Learning to Leave.

If you go to the About the Expat section of my blog, you’ll see that I mention that I am an avid reader. Recently, I was rereading one of my favorite books, Paper Towns, by one of my all-time favorite authors: John Green. I read this book years ago when it first came out and I hadn’t reread it since. If I loved this book before, it is now one of my top 3 favorite books. I relate to it so much more now that I’ve had this experience of living abroad. There were 2 quotes that struck me the most when I was reading the book. The first:

It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

If you are an expat, I’m sure you can relate to this quote. I was so nervous about leaving my home, friends, and family when I was getting ready to move to Spain. And then once I arrived, I realized how stupid I’d been to be so scared. I never really had horrible homesickness (luckily). I honestly didn’t start to miss home until Thanksgiving. And at that point, I only needed to hold on 3 more weeks because I knew I was visiting home for Christmas. While I am super excited to be going home for the summer and spending time with my family, I am also thrilled at the idea of returning to Spain in September and planning all my next adventures.

For all the future auxiliares (I know BEDA and the Ministry have started handing out placements), I know that it seems so insanely scary to uproot your life to another country, but just as the quote says, leaving is hard until the moment in which you finally leave. You will meet new people and make new friends. I am so grateful for my tight-knit group of friends here in Spain. Diana, Sean, and Dan are the greatest friends I could have found here. It’s rare to find people who you just “click” with and that’s what I’ve found in them. My Italy trip wouldn’t have been half as fun if I hadn’t had Diana with me. And then there is my amazing Spain family. I will never be able to thank them enough for taking me in and making me another member of their family. I’ve gone from being the baby sister in my family back home to the big sister here and I’ve loved every minute of it.

The other quote that struck me while I was reading was the following one:

Leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can’t do that until your life has grown roots.

This is so utterly and completely true. Before Spain, I had never been away from my family for longer than a few days. I went to college in-state and I saw my family every weekend. Not to mention since my mom works at a sorority at my university, I saw her during the week too. I’ve lived in Maryland my entire life. My dog is in Maryland…I know this probably seems absurd…but I realllyyyy love my dog. All of my friends are in Maryland. Maryland is my comfort zone. So completely uprooting my life to move to Spain was a big decision. But this journey wouldn’t have half of the significance if I didn’t leave all those things behind. So while I know many of the future auxiliares are likely scared shitless about this move…that’s good. That means it’ll be all the more worthwhile once you’re finally here in Spain…or wherever it is that your journey is taking you. Can’t wait to meet some of you this September 🙂

Italia (Part 2) – Firenze. This Post is Ridiculously Long. Sorry.

Florence was definitely a highlight in the Italy trip. Now that I’ve been back a few weeks, I can say that Florence was my favorite city. It was a close tie with Rome, but something about Florence just appeals to me more. As the title mentions, this post is pretty long. I thought about breaking it up into 2 posts, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

This was the view from our hostel.

This was the view from our hostel.

After the debacle that was getting to the train station in Pisa to get to Florence, getting to the hostel we were staying at was pretty easy. I think it was probably around a 10 minute walk from the train station. We were the first people to check into the room so we got to pick our beds. We chose the bunk beds that were kind of separated from the other 2 bunk beds in the room. There was a semi-wall dividing us from the rest of the room and we liked it because, well, we weren’t sure if we’d get along with our roommates or not. After unpacking all of our stuff, we went off to venture the streets of Firenze. We ended up walking through the Market of San Lorenzo, which was about 5 minutes from our hostel. Diana and I already had our minds set that we wanted to buy leather jackets while in Florence since the city is known for having great leather products. So the market was the perfect shopping place for them. We entered one shop and liked some of the jackets, but we were put off by the salesperson who was quickly becoming much to pushy and really trying to pressure Diana and me into buying the jackets. Since it was the first store we’d gone into we didn’t feel comfortable buying the jackets and were trying to explain to the man that we wanted to look around before we made a decision. He got visibly annoyed with us so we just decided to leave. Also, this was also the man who kept telling Diana that the coat she was trying on looked “great around your boobies.” We should have just left after that. More

Italia (Part 1) – PISA

ImageFirst off, I am really sorry for my lack of blogging. There was really no way I could blog while in Italy and then I needed to get adjusted to being back at school. Now that I’m more into my groove of things, I feel like I can finally write my Italy posts. First up, Pisa!

Our trip began with a RyanAir flight straight to Pisa. This was my first time ever flying RyanAir and after all the horror stories I’d heard, I was more than a little anxious about the flight. My friend Diana ended up being in the fetal position for most of the flight since the flight attendant somehow managed to stuff Diana’s carry-on under her seat, which meant Diana had no leg room. None. I was okay for the flight until the landing. Worst landing I have ever experienced. I was fairly certain we were going to land sideways on the tarmac. Everyone was rocking side-to-side as we went down the runway. Granted, we all laughed about it afterward, but it was still scary.

Once I had my bag, Diana and I made our way to the bus we needed in order to get to our hostel. We had a slight bump finding the hostel from the bus stop because the directions we had were terrible. Would it kill people to use street names when giving directions? Once we finally made it to the hostel, we dropped off our bags and went off to find the tower. Now, let me be clear that in the entire walk from the bus stop to the hostel, Diana and I had not seen the tower. So when we left our hostel, we began walking in the direction we assumed the tower would be. This only lasted for about 3 minutes when we decided we were heading in the wrong direction and proceeded to turn around. Diana then says, “Oh my god, Yari. Look!” I had no idea what she wanted me to look at and I thought she was pointing at the car parked in front of us so I was really confused…until I looked up and saw the tower! Suffice it to say that we felt pretty damn stupid at that point. I had to take a picture to commemorate the moment we saw it: More

Ciao Amici!

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I know I’ve been super MIA, but I’m in Italia for semana santa. I spent my first few days in Florence and I’m currently in Rome. I’m loving Italy so far! I’ll have lots to write when I return to Spain on Monday! ¡Hablamos pronto!

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Special Guests.

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Since it’s semana cultural at my school, this week is is full of all sorts of activities. Yesterday, Cristina Medina, the actress who plays Nines in La Que Se Avecina, came to the school to talk to my ESO kids about acting and such. She was super nice! This picture is me and most of the 1 and 2 ESO teachers with her.

I’m prepping to leave for Italy for semana santa, so I’m going to try and write a quick post tonight about how I packed for the 11 day trip. If not, you’ll be getting quite a few posts upon my return April 1st.
¡Hablamos pronto!

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My Life as an Auxiliar in Spain

I get a lot of emails that inquire about my life in Spain. Most people ask if I’m friends with other auxiliares, what I do in my free time, and what I do at my colegio.

So here’s a little glimpse into my auxiliar life here.

I work at an awesome school located in Alcorcón. Mondays are my busiest day because I teach 6 classes. Mondays and Wednesdays I finish at 3:30, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:30, and Fridays at 1:35. The earliest I have to be at my school is 9:25 and that’s on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. You may think that since I go in at that time it means I don’t have to get up so early…well, you’re wrong. I live in the outskirts of Madrid, so the commute to my school takes 1.5 hours. So on the days I have to go in at 9:25, I wake up at 6:30, and am on the bus that takes me to the metro by 7:40. Since I have a decent commute, I’ll normally pass the time listening to music, or reading on my kindle, and sending whatsapps to my fellow language assistants since everyone else back home is asleep.

Most of the time, I get to the school around 9:10 so that gives me a good amount of time to get myself together for my first class. I have class from 9:25-11:15 (That’s two class periods). Then I have a merienda break until 11:45. During this time, I go to a nearby cafe with my fellow teachers and have some coffee along with a tostada con mermelada.

[Side note 1: I have been extremely lucky in that I get along spectacularly with the faculty at my school. They have invited me to meet up with them many times during the weekend to go shopping together or out to eat. I can definitely say that they constantly keep me laughing. They’re always joking with me saying that I’m going to tell everyone back home that the teachers in Spain are all insane. What I will be telling people is that if all the faculty in Spain is like the one at my school, then it’s the best faculty in the world.]

Due to the fact that we spend the vast majority of our break talking, we always end up rushing to get back in time for the next class. Then it’s full force ahead from 11:45-2:30 or 3:30 depending on the day. Tuesdays are nice because I don’t start until 11:45 and Fridays are spectacular because I only teach one class at 12:40 and then I’m done for the day. Granted, Fridays are the days that I have BEDA class, but since those aren’t that often, I normally get to do some shopping or go to my all-time favorite pastry shop in Las Rozas (Pan Coffee). The woman who works there, Vicki, knows me by name and will normally start cutting the slice of cheesecake I always order as soon as I walk through the door. I love that about Spain. How you can have such a nice relationship with the people who work at the locations that you frequent the most often. A few weeks ago, my friend Diana and I were at LUSH buying a birthday gift for a friend of ours, and the LUSH employee recognized me because I go there so often. Granted, this was the same employee who witnessed me spill about half of a container of lotion that they had on display down my jacket, jeans, and boots sooo I guess that would be somewhat memorable.

[Side note 2: I don’t really want to bore you with the details of what I do with each class. I will tell you that the coordinator always meets me with me once a week and tells me what I’ll be doing with my ESO classes during the following week. This week, for example, my ESO classes have to pick a song, print about 5 copies of the lyrics with blanks, and lead the class in a listening activity using the song. I made my 2 ESO students translate it as well because they have a higher English level than the 1 ESO students. With my Bach students I am required to do the listening and speaking sections of their textbook to the corresponding unit they’re on and then another activity of my choosing. If you would like more details regarding what I do with my classes, let me know. I’d be happy to write up a post about it. Or if you’d like me to tell you in an email, that works too.]

The weekend is when I’ll try to make it into Madrid to see my friends. Sometimes we’ll go shopping and others we’ll go get something to eat. [Side note 3: One of my good friends here has a blog which you can see here.] A few weeks ago we celebrated Sean’s birthday by having brunch and then walking around Madrid. I’ll leave you with the pictures from the occasion at the end of this post. I will try to update again soon. Feel free to ask me any other questions you may have about auxiliar life here in España, I’m more than happy to help. Como siempre…¡hablamos luego!

Here are some pics as promised (Click on the image to enlarge it):

My Top 5 European Travel Destinations.

Remember how in my resolutions post I mentioned wanting to travel more? I’ve made a list of the places I’d like to go to in order to help me organize myself. These are my top 5 travel destinations in Europe (I had to limit myself to Europe because if I didn’t, instead of a top 5, it would be a top 20):

1. Italy

I’m actually going to be checking this one off my list during semana santa! I will be spending all of semana santa exploring Pisa, Florence, and Rome! I’ll be travelling with one of my friends who is also a language assistant, which marks my first non-solo trip. I’ll also be meeting up with a friend from MD in Rome! It’ll be so nice to see a familiar face again. My wanting to go to Italy is a surprise to no one that knows me. I love food. I love Italian cuisine. My friend and I were joking about how we’re more excited about all the things we’re going to eat than the sights we’re going to see. That being said, I am insanely excited to see the Duomo, Colosseo, and Fontana di Trevi! I have a feeling this trip is going to be of epic proportions!

2. France

I know, I’ve been to France before…but that trip was not enough! I was in Paris for three days when I went in November and it was not enough to satiate me. My plan is return to Paris again during the long weekend in May. I LOVED Paris! I could honestly spend an entire month there and never be satisfied enough to want to leave. So for now, my goal is to have more time in Paris. However, there are several other cities in France that I’d love to explore in the future!

3. Ireland

I don’t know what it is about Ireland that appeals to me so much, but I am dying to see if it is as magical as I picture it to be. I think a lot of Ireland’s appeal for me is that I love medieval history and Ireland is full of gorgeous medieval castles like this one:

Another thing I really want to do in Ireland is kiss the famous Blarney Stone. And, alright, I totally want to go to the Guinness Storehouse.

4. Germany

I mentioned above how Ireland holds a lot of appeal to me because of the castles…well, Germany is like the holy grail of gorgeous castles! I think I would need at least a month to see all of the castles I want to visit in Germany. I’ll leave this link to a wikipedia page with the castles here. Aside from the castles, I would also like to visit some of the concentration camps. I remember going to the Holocaust museum in DC when I was a sophomore in high school and I can say with all certainty that it really changed me. I’ll never forget walking through the room that had the shoes of victims from a concentration camp, breaking down in tears (I mean, I lost it when I saw the baby shoes) and being comforted by my religion teacher, Mr.Mac. I will always remember what he said to me as he hugged me, “This is one of your best qualities: how deeply you feel things and how much you empathize.” Sometimes I feel it can be more of a curse than a blessing. While I know walking through a concentration camp will be difficult for me, it is still something that I would like to experience.

5. Spain

The beautiful El Escorial monastery.Source

The beautiful El Escorial monastery.
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I am well aware of the fact that I am currently living in the aforementioned country. However, Spain has a lot of places I would still like to see. I want to travel to locations like Galicia, Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Cuenca, and Salamanca. Oh and Mallorca and Ibiza. As you can see, there is LOTS I still want to see in Spain. Even within Madrid, there are still museums I’d like to visit and I am determined to go to El Escorial before the beginning of summer.

So for now, these are my travel goals. There are, of course, many places outside of Europe that I’d like to visit, but I’ll save that for a different post. What are your top 5 travel destinations?

Budgeting Your Life in Madrid

A lot of potential auxiliares worry about the paycheck and how they will make ends meet every month. I’ve asked around and done some research in order to tell you the average that people spend on things like rent, groceries, and utilities every month (this information is regarding the Madrid community).

Before I get into the breakdown of rent and such, I have to discuss the average pay for auxiliares. For the ministry program, auxiliares in Madrid get 1000€. With BEDA, the pay works differently. Your pay with BEDA depends on the amount of hours you work. Here is a breakdown of the payment:

  • 24 hours: 1200€ (gross)
  • 22 hours: 1100€ (gross)
  • 20 hours: 1000€ (gross)
  • 18 hours: 900€ (gross)

Now, with that being said, we can move on to where that money will be going every month. First up is RENT. The bulk of your paycheck will be going towards rent. The average rent in Madrid ranges from 300-550€. The range is large because there are areas of Madrid that are more expensive to live in than others. Malasaña and Salamanca are two areas that tend to be on the more expensive side. Places like La Latina, Moncloa, and Príncipe Pío tend to be a little more reasonable in their rent. How much you’re willing to pay for rent really depends on you and the type of place you want to live in. Another thing to keep in mind is that the utilities are often not included when they tell you the rent, so add another 30€ or so to it.  More

Inspiring Words

I was browsing videos on youtube when I came across this speech by Ronan Farrow. It is both inspiring and incredibly witty. As if I already didn’t love Ronan Farrow enough…
Anyway, I think a lot of those who are graduating this year and considering doing a program like BEDA or even those who are already in the program can find some inspiration in this speech. I especially enjoyed the part regarding how young people’s blissful ignorance for how badly things can go wrong can sometimes lead to great opportunities.

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This Was My Lunch Today:

This Was My Lunch Today:

Have I mentioned how much I love Spanish food and my Spain family?! And yes, the bottom one is Paella Fideua. Deliciousness.

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