difficult to travel and less developed – but that is why it is so beautiful!

  • North/Mountains: You will find higher altitudes which bring cooler temperatures, rain forests along with coffee and chocolate farming.
  • Middle Pacific – Check out the Colonial Towns (Granada, Leon, Masaya), Volcanoes (Volcano boarding in Leon, Masaya Volcano) and the lakes (Laguna de Apoyo)
  • Lower Pacific – Virgin beaches and Tourist beaches (San Juan Del Sur)
  • Low Middle – Rio San Juan! Great Jungle Tours! Not for the faint of heart, sleeping in middle of jungle in a hammock
  • Caribbean & Islands – Classic Caribbean clear water and great snorkeling/scuba opportunities at a lower than ‘normal’ price! Take your time and all your patience to get there but then relax and stay a while! Little & Big Corn Islands, Bluefield’s, Pearl Lagoon, etc. Many speak a style of English Creole in these parts and African roots are seen in culture and people

 

What are your monthly expenses?

Salary: $600/month

Rent: $200/month (includes utilities)

Groceries: ~ $100-150/month

Entertainment: ~$100-??/month (including travelling.)

*I also keep up my Netflix account, etc through auto-payment online services*

I was able to save $150 – $200 a month. 

 

How would you describe your standard of living?

I am loving my life!

 

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

Depends on your rent! In my situation, I am able to save a little money each month.

I’d say $400 to live comfortably!

 

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS IN NICARAGUA

 

What advice would you give someone planning on considering teaching abroad?

Don’t worry about the culture – you’ll get it,  and making friends from the network of the TEFL academy in Leon!

 Would you recommend teaching in your country?

Yes. Check out the different locations in the country first, then choose the right city for you!

HAPPY TEACHING!

 

 

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