My name is Garth Johnson and I’ve been a virtual corporate trainer with Idioma Internacional for the past six months. I am from sunny South Africa and even though I live far away, I feel as though I am in Costa Rica because our team, or rather corporate family, works so closely together.
In a word, I would describe my overall experience with Idioma as phenomenal! Having the opportunity to work with highly-educated English trainers and students from around the world is probably the best thing a teacher could ask for and makes working with Idioma Internacional a truly multicultural experience! Not only does this position provide you with the opportunity to sharpen your skills as a trainer by challenging you to change your approach based on the type of students you interact with, but you are also able to learn from professional colleagues who are always around to lend a helping hand at a moment’s notice. And by always, I mean, ALWAYS!
I have been a virtual English trainer for four years going on five and I can safely say I have never worked for a more organized, flexible, and efficient company than Idioma Internacional.
As a trainer at Idioma, you are provided with lesson plans and materials to follow which effectively aid in structuring every lesson, while at the same time, allowing for the flexibility to make each class your own. This takes a lot of pressure off of the trainer as it enables you to focus on the delivery of each lesson as opposed to the structure itself.
What are my hours like? Is my schedule consistent? These details can be nightmares for virtual trainers! You’d think it would be difficult for me considering the fact that there is an 8-hour time difference between Costa Rica and South Africa, but to my surprise, it hasn’t been an issue at all! With Idioma Internacional, you can rest assured as you are able to work closely with the Operations Director to tailor your perfect schedule; in other words, scheduling is every virtual trainer’s dream come true!
I got into the teaching career path for two reasons: my undying love for people and for the English language! Most online schools work with new students each day or week which takes away from the experience as you are not able to form relationships and work on students strengths and weaknesses; however, at Idioma Internacional, the opposite is true. Classes consisting of the same students are assigned to you over different periods of time, allowing genuine relationships to form and students to give their best and receive the same in return!
Let me tell you, the feeling you get when you hear that you have made a difference in someone’s life by helping them get that job, promotion or merely just a boost in confidence, by doing what you love with a company that loves what you do, is certainly unmatched.
I am proud and honored to be part of the Idioma team!
Disclaimer: Teachers were asked to write about their own personal experience with online/ in-country teaching with Idioma Internacional. This blog post contains the teacher’s own personal thoughts and opinions, and freely expressed views on their part.
Someone once said that change is the only constant in life. That same someone may also argue that this has been particularly true since March 2020.
Due to the pandemic there has been a total shift from “normal life” to the new normal: a virtual life. The world has changed and is changing. Many lives have been lost. Travel plans have been cancelled and there is uncertainty about even when some may be able to see and hug their loved ones again.
On top of this, there is a world economy that has been severely impacted. Service and travel industries have been crushed. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing. When will it get better? Can it get better?
Costa Rica’s answer to these questions: sí se puede!
Apart from being an absolutely stunning country, from its breathtaking landscapes to its warm, diverse citizens to its always freshly prepared cuisine, Costa Rica is a country that has made serious commitments to its values.
Costa Rica is committed to peace. Costa Rica is committed to working hard. Costa Rica is committed to caring for its natural resources, both flora and fauna alike. And holding it close as a national value, Costa Rica is committed to education.
At Idioma Internacional, we are so truly honored to be partnering with Costa Rica and its public and private entities in order to help bring this commitment to education to fruition for residents and citizens of this country, regardless of pandemics or other setbacks that may come.
In May 2020, with the pandemic and uncertainty still quite fresh and ever-unfolding, the Costa Rican government was still dedicated to providing hundreds of scholarships to people in an effort to educate them in English and assist them in gaining the skills to gain employment. Costa Rica was steadfastly focused on growth and so was Idioma Internacional. Together, we joined forces to combat uncertainty, combat a pandemic, and combat unemployment by taking actions to put into practice the commitment to education and language skills aimed at helping people and their families learn, become gainfully employed, and keep moving forward.
Months later in August, and further into more uncertainty and a continued pandemic, the government once again showed its commitment to education and to its citizens and residents, approving hundreds of scholarships that will help them gain language skills that can translate into employment opportunities. With a quality team of teachers from around the globe, from Africa, Europe, and Asia to the Americas, Idioma Internacional was once again proud to partner with the labor ministry in its social and economic efforts to keep Costa Rica growing and moving forward.
As many of our students are now set to graduate after their intensive, months-long virtual English courses with Idioma Internacional, we are now partnering with the private sector via companies like Amazon, Snap Finance, Equifax and more, in order to host virtual job fairs for our graduating students in a concerted effort to allow companies exposure to our talented groups of graduates, allow our graduates to gain direct access to hiring teams from companies and help to complete the cycle and efforts of Costa Rica and its commitment to education.
And Costa Rica will soon be at it again! Despite a pandemic with still no end in sight, Costa Rica is poised to continue to invest in education and continue to invest in its people with a focus on growth and gaining employment. And Idioma Internacional is proudly poised to commit once again to helping the country advance, and to helping all of its residents and citizens gain the language skills they need in order to keep moving forward with their own personal and professional growth.
We planned a trip to see the Arenal volcano in La Fortuna. This would be my first time seeing a volcano, an active volcano, in person. I had no idea what to expect. I had seen volcanos from afar in Mexico City, 150 km away, but this time we would be staying in the foothills of the volcano.
The drive west was quite the adventure. The road was a continuous series of hairpin turns, not to mention the roads were very narrow with no shoulders. I think the steering wheel now has permanent impressions of my hands as I was gripping the steering wheel pretty tightly. To add to the excitement of the drive as we headed up the mountain, we drove in the “clouds”. Rain, fog, and blind turns for most of the drive. On the 3 and ½ hour trip to Arenal, we stopped for lunch in a small town. There were many small “sodas” and we found a really nice place. The food was delicious and relatively inexpensive. It was a nice break in the action and stress of the road.
The hotel that we stayed at was made up of various types of bungalows, of various styles and sizes. Our room had a direct view of the towering volcano and the crater, which was smoking by the way! At first, I found this to be a little disconcerting. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?! It was such a surreal sight like I was looking at the mountain in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. It was both mesmerizing, ominous, and fascinating. The hotel had natural mineral spring pools, surrounded by dense vegetation, that were warmed by the thermal heat of the earth. The pools were very refreshing. There was also a volcanic ash mud you could apply to your skin and feel the benefits of the natural mud.
There were many people riding road bikes through the hilly roads. Certainly not for the faint of heart as the climb up the hills looked rather challenging. We did not do the hiking trails on this trip since it was the rainy season and the trails were very muddy but will definitely return when it is the dry season to do hiking and exploring the various trails and see the views.
The grounds of the hotel were like nothing I had ever seen before. It was simply beautiful. There were so many different types of flowering plants and trees of every imaginable color. I could only think it was like Hawaii or some other beautiful tropical location. Colorful birds flew everywhere and hummingbirds darted from one large bloom to another. The air is much more humid than in San Jose, a nice change. The temperature and humidity reminded me of back home in Florida during the summer.
It was a wonderful trip, so beautiful, so peaceful, so very different than the day to day! We look forward to returning next season.
It feels like a looooong time ago that we were ending 2019 and launching into 2020!
We had a great Christmas Party at an Argentinian steakhouse in Escazú and then went up the mountain for a zarpe to end the evening and close out 2019. When we came back from our paid Christmas vacation time, we hit the ground running!
The new year kicked off with several new staff members joining our team. We also launched a new automated and recorded speaking assessment policy to enhance the program for our teachers and students. And we started several new accounts and even added some wonderful clients to our community!
In early March 2020, we had just finished up another successful year as the strategic language evaluations partner for the CINDE Job Fair, where we evaluate over 10,000 job candidates’ language levels in English, French and Portuguese. At this same time, the news and first case of COVID-19 were hitting Costa Rica quite hard.
On Monday, March 9th, the Costa Rican government started taking action against the Covid-19 virus as the first case in CR hit just days before. On Tuesday, March 10th, the Idioma Internacional team decided to close our physical offices and transfer all of our classes to virtual, online platforms. By that next day, the entire team and operations were up and running 100% virtually and with very few bumps along the way.
I have to credit the teaching team the most for making this transition happen so quickly and so smoothly. Prior to the pandemic, we were already operating with around 25% of our classes in a virtual or hybrid (part onsite and part virtual) modality; therefore, all of the teachers were already trained and prepared as virtual instructors, save one or two of the newer teachers, and were ready to lead our students into a fully virtual educational experience from one day to the next. This quick and efficient transition to a completely virtual working and teaching environment by the Idioma teaching team is truly one of the most remarkable efforts that Idioma Internacional, in its 20+ years, has seen.
Of course, nothing is easy, nor should it be. Our team has been working hard to optimize this experience and embrace it as an opportunity.
The curriculum team has overhauled our Virtual Learning Platform to more than double the amount of asynchronous, online resources for students’ learning, available 24 hours, 7 days a week, from anywhere with an internet connection.
The recruiting team adjusted to expand our hiring reach to teachers outside of Costa Rica and our team now includes teachers in Costa Rica and several other countries around the world, adding to the diversity and the ‘internacional’ part of our name and identity.
Our marketing and sales team offered flexible solutions to our teaching projects, all of which help people get employed in an increasingly tight labor market worldwide.
For now, we are following the Minister of Health and President Carlos Alvarado’s guidelines and we are firing on all cylinders in this new and exciting virtual world. With the beaches now partially open and things slowly resuming to a new “normal” due to Costa Rica’s swift and unified handling of this pandemic, we are anxious to start dipping our toes back into this country’s gorgeous oceans and once again hang out as a team, be it on the beach or at a café in the capital. We know Costa Rica will soon return to being one of the best locations to visit and live in the world.
December is a special month known for giving and this past December, Idioma Internacional wanted to focus on the children in our community. On Thursday, December 12th, a team from Idioma planned and prepared a holiday event that the children would never forget. Idioma teamed up with the Hospital Nacional de Niños to create an event specifically for the children who rarely get to experience the holidays and the special treats. Our objective for the day was to include the young boys and girls who are often left out of parties because of their dietary restrictions.
The day started at 8:00 am at the Hospital Nacional de Niños off of Paseo Colón. We set up the large playroom with green and red decorations, divided up different stations to make origami Christmas trees and decorate ornaments, and played Christmas music. Once the children and their families settled in, our first activity was Christmas caroling. Standing in front of the playroom, we sang three English Christmas carols — We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming To Town. After singing, we moved to decorating ornaments. With our numerous supplies, the children were able to customize their own ornaments for their trees. Not only was it a hit with the children, but their family members too!
The best part of the day was our Santa surprise! Towards the end of the event, while the kids were creating their origami Christmas trees, our Academic Coordinator, Bill Harris, dressed up as Santa and surprised everyone. Everyone was so excited because even when some of the kids were skeptical about Santa Claus, they began to believe in him after seeing Santa in his bright, red costume and his big bag of presents! Once Santa was settled into his chair at the front of the room, the kids took pictures and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Everyone had officially begun to get in the holiday spirit after seeing Santa.
The morning ended with a group photo and many hugs and smiles from the children. Events like this one reminded us why community is so important and how powerful supporting one another can be. Idioma continues to bring that support in the events that they’re involved in — no matter the season.
Being active as a team is something that Idioma promotes and in previous years, the staff participated in Dr. Anna Ross Walk and Run Against Cancer. This year was no different as teachers and administration alike gathered together this October for Breast Cancer Awareness. Much like other supporters of the Anna Ross Foundation, some teachers and administration from Idioma joined together to walk, run, and promote Women’s Health.
In our pink shirts and tanks, our group of 11 set out at 7:30am to walk to the start of the race on Paseo Colón. We were all motivated by seeing hundreds of people (runners, walkers, and supporters) involved in something so life-changing. The Dr. Anna Ross Foundation has done so much for not only those who have been directly affected, but also their loved ones. The Foundation is maintained by numerous donations and sponsors who believe in the work and research that is being done. They lead the way in health by providing free workshops all over the country to stress the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits and exercising daily.
For the past 16 years, the Dr. Anna Ross Foundation has created many events related to cancer and the Walk and Run Against Cancer is one of their biggest events, catching the attention from both Costa Ricans and health professionals to raise awareness about the sickness in the country. That is why it’s important to take action in something that affects many people and why we, as Idioma Internacional, are always ready and willing to be part of a movement that supports those we care about.
Back in the day, as they say, the Idioma team used to get together every Sunday evening to have dinner as a team, and always at the home of the first academic director, Joy. At that time, we all lived in the same neighborhood and we were a much smaller operation.
Fast forward to 2019 and having nearly tripled in size, we now live all around the central valley, counting four of the seven provinces as home to Idioma and its team.
Nonetheless, the passion for spending time together and eating together has never been far from Idioma; it was in this spirit, to take some time outside of work to share, laugh, eat and enjoy the rich diversity on our team that we organized a mid-year potluck in the late afternoon on Sunday, June 30th.
At 4pm precisely, the hour that we started the potluck, it began to downpour…torrentially and so much so that within minutes, the road gutter in front of our current academic director’s apartment, between the road and the door to his apartment, was filled with a half-foot deep, six-foot wide rushing ‘river!’ It’s a good thing that everyone arrived on Tico time and not on time! By 4:30pm when people started showing up, the downpour downgraded to just heavy rain and the ‘river’ was crossable by way of a leap and we all made it upstairs to start warming up food and eating!
We had shrimp and grits along with sausage and fried apples from some of the southerners on staff. We had fruit salad and a huge pineapple for a more Tico flair. And no potluck is complete without a couple of potato dishes, as in mashed potatoes and home fries!
We all took turns grazing through the food line in Brendan’s tiny kitchen and the chatter and clatter soon took a downward turn as the silence of good-eatin’ commenced! There was enough food for seconds (and thirds for some, who shall remain nameless!) and a surplus to take to the office for some Monday munching.
Add we enjoyed some guitar strummin’ and singing in an impromptu session before we capped the evening off early but very full, full of international fare, Idioma friends and the Costa Rican Pura Vida vibe.
After taking on an additional role at Idioma, I knew that my first project for Idioma Cares would be one to remember. Idioma Cares is based on the foundation of helping the community and getting everyone involved and that’s exactly what this first project did. Idioma Cares collaborated with Universidad La Salle in San Jose along with Dan Cruz who works for a specific organization within La Salle, Consultorio Jurídico, which aids immigrants and refugees that enter Costa Rica. The Consultorio Jurídico works alongside other organizations to bring help and support to these immigrants and refugees in legal ways. As part of Idioma Cares, we provided canned goods and donated clothes for a specific family. This family of five comes from Haiti but they were living in Venezuela until the political unrest started and it was no longer safe for them. They uprooted their lives in search of the American dream but unfortunately, a “coyote” took everything from them. Now they are residing in Costa Rica with the help of the Consultorio Jurídico.
After many phone calls and messages sent, I was finally able to meet Dan, drop off the canned goods and clothes, and tour La Universidad La Salle. On July 17th, along with two other Idioma teachers, we were given the grand tour of La Universidad La Salle. Dan was very proud in showing us his place of work and as visitors, we were just as excited to see how everything works and to know just what kind of organization we were working with. We met some of Dan’s coworkers and their love for helping others were very evident as they explained their roles. At the end of the meeting, we took a few group photos and said our goodbyes.
This first collaboration between La Salle and Idioma Cares will not be our last. While our official title is teacher, we are so much more than that. We are collaborators. We are supporters. We are givers. We are people who care about others. And that is what Idioma Internacional and Idioma Cares will continue to be.
We got home way later than we expected. It was a long drive back from the beach in typical Sunday traffic in the high (busy) season that I hadn’t taken into account when planning when we would leave. A lesson learned for next time. To me, that objectively sounds like a really less than ideal way to end a long day. But with this group of friends, at the end of this day, we had a blast the entire time we inched forward.
The music was blaring (in a fun way) in our humble buseta. Everyone was singing, laughing, and swapping stories. We generally made the best of the time. When we finally arrived at the office everyone pitched in and helped unload the barbeque supplies and the recycling we had collected. It was a long day rewarded with good company. A Sunday well spent.
The day started with everyone meeting at the office. It was 8:00am, and again I’m inspired by the amount of hands that showed up to help. Sure, we were getting a day at the beach together and a nice bbq lunch to go with it (which is awesome!), but it’s still collecting trash in the sunny heat of the Puntarenas Province and carefully sifting it into recycling piles to make sure we’re helping the environment properly. My point is there are plenty of other places all nine of us could have chosen to otherwise be on our collective day off, and yet, this is where we all wanted to be.
We have done a couple of park clean ups now, like at Parque de la Paz, and Peace University Park, but this was our first beach cleanup. One thing we have learned from park cleanups is how they’re deceptively filled with trash. You don’t necessarily see what you aren’t looking for. But bend over and pay attention and suddenly you can’t stop seeing the trash, small and large. On a beach, the amount of cigarette butts alone could have kept us there all day, in addition to large chunks of broken materials ditched in the forest the banks the sand.
But once again, when we were decked out in gloves and separate trash bags for junk and recycling, it wasn’t long before people took notice of the pairs we had broken out into and saw the impact we were making. Shirley, the Costa Rican owner and co-operator of the buseta we had rented, asked for gloves and a bag to help in the effort. And before long other people there, just to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach, were pitching in too. One person even asked Shirley, “Why are you doing this?” Her response was simple and profound, “because this is my beach, too.”
Because this is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. This is why we were there. We are welcome guests in this gorgeous country. We are also active participants. When you’re invited over for dinner, you’re of course going to offer to wash the dishes.
After concluding our efforts with a celebratory cheer, we concluded our cleanup by moving to a more secluded and shaded area that was perfect to set up hammocks and start the grill. We had Frisbees and volleyballs to toss around in the ocean and made new friends while doing so. Shirley, the joiner, of course, came out and had fun with us in the ocean.
On our way home we stopped for batidos, or fruit smoothies, as an extra gift from Idioma Cares that Bailey had chosen for all of us. And even though it took a long time to arrive to our beds after that, we loved and made the most of every second of it.
This is their beach. And it’s our beach, too. I think we all took pride in knowing we had shown that the respect and reciprocity it deserved. It was a delicious meal. And we made sure to do our dishes.
Our Idioma Cares kick-off event of the year was as inspiring as it was fun. Good things come to those who show up. And, including brand new members of the team, we had a solid group show up to help our own community.
We have done a park clean-up in Parque de La Paz, but this was a beautification outside our actual doorstep. It was satisfying being able to clean up what we see every day, what is our home, and what is home to many others.
This was an Idioma Cares event with a dual purpose, to start the year off with committing to action and community with cleaning up our surrounding streets, but it stemmed from the philosophy of Idioma Internacional itself, of building a family. So we combined our clean-up event with a BBQ as a team to celebrate our commitment and dedication. We are all here from another land as appreciators of different cultures, specifically Costa Rica. We are not just finding purpose, but making a purpose by giving back to the country that has hosted us.
We grabbed our bags and gloves and spread out across the neighborhood to grab trash and recycling that was left behind. We enjoyed working side by side with our co-teachers and admin comrades, and we also knew there was a delicious barbeque on the other side.
After the clean-up, we proceeded to the beautiful University for Peace Park to grill out with hot dogs and hamburgers and all the snacks and drinks we could take with us (we didn’t have our vegetarians or vegans with us, but we were prepared for their dietary needs).
There was a beautiful February sun, soccer fields, a forest to explore and good company to have. One thing I enjoy a lot about our team is how easy and fun it is to just hang out, and shoot the… you know. TEFL teachers have so many things in common, and as many differences that the stories we share are always something to enjoy and learn from.
We cooked together, drank together, played games together, and hiked together. We all came here to teach English, and in so doing, make a difference, but we also get to make a difference in our personal relationships. When you have picked up trash with a friend it is that much easier to laugh about crazy hostel experiences in a beach town.
New members of the team made us laugh while getting to know them as we jammed to music. We played soccer with the locals as if we could hold a candle to their talent. And as we piled into the cars to exit before the sun went down, it was refreshing to see that our team took the time out of their Sunday to spend it together. We made our front door prettier and safer, and we did it all in the comradery that makes living abroad so necessary and awesome.
Our start of the year was as successful as the rest of our year. Now we get to walk into the difference we want to make, and the friendships we are here to have. Because they are waiting for us, and good things come to those that show up.