Twenty-nine-year old primary school teacher Katie Doyle has always been passionate about travel. Now she has taken a sabbatical from her position in Dublin, Ireland to pursue a teaching opportunity in San Juan del Sur, which is on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
For Katie life in the classroom at San Juan del Sur Day School is miles apart from south Dublin, both literally and figuratively.
“Coming from a school where there was a laptop for every student and interactive white boards in the classroom to a place where it can be challenging to source regular teaching tools and supplies has definitely required me to become more imaginative with my teaching,” explains Katie.
But with only 14 children in her classroom—instead of 25 or 30—she has a lot more individual time to give to her students. Katie’s students range in age from 4 to 8 years old.
“A mixed age class is a new experience for me, but I am really enjoying the challenge of having such a variety of ability levels within one group,” says Katie.
Katie’s work days are much shorter in Nicaragua. With classes starting at noon she has mornings free to study Spanish, practice yoga, and surf—a pastime for which Nicaragua is particularly well known. School days finish at 4 p.m., leaving plenty of time to catch sunset on the beach with friends—one of the great benefits of living in a beach town.
With the low cost of living in Nicaragua, Katie’s salary is enough to cover her rent and day-to-day living expenses while allowing her the freedom to enjoy her desired lifestyle. She shares a two-bedroom, one-bathroom furnished apartment with her roommate from New Zealand, who is also a teacher at the San Juan del Sur Day School. Their combined rent is a mere $300 per month.
“I may not have a whole lot of disposable income, but I do get to live in a beach town, which would cost a small fortune elsewhere. And if I want to take a special trip somewhere I just cut back on my spending a few weeks beforehand,” says Katie.
Since living and traveling in Central America was nothing new for Katie she had a relatively good idea of what to expect when she arrived in San Juan del Sur. Nonetheless small town living took some getting used to.
“Working at home in a big city, I would rarely, if ever, see my students or their families outside of school,” she says. “Here I bump into them everywhere I go—sometimes at a pool, at the beach, or even at a bar. Feeling like there was no separation from work life and personal life was strange at first, but once I realized I didn’t have to have my ‘Teacher’s Hat’ on 24 hours a day things got easier.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone contemplating overseas teaching Katie answered without hesitation. “Do your research. Decide where you want to live and what type of school you want to work at. Don’t accept a job just because it’s the best- paying one.”
Just eight months after her arrival in San Juan del Sur—with some great adventures already behind her and a whole lot of the country left to explore—Katie is thrilled to be teaching in Nicaragua.
“I love the people and their way of life. I love the laid-back atmosphere and the lack of materialism. I love the fact that I can be relaxing on a beautiful deserted beach one day and take a one-and-a-half-hour drive to a beautiful colonial city the next.”
Author’s Note: This article was written by Elisha and originally published in the June 2014 issue of International Living’s Incomes Abroad monthly newsletter.