Tag Archives: living and working in Costa Rica

Fast Decisions can be the best! / Las decisiones rápidas pueden ser las mejores

It was a fast decision to come to Costa Rica. I feel like I didn’t even think it through or research it like you really should before moving to a different country. But I remember thinking that if I didn’t do it, then I would wonder what I had missed every minute of every day after that.

It was less than a month between the time that the idea was introduced to me and the day I was on a plane headed to Liberia, Costa Rica – a place much different than the small town in California where I went to college and the even smaller town where I grew up.

Although I grew up in California, a place famous for beautiful beaches, I really hadn’t seen very many. Now, according to my pictures, I have been to at least 25 gorgeous beaches that each have a string of memories to go with them. Besides the beaches, I have visited rivers, waterfalls, volcanoes, and national parks that are too beautiful to put into words. Beyond all that, I have met countless awesome people, seen plenty of incredible animals, tried many new foods, learned a beautiful language, experienced and become accustomed to a different culture, and adopted a more relaxed, stress-free lifestyle that makes me thankful every day for the choice I made to come here.

My time in Costa Rica has also taught me a lot about myself and my own culture. Before I came here, I really didn’t think that I had much of a culture. I was often jealous in college when I met people who had customs and traditions that gave them a sense of pride and unity with those in their group. But in teaching my students about things I know well like Halloween Trick-or-Treating, Thanksgiving stuffing and pumpkin pie, hand-written Valentines, Easter egg hunts, and having a really good hamburger at a Sunday barbeque, I realized that I have a culture to share and be proud of. I love telling people about the way things are in my country and discussing the many differences between California and Costa Rica.

Even though I know now that I made the right decision, it was really intimidating for me to make the move to Costa Rica where I didn’t know anyone and I hardly spoke the language. I had to be serious and I had to be quick. I had to be open to new possibilities and I had to be willing to try new things. I think in the end that if I had really thought it through, I might have backed down. I might have chickened out and said ‘no I can’t do this’. But I didn’t over think it and I didn’t let it scare me. I said ‘yes’ and like that I made the best decision of my life.  It might not always be true, but my year in Costa Rica has convinced me that sometimes fast decisions are the best decisions that you can make.


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Sharai Kirk, writer of this blog, has been in Costa Rica for a year, studying Spanish and teaching English at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in Liberia.


Fue una decisión rápida el venir a Costa Rica. Siento que no pensé  mucho sobre mudarme a  un país diferente. Pero recuerdo que pensé que si no lo hacía pasaría cada uno de mis días pensando que hubiera pasado si lo hubiera hecho.

Paso menos de un mes entre el momento en que tome la decisión y el día que estaba en un avión rumbo a Liberia, Costa Rica – un lugar muy diferente a la pequeña ciudad de California donde crecí y fui a la Universidad.

Aunque crecí en California, un lugar famoso por sus hermosas playas, realmente no había visitado muchas. Ahora, según mis fotos, he estado por lo menos en  25 hermosas playas que llevan un sin fin de recuerdos con ellas. Además he visitado ríos, cascadas, volcanes y parques nacionales que son demasiado bonitos como para poder describirlos con palabras. Más allá de todo eso, he conocido a innumerables personas impresionantes, visto un montón de animales increíbles, probado muchos alimentos nuevos, he aprendido un precioso idioma,  he experimentado y acostumbrado a una cultura diferente y adopte un estilo de vida más relajado y libre de estrés que me hace agradecer todos los días la decisión que tome al venir aquí.

Mi tiempo en Costa Rica también me ha enseñado mucho sobre mí y mi propia cultura. Antes de venir aquí, realmente no pensé que tenía mucho de una cultura. En la Universidad a menudo me sentía celosa cuando conocía a  personas que tenían muchas costumbres y tradiciones que con orgullo celebraban. Pero enseñando en Costa Rica he podido compartir con  mis alumnos sobre Trick-or-Treating de Halloween, Thanksgiving relleno y pastel de calabaza, he  escrito a mano tarjetas de San Valentín, buscar huevos de Pascua y disfrutar de una muy buena hamburguesa en un asado un domingo, me di cuenta de que tengo mucho para compartir y estar orgullosa acerca de mi cultura. Me gusta hablar con las personas acerca de nuestra cultura y tradiciones y discutir acerca de las diferencias entre Costa Rica y California.

Aunque ahora sé que tomé la decisión correcta, era realmente apresurado para mí hacer el traslado a Costa Rica donde no conocía a nadie y no hablaba el idioma. Tenía que ser serio y tenía que ser rápido. Tenía que estar abierta a nuevas posibilidades y tenía que estar dispuesta a probar cosas nuevas. Creo que si lo hubiera pensado más detenidamente, hubiera dado marcha atrás. Yo hubiera podido acobardarme y decir ¨ no, no puedo hacerlo¨. Pero no dejé que la situación me  asustara. Dije ‘Sí’ y así tome la mejor decisión de mi vida. Quizás no siempre sea cierto, pero mi año en Costa Rica me ha convencido de que las decisiones que a veces son  rápidas son las mejores decisiones que uno puede hacer.


A Year of Awesome Students and Staff / Un año de estudiantes y personal sobresalientes

It has been one year since we started recognizing the amazing people of Instituto Estelar in the form of Stellar Teacher of the Month and Student of the Month — “Estelares del Mes.” We are so proud to have such incredible staff and students that make our school great! We want to recognize this achievement one more time and thank them for their hard work, positive attitudes, and stellar dedication.

Ha pasado un año desde que comenzamos a  hacer reconocimiento a la increíble gente del Instituto Estelar, escogiendo un profesor y  un estudiante del mes – los estelares del mes. Estamos muy orgullosos de nuestros estudiantes y personal  del instituto! Queremos reconocer otra vez  su gran logro, duro trabajo, actitud positiva y su dedicación!

Estelares abr 2013-2014


Abril 2013: Greta y Teo

Mayo 2013: Melody y Ana Maria

Junio 2013: Merlyn y Lee

Julio 2013: Manuel y Hellen

Agosto 2013: Sharai y Diego

Setiembre 2013: Brittany y Felipe

Octubre 2013: Rosa y Jasmine

Noviembre 2013: Gabriela

Diciembre 2013 y Enero 2014: Stephanie y Emily

Febrero 2014: Sonia y Charlotte

Marzo 2014: Kate y Amelia

Abril 2014: Kate y Valeria


7 Pros and Cons of Being a Teacher in Costa Rica

You live in Costa Rica – the most obvious pro is that you have the opportunity to live in an amazing place with beautiful beaches, national parks, waterfalls, and volcanoes to explore. You don’t live in your own country– it’s not easy to leave everything you know behind. Although you are living in an exquisite country, you are not in your own country and this can be difficult at times.
You get to meet people and make new friends – living in Costa Rica and traveling around Central America gives you the chance to meet people that you never would have met if you had stayed in your home country. You don’t get to see your old friends regularly – although Skype and Facebook make it possible to stay in touch with your good friends back home, it can be difficult at times because you can’t see them on a regular basis.
You have the chance to learn Spanish – although your job is 100% in English, everything else around you isn’t. This makes it easier to learn Spanish because you are not only immersed in it, but you need it at times to get what you want and need. You have to be patient to learn Spanish – learning Spanish takes time and it can be difficult, especially at the beginning, to understand. Hearing announcements, reading signs, and talking to people are some things that can make you feel nervous or uncomfortable when you don’t speak or understand very much of the language.
The weather – even in the rainy season, Costa Rica is always warm. Sweaters and jackets are rarely needed, whereas shorts and tank tops are always appropriate. The weather – there are days in Liberia when the heat is unbearable. Usually it is a dry heat, but during changing seasons, the humidity and heat make it difficult to sleep, walk to work, or go anywhere without a fan.
Expenses – things like rent, water and electricity, and traveling by bus are cheap when compared to prices in United States or Canada. Expenses – Costa Rica is quite expensive compared to the surrounding Latin American countries. This can make it difficult to save money. Things like food, clothes, shoes, and personal items are overpriced and often lack the quality that you would expect for paying such a high price. 
You can try new foods – moving to a new country gives you the opportunity to try the foods from the culture. You can also learn to cook typical dishes and add them into your recipe book to use now and in the future.  You may have to give up some culinary favorites – Some foods that you love may not be available here. If they are available, they may cost more than you are used to paying. While there are some very delicious foods in Costa Rica, the selection is different than what you might find in the United States or Canada.
You are able to live a very simple, carefree life – Costa Rica offers a pura vida lifestyle that makes it possible to relax and live a slow-paced life. You may get addicted to the simplicity – the longer our teachers stay in Costa Rica, the harder it can be for them to return to their home country.

What our teachers have to say:

Carrie: “Teaching in Costa Rica makes you feel like part of the community. There’s a great cultural exchange between the teachers and students that’s a lot of fun for everyone. Also, beaches!!!”

Stephanie: “It’s an amazing, beautiful place to live with nice people. But it’s so hot!”

Nate: “There is no better way to learn a language. It truly is an adventure.”

Sharai: “I love living in Costa Rica! Teaching is fun and it feels good to watch your students advance. I am worried though that I will never leave – I have already extended my stay 6 months!”

Kate: “Living and teaching in Costa Rica has been an adventure, for sure, but acclimating and adjusting to the culture was seamless; the people here have been warm and welcoming and while I may be over 3,000 miles from where I grew up, I’ve never felt as at home as I do in Costa Rica.”

Adam: “It’s definitely an immersive experience in a welcoming culture.  Teaching English in this environment is incredible – you feel useful and driven to give as much as you get.”

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Usted vive en Costa Rica – el más evidente  pro es que tiene la oportunidad de vivir en un sitio increíble, con hermosas playas, parques nacionales, cascadas y volcanes para explorar. Usted no vive en su propio país– no es fácil dejar atrás todo lo que conoce. A pesar de que vivirá en un exquisito país, no se encontrara en su propio país y esto puede ser difícil a veces. 
Llegar a conocer  gente y hacer nuevos amigos – viviendo en Costa Rica y viajando por América Central le da la oportunidad de conocer  gente que nunca habría conocido si se hubiera quedado en su país de origen. No puede ver a sus viejos amigos con regularidad – aunque con Skype y Facebook  es posible estar en contacto con sus amigos en casa, puede ser difícil a veces porque no se les puede ver personalmente.
Usted tiene la oportunidad de aprender español – aunque su trabajo es del 100% en inglés, todo lo demás que lo rodea no lo es. Esto hace que sea más fácil  aprender español, porque no sólo está inmerso en la cultura, también  necesita hablarlo para obtener lo que necesita y desea. Usted tiene que ser paciente para aprender español – aprender español lleva tiempo y puede ser difícil, sobre todo al principio. Cosas como entender  anuncios y rótulos,  hablar  con las personas  y lograr entenderles son algunas cosas que le pueden hacer sentirse nervioso o incómodo.
El tiempo – incluso en la temporada de lluvias, Costa Rica siempre es cálido. Suéteres y chaquetas raramente son necesarios en Liberia, mientras que los pantalones cortos y camisetas siempre son apropiados.  El tiempo – hay días en Liberia, que el calor es insoportable. Suele ser un calor seco, pero durante el cambio de estaciones, la humedad y el calor hacen difícil dormir, caminar al trabajo o ir a ninguna parte sin un ventilador.
Gastos – cosas como alquiler, agua, electricidad y viajar en bus son cosas baratas en comparación con los precios en Estados Unidos o Canadá. Gastos – Costa Rica es bastante caro en comparación con los países circundantes de América Latina. Esto puede hacer difícil ahorrar dinero. Cosas como alimentos, ropa, zapatos y objetos personales son demasiado caros y a menudo carecen de la calidad que usted esperaría para pagar por un precio tan alto.
Usted puede probar nuevos alimentos vivir en un país nuevo le da la oportunidad de probar los alimentos de la cultura. También  puede aprender a cocinar platos típicos y agregarlos a su libro de recetas!  Es posible que tenga que renunciar a algunas especialidades culinarias – Algunos alimentos que le gustan pueden no estar disponibles aquí. Si están disponibles, pueden costar más de lo que usted está acostumbrado a pagar. Si bien hay comidas deliciosas en Costa Rica, la selección es diferente a lo que se puede encontrar en los Estados Unidos o Canadá.
Usted es capaz de vivir una simple y despreocupada vida – Costa Rica ofrece una pura vida que hace posible relajarse y vivir  a un lento ritmo de vida. Usted puede ser adicto a la vida simple – entre más tiempo nuestros profesores permanecen en Costa Rica, más difícil es que quieran volver a su país de origen.


Lo que cuentan nuestros maestros:

Carrie: “Enseñar en Costa Rica te hace sentir como parte de la comunidad. Hay un gran intercambio cultural entre los profesores y estudiantes que es un montón de diversión para todos. Además, las playas!!!!!!”

Stephanie: “Es un lugar increíble, hermoso para vivir con gente agradable. ¡Pero qué calor!”
Nate: “No hay una mejor manera de aprender un idioma. Verdaderamente es una aventura.”
Sharai: “Me encanta vivir en Costa Rica. Enseñar es divertido y se siente bien ver a sus estudiantes avanzar. Me preocupa sin embargo que no voy a querer  irme – ya he ampliado mi estadía 6 meses!”
Kate: “Vivir y enseñar  en Costa Rica ha sido una aventura! Pero para adaptarme a la cultura y a la gente fue súper fácil; la gente aquí es muy cálida y acogedora. Y aunque este a  más de 3.000 millas del lugar donde nací y crecí, nunca me he sentido  en casa como lo hago en Costa Rica.”
Adam: “Definitivamente es una experiencia de inmersión en una cultura acogedora. Enseñar inglés en este ambiente es increíble, uno se siente impulsado a dar más de lo que puede y se siente súper  útil.”


Liberia Trash Pick-Up / Campaña de limpieza en Liberia


Estelar staff participating in the clean-up event.

With the Women’s World Cup starting this weekend, people from all over the world will be traveling to Liberia to watch the games. Before they come, however, a few groups wanted to clean up the city by picking up the trash that litters the streets. Instituto Estelar joined other companies and universities to do a trash pick-up at 7:30am yesterday. We worked for nearly three hours, making our way through various parts of the city.  Before we left, we enjoyed cold water and sandwiches that were donated to the project.

It was rewarding to see the transformation of the streets we covered, and to be thanked by local people walking by. However, it was very discouraging to see new bags of garbage carelessly thrown on the ground in an area we had just finished cleaning.

Picking up trash is a humble task that is great volunteer work, but it will not completely solve the problem. There is a lack of education that needs to be addressed. Many people in Guanacaste grew up seeing signs on the bus that say “Throw garbage out the windows.” Although this is not seen on the buses today, it is this bad education that leads people to continue to litter and damage the beauty of Liberia.

Instituto Estelar Bilingüe plans to get involved in more trash pick-up events. We are also interested in starting an anti-littering campaign, starting with children in our kids classes and upcoming tutoring programs. With greater awareness of the problem and regular clean-ups, we hope that Liberia will be cleaner, prettier, and more appealing in the future.


Buses used to encourage throwing garbage out the window. Thank goodness that is no longer the case; however, old habits die hard.

Con la Copa mundial de Fútbol Femenino empezando este fin de semana, la gente de todo el mundo, estarán viajando a Liberia para ver los partidos. Antes de empezar, sin embargo, algunos grupos querían limpiar la ciudad y recoger la basura de las calles. Instituto Estelar se unió a otras empresas y universidades recogiendo la basura ayer. Trabajamos durante casi tres horas, caminando a diversas partes de la ciudad. Antes de irnos, disfrutamos agua fría y bocadillos que fueron donados al proyecto.

Fue muy gratificante ver la transformación de las calles que cubrimos, y ser agradecidos por algunos Liberianos en la calle. Sin embargo, fue muy desalentador cuando vimos un par de bolsas de basura tirado de nuevo en una zona que ya habíamos limpiado.

Recoger la basura es una tarea humilde y un gran trabajo voluntario, pero no soluciona completamente el problema. Hay una falta de conciencia que debe ser mejorado. Muchas personas en Guanacaste crecieron viendo los rótulos en los buses que dijeron “Tirar basura por las ventanas.” A pesar de que este no se vea en los autobuses hoy, esta es la mala educación que influye a la gente a seguir con malos hábitos, dañando la belleza de Liberia.

Instituto Estelar Bilingüe va a participar en más campañas de limpieza. También estamos interesados en iniciar una campaña contra el abandono de desperdicios, empezando con los niños en nuestro programa de inglés para niños y un programa de tutoría que tendremos próximamente. Con una mayor conciencia del problema y limpieza regularmente, esperamos que Liberia sea más limpia, más linda y más atractiva en el futuro.

Learning Language with Stories

Although learning a language is something that takes persistence and dedication on the part of the student, the methodology of the teacher can make a huge difference. Anyone who puts in the time and effort to learn will certainly learn, but when we are able to do so in an interesting and enjoyable way, it is much easier to advance.

Instituto Estelar Bilingüe is proud to use TPRS – Total Physical Response Storytelling – in our curriculum. This innovative method uses bizarre and amusing stories to teach new vocabulary, increase fluency, and get students involved by giving them the opportunity to alter the details themselves.  Because of the silliness, creativity, and repetition involved, TPRS allows students to learn easily and retain information effortlessly.

Making these stories is fun, memorable, and helps you learn new things without knowing it. At Estelar, we make sure that our classes are never boringwith conversation, games, activities, and TPRS, we help our students learn a language the easy way!

To see this method in action, watch our videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHeaisRSiHc

Making a Difference with Backpacks and Shoes!

It is easy to forget that there is poverty in the world until you see it first-hand. If you live in the center of Liberia, Costa Rica, you might not see it every day – you might never see it. But if you go to Martinas Bustos just outside of the city limits, you will see a different world of people who are living in rundown shacks without floors, electricity, running water, or toilets.

For the second time in two months, the students at Instituto Estelar Bilingue came together to donate supplies and essential items to the people of this neighborhood. In December, we delivered boxes full of food and sanitary products to 12 families desperately in need. We also joined forces with Souls Helping Soles to deliver shoes to children and teens of this community. This time, we did a donation drive with the students of Martinas Bustos in mind. Together we filled 15 new backpacks with pens, paper, notebooks, colored pencils, and other materials that are required for students who attend public school. Going to school in Costa Rica is very expensive and it can take a toll on a family, even a middle-class family. For this reason, we wanted to help support the parents that are struggling to send their children to school and to reward the students who are working hard for their education.


We gave 15 backpacks full of school supplies to these children in Martinas Bustos, a needy neighborhood just outside of Liberia.

On February 14, a team of 17 people – students and staff of Instituto Estelar as well as volunteers for Souls Helping Soles – met at the institute to make the delivery. We loaded the backpacks and shoes into two cars and a donated micro-bus from a local tour company called Offi Tours. We drove to the school near Martinas Bustos, but found out that all of the students had gone home and would be returning in the afternoon. So we made our way into the neighborhood and stopped on the main road where we saw children playing.


Estelar English teacher, Sharai, gives a backpack to this appreciative boy!

We handed the first backpacks to two girls in school uniforms who smiled from ear to ear, and quickly a crowd began to form around our cars. Children of all ages were gathering around, asking if they could have one as well. Our team worked together to give backpacks to school-goers and shoes to any child with a foot that fit one of our pairs. It was a little hectic and it did take a lot of teamwork on our part, but it was so rewarding to see the smiles on the kids faces when they received their backpack or slid their foot into a perfect pair of shoes.


Lisa Garrett, founder of Souls Helping Soles, puts shoes on kids’ feet so they can go to school. She receives donations primarily from North America and within Costa Rica.

Although it was a small gift to give, we made a difference in the lives of dozens of children and students living in poverty. It is our hope that we can do many of these donation drives in the future and that people from all over Costa Rica and the United States will get involved so that we can further help the poor communities around us.

If you want to get involved, please contact us!

Souls Helping Soles: http://www.soulshelpingsoles.org

Instituto Estelar Bilingüe: http://www.estelarcr.com

Fish out of Water, by Sharai Kirk

The English students at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe are amazing. I am pretty sure that most people think teachers have a very difficult job, and sometimes that is very true. Some students can be rude or offensive, unable to learn, or even unwilling to learn. However, for the last 8 months I have been blessed with nothing but fun, energetic students who are eager to learn and experts at making my job more entertaining than I ever thought it could be.


Sharai’s English class doing a fun review activity!

Last Friday night I taught my final class with my intermediate students that I have been with since October. They had a quiz to take, so on Wednesday I assigned them homework that made them do more than just study – they needed to prepare to be the teacher for five minutes by briefly explaining one of the grammar topics with examples and a small activity to practice the concept. Sometimes teaching is the best way to learn something, so I felt confident that even if their activities were short, small, or a repeat of one of mine, they would still be studying for the quiz in a fun, challenging manner.

But, once again, my students blew me out of the water (literally, you will see). They all had fantastic explanations, examples, and games to share with their classmates. We did a question-answer matching activity on the board, a dice competition game, a fill-in-the-blank race, a one-word-at-a-time sentence creating game where the person who messes up must make their craziest funny face, and more. But my favorite activity was at the end.

My friend and student, Carolina, took the stage to present her activity. She briefly taught the use of the past continuous and the past simple which we had learned in class. Then she explained the game, Charades, for anyone who had never played. She handed everyone a slip of paper on which she had written some crazy, bizarre, and hilarious sentences using these grammar concepts. One by one, each student went to the front to act out the ridiculous situations that she had invented.

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of them on tape, but my class instantly turned into a comedy show as my students began doing things like karate while taking selfies, cooking hamburgers when a giraffe entered the kitchen, dealing with constipation when their mother brought them papaya, dancing like Brittney Spears as their boyfriend pouted at the table, dreaming of being a fat kangaroo, and pretending to be a fish out of water as someone laughs hysterically (I got the honor of doing this one). It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and half the class was crying from laughing so hard. I couldn’t have asked for a better last class.

To see a few on video, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgp4Z9llbWw&edit=vd

The students at this school are amazing. I have loved every minute of my job at Instituto Estelar Bilingue and I am grateful that the silly actors in this video are also my friends. Special thanks to all my students who have made my time in Costa Rica wonderful!