Back to School. Back to School, to Prove to Dad That I’m Not a Fool.

That song from Billy Madison always gets stuck in my head for the first day of school and today was no different. Granted, this was my first day of school as an auxiliar de conversación, which is infinitely more exciting than being a student (at least in my opinion).

I woke up today at 6:15 and after getting ready and commuting, I arrived to my colegio around 9:00. The principal took me around the school and introduced me to the majority of the teachers (this took about 2 hours). Afterwards, I met with the director of primary levels and he gave me my schedule for the primary grades. And then, I met with the director of the secondary levels and he gave me my schedule for those grades. That’s right, I will be working with all of the grade levels. Ages 3-16. When I realized this, I was slightly taken aback, but it wasn’t until they told me that starting in October, the hour that I work with each grade is my time. As in, I will be responsible for coming up with a lesson plan that works in conjunction with what their teacher is teaching them and I will have to teach it to them. By myself. Alone. Without the teacher being present. My initial reaction was to panic, but I figure that if the past auxiliar could handle it and he is now a teacher at the school, it can’t be all that bad. And he said he’s more than willing to help me out and give me tips/ideas, which I really appreciate.

Oh and the course that I will be teaching in secondary grades is History/Geography. Of course, I have no idea what history they’re learning. If it’s the history of Spain, I know next to nothing so it will be a learning experience for all parties involved! And for the month of September, the school lets out around 1:50 so I won’t start working the full day until October. I like and dislike this at the same time. Obviously, I enjoy getting out of work early but that means I won’t be meeting some of my classes until October. One of those classes happens to be the infantil group, which makes me sad since I LOVE that age group. But it does allow me to slowly ease myself into the school and adjust to my job before having all of the grade levels, so it is very nice in that regard.

I’m off to go spend some time with my “adoptive” family here. I really do need to write a post talking about my experience living with the family here. It’s been nothing short of wonderful 🙂

I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on my experience at the colegio and I’m still planning to write a post this weekend about my trip to Segovia when my sister and brother in law were here.

¡Hablamos Pronto!

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**):

Getting a Diploma Legalized in the States.

I mentioned in my last post that the next step for me in this process was getting my diploma legalized. I have to do this in order to be able to receive my Specialist course certificate from Comillas and a student ID. I also want to get the process done because I have been looking at many universities in Europe that would allow me to get my Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and I would need to get my diploma legalized anyway to apply, so at least I’m getting a head-start in that area.

The first step is to get your diploma notarized. I’m pretty sure the only way to do this is through your university. Since I live 15 minutes away from my university, I went to the diploma office with my diploma and told them that I needed it notarized. They took the diploma from me and told me to come back in 2 days and it would be ready. When I returned, they gave me my original diploma along with 4 notarized  copies. My university did this free of charge, but I have heard people from other universities say they were charged. I would call your university beforehand and ask, just so that you aren’t caught off guard if you do have to pay (one girl mentioned her college charged her $50, which I find to be a bit excessive).

The second step is to get the notarized copy of your diploma certified by the circuit of the clerk for the county in which the notary is certified in. For example, my diploma was notarized in Prince George’s county so I had to go to the circuit clerk of that county to get the notarized copy certified. That office charges $1 per document. I have heard from others, however, that their university took care of that part for them. So when you call your university regarding getting a diploma notarized, let them know that eventually you need to be able to take it to the state office to get apostilled and perhaps you will be one of the lucky ones whose university does that part for you.

The final step is to go to the state office (OF THE STATE IN WHICH YOU GRADUATED) and get the Apostille of the Hague one the notarized and certified copy of your diploma. For Maryland, the office is located in Annapolis on Francis Street.

If you already went through the ordeal of getting a visa to Spain, you will see that the steps are pretty much the same for getting the background check notarized and apostilled. The only difference being that, in this case of the diploma, your university will do the notarizing.

I hope this was helpful to you all. Oh and I should mention that the process is different for Canadians and for people who are from a country that is not part of the Hague Treaty. BEDA provided this link for Canadians so I’ll leave it here for you all as well: www.alscanada.ca/authentication_apostille.html

If any others from Canada or a place where the process is different, maybe you could leave some helpful tip for others in the comments section or if you have a blog and wrote a post about the process, leave the link.

I’ll post again soon…probably regarding my dilemma of packing what I need for 9.5 months into 2 suitcases! Just a few more weeks until I depart for España!!!!

¡Besos!

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!!

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