Looking Back.

I’m sitting here on my bed, looking around at what has been my room for the past 9.5 months and I can’t believe that I’ll be heading home for the summer come tomorrow (by the time this publishes, I’ll be on a plane making my way to Charlotte, NC, where I catch my flight home to MD). This past year has been such an amazing learning and growing experience for me. I needed something that would push me out of my shell and this did exactly that. I think it’s so funny that when I tell the people I’ve met here in Spain that I’m shy, they all disagree with me and say that I’m not shy at all. That is, by far, my greatest accomplishment this past year.

Then there’s the fact that I always thought that I worked best with primary school aged children and I’ve learned here that I really enjoy and prefer working with secondary aged students. I’ve had such an amazing year with my students and will truly miss them over the summer. It was great to see their English improve over the year and feel like I was truly making a difference in their English education. I know that I’ll be really excited to be reunited with them come September. I have also been incredibly lucky in that I have bonded a great deal with the faculty at my school. I love that we are much more like a family than coworkers. It’s so nice to have that homey environment at work and it’s something that I value greatly. The teachers have me laughing constantly in the teacher’s lounge and during our merienda break and have been the best part of my experience at my school. I was sad when I said goodbye to them for the summer yesterday.

ProtagsAnd what would this year have been like without my amazing new friends? I can’t thank Diana, Sean, and Dan enough for the great memories and laughs they’ve given me this past year. It’s imperative to have quality friends anywhere, but especially when you’re living abroad and are away from your family and friends from home. So to have been lucky enough to find 3 people who I think the world of is pretty damn awesome.

Of course, travelling has also been a major theme this past year. Besides the obvious travel to Spain, I have also been able to visit a few other European countries that were on my bucket list. I never thought I would actually get to see the Eiffel Tower in person or visit King’s Cross station and see Platform 9 3/4. I never thought I would spend nearly 2 weeks visting Italy during Holy Week. Travelling has been an amazing advantage of living in Europe and I look forward to travelling some more when I return. That being said, I do want to travel a lot within Spain next year because I want to get to know that country I’m living in more. And Spain has so many beautiful places to see, it’d be a shame to live here and not visit them.

I must say, though, that the greatest thing that has happened to me this past year has been gaining another family here in Spain. My Spain family completely took me in and treated me like one of their own. The move here would have been a thousand times more difficult without them. I have loved every single second of being a big sister to the kids! My summer will feel too quiet without them. I’ll constantly be expecting to hear a knock at my door and a kid saying, “Yarelis, can I play with your phone?” or “Yarelis, juega conmigo.” And my Spain parents are the best! Anyone who watches telenovelas knows that when you find another person who watches them and loves the same ones you do, it’s like finding a kindred spirit…and I’ve found just that in my Spain mom 🙂 We also share a profound love of cheesecake. And I think I’ve mentioned on here before that my Spain mom is one of the best cooks ever…and if I haven’t mentioned it before, well, I’m saying it now: She is one of the best cooks ever! I never had a meal that she made that I did not enjoy. And my Spain dad is awesome. Super funny and he always has interesting stories and topics to tell/discuss with me. It’s been so great to live with a family that I not only love, but really admire and look up to.

While I am excited to see my family/friends and spend my summer with them, it feels great to know that when I return to Spain in September I’ll be welcomed by great friends and my other family. It’s always nice to know that you have a “home away from home.”

¡Nos vemos en dos meses y medio, Madrid!

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 🙂

I Have Not Abandoned the Blog, I Promise!

I am so sorry for my lack of blogging the past 2 weeks!! I’ve been so busy getting all of my things together and settling into my room with my au pair family. Plus, my sister and brother-in-law were with me for the first 10 days and we did a lot of sight seeing. I was getting so many emails asking if I had abandoned the blog. I can assure you all that I will continue updating the blog…there will probably be longer gaps between posts though because I am way busier than I anticipated.

Here’s a quick update:

Basically, I am in love with Spain. Obviously, Madrid is incredible, but I absolutely loved going to Segovia, Ávila, and Toledo. I think I’m going to dedicate a post to each of the places I visited with my sister during the past week.

I survived orientation with BEDA on Wednesday…which was from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening. Yes, hours and hours of orientation. Paperwork was the main theme for orientation. We filled out our contracts, our NIE forms, information forms, and other things that I can’t even remember anymore. We also received our insurance cards and our bank account! I was very happy that BEDA took care of that for us, all we have to do is visit the bank within the next 15 days so that they can scan our passport and for us to sign. The best part of orientation was getting to meet my fellow auxiliares. It was especially nice to finally meet the ones that I had been talking to online for the past few months in person. They all lived up to my expectations 🙂

Day 2 with BEDA was class…from 12-6:30. The topics were the history of the Spanish government and Sports (mainly sports in schools). I kinda died a little. I was not mentally prepared for sitting in lecture for hours. On both days, I came home, ate, drank some coffee, and went to sleep.

I thought I’d list out a couple of the things I’ve done the past few days so that I could update you all in a quick manner. So here are a few of the things I’ve done since arriving in Spain:

  • SIM card for my phone. Right now I’m using Orange and I like it, but I’m going to order a SIM card from Tuenti because they give me more data, which is what I use the most since I use whatsapp and viber a lot to communicate with friends and family.
  • Bought decorative things for my room at Ikea and Leroy Merlin (Spain’s version of Home Depot). The theme for my walls is cities of the world. One wall will be Paris, another London, and another New York City. It’s going to look amazing! I found my mirror and other little things a t Ikea in Alcorcón, so I would highly recommend going there if you want to buy things and get them cheaply.
  • Picked out the paint color for my room. My au pair family is awesome and told me that I get to pick the color for my room and they’re letting me decorate it all as I like. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been with the family I found. They have truly been the best part of this Spain adventure for me.
  • I went on the bus, train, metro, and a taxi. I have pretty much taken all forms of public transit. I practiced the route to my colegio in Majadahonda and the route to class for BEDA.
  • In the same vein as the public transportation stuff, I purchased my abono at an estanco (tobacco shop). The abono is a pass that is good for the buses, metro, and trains here in Madrid. I paid about 70 euros for mine since I need it to be good for the B2 area, but I never have to worry about paying for transportation this month, which is super nice since I’ll be using it a lot. In the end, the abono is truly a life-saving thing to have if you don’t want to worry about paying for transportation every single time you need to use it, plus it really does save you a lot of money if you use public transportation often.
  • I have learned that, although I speak Spanish, I use a lot of words that Spaniards do not and that Spaniards use a lot of words that I do not. For example, I say gavetas (drawers) and españoles say cajones (NEVER to be confused with cojones…which is something VERY, very different). I say sombrilla for umbrella and españoles say paraguas. And the word I have heard the most since arriving here is, without a doubt, vale. Vale is the Spaniard version of “okay.” Puerto Ricans do not say that word at all, we just use ok. I have already started saying “vale” and I’ve only been here for 2 weeks. I like picking up new vocabulary, though. I think it’s one of the best parts of moving to a new place. There are several other words that I could mention that I’ve learned here or words that I say that are not used here, but I think I’ll leave that for a separate post another day.

That’s all for now. I have to get ready to go to the estanco again to see if I can fix an issue I’m having with my abono. Apparently, it’s common for the band on the back of the abono to stop working or get ruined in some way, which is a major issue when you go to get on the metro because when you put your abono through the machine, it starts beeping like mad and won’t let you through (I learned this the hard way). It’s not a problem on the buses because even though the machine will beep and say your card is invalid, you just show the bus driver that it’s an abono for the month, and he lets you sit anyway.

I shall update again soon with pictures from the places I visited last week. And on Monday, if I’m not too tired, I will post about my first day at my colegio.

¡Hablamos pronto!

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come in the next post:

Joelis and I at the aqueduct in Segovia.

¡Hola Madrid!

I’ve been here in Madrid since yesterday. I forced myself to stay awake until midnight and then slept until 11 today, so not too bad with the time adjustment.

I’ll write a little more later about the flight and my day yesterday. Right now I’m about to get ready to head to the mall with my sister and brother in law so I can get a few things I need.

I’ll update again soon!! ¡Saludos y abrazos!

Packing Troubles.

So I decided that I would try to do away with the procrastinator in me and pack the majority of my things this weekend. I find that I am entirely overwhelmed when it comes to attempting to pack my life into 2 suitcases that may not go over 50 lbs. I am trying so hard not to over-pack, but it’s just not in my nature! I am also the type of person that goes through every single possible scenario, which is what leads to my over-packing.

I wrote the principal of my school asking her about the dress code that I am to abide by while I’m there. Once I get a response from her, that should help with my packing a bit. I also tried reading some other blogger’s posts regarding packing, but everyone has different advice! Some say to pack a winter coat from home and others say not to bother because you can just buy one in Spain. Some say to bring you winter clothes with you, while others say to try and have your family send you your winter clothes to save suitcase space. Others say to bring your good shoes while others say you can find great shoes in Spain. It would be a lot easier to follow people’s advice if there was somewhat of a consensus!

So, basically, I’m just going to pack as best as I see fit. I’m sure that once I’m in Spain for a few months, I will likely chastise myself for packing so much excess crap…but I guess I’ll just have to learn the hard way. At least packing for my 2nd year shouldn’t be too hard right? Anyone have some packing tips for me??

I feel like Jenna Marbles in her “How Girls Pack a Suitcase” video. She exaggerates a lot in the video, but it’s still pretty much how I feel trying to pack right now. I’ll leave the video here (**warning: Jenna Marbles curses quite a bit, so don’t watch if cursing bothers you**):

I Went Back to the Embassy Today…

And I now have a visa inside of my lovely passport! I was in and out of the consulate in less than 10 minutes. It was lovely! And while the oh so gorgeous security guard wasn’t the one there today (boo!), the guy who helped me was equally attractive…which is always a pleasant bonus.

Next step is heading to my university next week to get a notarized copy of my diploma so that I can get the Apostille of the Hague on it and then I’ll be all set to be a student at the Universidad de Comillas!

Only a little over a month left and I’ll be in España!!!!!!!!

The Time I Received My Passport with No Visa.

I filed for my visa exactly one month ago today so I knew I should be getting it soon. Imagine my excitement when it was delivered this morning! However, my excitement quickly dwindled when I discovered my passport had no visa stamped in it. My first thought was that there was an error in my application, but there was no letter saying my visa had been denied. I then started laughing hysterically because I thought that there was no way that they could have forgotten to stamp my visa into my passport. I think it was one of those moments where you laugh so you don’t cry.

After I got over my denial, I wrote to the embassy since I figured that was my best shot until Monday since they aren’t open to the public on Fridays. After I sent the email, I decided to try calling the embassy anyway. After two rings, a gentlemen answered the phone, “Buenos días. ¿Como puedo ayudarle?” I proceeded to explain everything to him in Spanish and once I was done, he, too, seemed to be in denial that I received my passport with no visa. He took all of my information and put me on hold for a few minutes. Once he came back on the line, he asked me for my phone number so that he could contact me once he figured everything out. He called me back 10 minutes later saying that the good news was that my visa had been approved, but that he had no idea why they hadn’t stamped my passport. He asked me if I lived close, which, luckily, I do. So I shall be making another trip to the embassy on Monday to get my passport stamped. The man kept apologizing incessantly and I told him  not to worry about it, that these things happen…his reply: Si, cosas que pasan en el barrio fino. And that made me laugh quite a bit since that’s a saying I hear a lot in Puerto Rico.

He was shocked that I was being such a good sport about everything. Honestly, though, it’s not like being angry was going to get me anywhere. If I yelled at the people in the consulate, it wasn’t going to make the visa magically appear in my passport. ¿Para que amargarse la vida por cosas que están fuera de tu control? Plus, I really did enjoy the security guy at the consulate the last time I went…so on the bright side, I get to sweeten my vision with that eye candy again 🙂 I mean, you gotta look at the positives right?

Quick BEDA Update.

So BEDA sent out emails with group numbers and contact information for our schools. I’m in Group 4. What groups are my fellow BEDA people in? Hopefully, I’m in the same group as some of you!!

I’m planning to email my school contact person tomorrow to touch base and see if she could tell me what age group I’ll be working with. I’m sure it’s still much too early to know my schedule, but I’m hoping they have an idea of the ages since I’d like to be able to bring supplies and such accordingly.

I’m still in PR until mid-July so my updates will continue to be pretty sporadic. I am, however, very diligent about checking and responding to comments since the wordpress app on my iphone makes it super easy so I’ll definitely reply pretty quickly. I’m also replying to my emails (which I’ve gotten a few of in the past week) so feel free to email me as well to the email that is linked on the side of the blog 🙂

Opinions Please!!!!

Alright, so awhile back I mentioned that I was looking into being an au pair while I do BEDA so I can save some rent money and still have that sense of “family” while abroad. For the longest time I thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a family. I’d spoken to quite a few, but none of them could really accommodate my BEDA schedule (i.e. they wanted me in the mornings to help the kids get ready and walk them to school when I would already have to be leaving to get to my colegio).

Since nothing was working out, I started to look into apartments in the Moncloa area and kinda resigned myself to the fact that being an au pair was just not in the cards for me. Well, last week I began speaking with 2 families. One lives in right next to Majadahonda where my colegio is located. The other lives right in the center of Madrid. I have spoken with both families extensively and have skyped with both of them. I am utterly and completely torn as to which family to make a commitment to. Both families are extremely kind and very understanding regarding BEDA. Both know that I have classes on Friday evenings at Comillas and are perfectly okay with it. So, in the end, it’s a matter of preference of where I want to live. The problem is: How can I have a preference when I’ve never been to either of these places?

I have no idea if I would prefer to be in the outskirts of Madrid and closer to my colegio or if I would prefer city life and commuting to school. Does anyone know anything about either of these two areas and would like to offer some advice??? I’m all ears…

Visa Update.

Okay, so it seems that there needs to be come clarification regarding my last post. I saw that someone commented on facebook that they were surprised that my post mentioned getting the medical certificate notarized and with the Apostille of the Hague. I can assure I did not just make that requirement up. First, each consulate has different requirements. Some mention having the medical certificate notarized while others do not. I was sent an email directly from the DC Embassy of Spain last month with a list of everything I needed in order to get my visa. This is what I received:

REQUIREMENTS FOR A STUDENT VISA

  1. Personal appearance is required in order to submit documentation. Students or Parents. Students must appear in person at least once, either to apply or to pick it up.
  1. 1 National Visa Application form filled out and signed.
  1. Passport. The passpot must be valid for at least six months with at least one blank page to affix the visa. If you are not a US citizen you must show proof of legal residency in the US (Green Card or proper visa) B1/B2 holders do not qualify to apply for a visa in this Consulate Office.
  1. 1 recent passport photo size with a white background.
  1. Original Letter of Acceptance and 1 copy from the University or school addressed to this Consulate General verifying enrolment as a full time student in an official university or school in Spain. THIS LETTER MUST ALSO state that the student has medical insurance coverage while the student is in Spain.  If there is no insurance information on this letter, the student will need a letter from their insurance company verifying that he/she is covered internationally. We do not accept insurance cards.

 

  1. Proof of Financial Means during your stay: please provide one of the following:

 

  • Letter from the University or School in Spain or in the USA assuming full financial responsibility during your stay (this is often included into the acceptance letter).
  • Proof of financial aid or scholarship for a minimum of $1,000.00 per month for tuition, room, board and personal expenses.
  • If financial responsibility is not assumed by the program, notarized letter from your parents or legal guardians assuming full financial responsibility for at least $1,000.00 per month for the student expenses.

 

  1. Self-addressed and Pre-Paid US “Express-Mail” envelope from the Post Office if you wish to have your passport returned by mail. We do NOT accept any other type of courier or messenger service. Tracking of mailed items is the sole responsibility of the applicant. However, this will only be accepted if the applicant comes in person to apply.
  1. We will only accept complete applications. YOU MUST bring the ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS and ONE COPY of each requirement including copy of your passport, where the picture is and your personal information.
  1. FEES- CASH OR MONEY ORDER WE DO NOT ACCEPT PERSONAL CHECKS OR CREDIT CARDS.           US citizens- $140.00 non-refundable

NON US citizens — $81.00 non-refundable

For those students staying more than 6 months, please provide the following:

  1. Police Record (Criminal Background) original and 1 copy issued by either a, State police or Federal police (FBI) where the student has lived for the past year. This document must be notarized with the Hague Apostille.
  1. Medical Certificate original and 1 copy: Doctor´s statement on a doctor or medical letterhead, indicating that the student has been examined and found in good physical and mental health to travel abroad and he/she is free of contagious diseases and drug addiction. This document must be signed by the doctor. This document must be notarized with the Hague Apostille.

The visa process could take up to six weeks therefore plan your application in advance. You may apply up to 90 days before your departure date. If you apply less than six weeks before your travel date keep in mind that your visa may not be ready on time and you may have to rearrange your departure.  

As you can see, it clearly states on there that the medical certificate needs to be notarized with the Apostille of the Hague. I should mention, however, that I have been told by 2 people who called the DC Embassy that they were told that it is no longer necessary. I preferred to be safe than sorry, however, and ended up getting the medical certificate notarized with the Apostille of the Hague. Oh and also, the fee is no longer $140, but $160 to file for your visa.

Anyway, I went today to file my visa and all went smoothly. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes and was told my visa should arrive in 5 weeks.

The joy that will consume me when I have my Spain visa in my hand will be unreal. Here’s to the next 5 weeks flying by!!

Previous Older Entries