Alumni Spotlight on Heather Garay-Yoder; Nicaragua TEFL Alumni
Heather recently graduated from the May 2016 TEFL certification course in León, Nicaragua and has returned home from a month of traveling after graduation. Nicaragua is growing as a popular destination to travel to, and we were curious as to what inspired Heather to get TEFL certified in Nicaragua and what her experience was like living in one of Central America’s most underrated countries.
Q: Why did you decide to get TEFL certified in Nicaragua?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I thought it would be the best way to travel, learn and dedicate my time to a positive life! Nicaragua won me over very early into my research. It looked beautiful, safe, diverse, and inexpensive.
Q: Can you tell us what a typical day looks like during the course?
6:30 AM – WAKE UP! Don’t worry, you’re already sweating, so it’s not too hard to get up!
7:45 AM – Leave home and walk to a breakfast place. Usually there were a bunch of us from class at breakfast. We would eat, relax, and talk about the day ahead, or teaching the previous night.
9:05 AM – Head to the school! It was always good to get there 10 minutes before class. I liked to get my desk set up, fill up my water bottle, and just have time to hang out!
9:30 AM– Doors are shut, and class begins.
11:00 AM– Break. By now, my mind is blown! There is so much about my own language that I didn’t know! This is great time to ensure your calendar is in check, fill up your water bottle, use the washroom, and just relax! The countdown til lunch is on!
1-2 PM– LUNCH TIME!!! Now, not going to lie, there are not many options for food at lunchtime. So, generally we would do rotations of the few options. But it was always nice to get out of the building and go for a walk, even if it was 100 degrees or raining! A nice stretch is good for the body. During lunchtime, I would also take advantage of the free time and try to accomplish as much work as possible so I didn’t have to do it after hours. I generally utilized this time for quizzes, or small assignments.
5:00 PM– Class is over! Or so you think! Now is the time to review lesson plans, receive feedback, work on peer assignments, and many other tasks! It was easier to focus on assignments while in the building, so my friends and I would be very efficient during this time.
6:10-8:10 PM– Practicum (student teaching).
8:30 PM– Dinnertime! It was always nice to wait for my friends to finish teaching, or they wait for me, and we would just go out to eat and have a couple hours of free time! We would try to not talk about school, but just enjoy life in Nica! This is something I totally recommend if you feel comfortable with your time. I feel comfortable speaking on their behalves as well, and it was completely beneficial to us during class.
10:30 PM– Write reflection if necessary, or tie up any loose ends before class tomorrow.
11:00-11:30 PM– Bedtime!
Q: What did you do for fun after class/on the weekends?
There isn’t too much time during the week after class to do much, but you can definitely make time! I would go out every night, even if it were just for a walk around the city. It is a beautiful city and there is always terrific people watching in the Central Park. Taking a couple hours of free time each day was very important for my mental state!
On the weekends, I always made sure I had one full day of freedom. No schoolwork. It worked out perfect. On these days, I would usually go to the beach, Las Peñitas, which was only a short 20-minute cab ride away, or there is also a public bus. I also traveled one weekend to a city called Matagalpa. It was a little more than 2 hours away by public bus but it was very refreshing to have some time away in the cooler weather and to explore a new area of a Nicaragua!
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced during your two months in Nicaragua?
Honestly, nothing sticks out! The heat was a challenge for me. I am from Pennsylvania, so it was not something I am constantly used to. People kept telling me I would acclimate, and I didn’t believe them, but I did.
WiFi was an issue for some but I didn’t have many problems with it and honestly it was more common than I ever expected. Keep in mind, you are in a third world country! Water and electricity are bound to go out during your stay! Embrace it 🙂
Q: What would you say to someone who may be on the fence about going to Nicaragua?
GO! Everywhere has their issues, but Nicaragua was AMAZING! I never felt safer walking around a big city in my life. I’m including the cities that I am very knowledgeable about in my hometown. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first few nights, I would try to go home early, or take a cab but after a couple days of wandering alone, I never felt threatened. I had a pretty decent walk to my house from the city center, and would comfortably walk it at most hours of the day with no issue!
As far as public transportation goes, it is intimidating, but do not let it break you. Be confident, be honest, and let people help you. The bus stations are chaotic, just continuously tell people where you need to go, and they will get you there. Of course, be aware of your belongings and don’t let others handle them. Be aware and smart as if you would in any large city, whether it is in your home country or not.
Q: What was your favorite thing about your time in Nicaragua?
I loved the freedom and happiness of all of the people. Everyone was kind, helpful, giving and respectful. The culture was really amazing. Family is family, and family doesn’t have to be blood. I loved that I felt safe at all times. Meeting so many incredible people, and seeing so many amazing sights; I don’t believe that I can pick one favorite thing. I hope to relive many of my memories again in the near future. Leon is a city that captures your heart!
Q: Any advice for future TEFL students?
Explore! Enjoy and immerse yourself in the culture in Leon! The people are so wonderful and friendly.