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!

Italia Part 3 – ROMA

The final part of our Italy trip led us to Rome. Getting the train from Florence to Rome was so easy and nice, especially when compared to the Pisa-Florence train debacle. The hotel we were staying at wasn’t too far from the train station so it only took us about 10 minutes to walk to our hotel. The only sucky part was that it was raining and holding your umbrella while lugging around your suitcase in the tiny Roma streets is no cake walk. We made it to our hotel without getting lost! Shocking for me and Diana.

When we went to check-in, the receptionist informed us that our room wasn’t ready, which wasn’t all that surprising since we were early so we decided to wait in the lobby. While we were in the lobby, we asked about the wifi. The receptionist proceeded to tell us that since our room was upstairs, we wouldn’t have wifi since wifi was only available on the first floor. She said that since we wrote that we preferred 3 single beds when we booked, they gave us the room upstairs. My friend from Maryland still hadn’t arrived in Rome yet, but Diana and I made the executive decision that we would be willing to forgo the 3 single beds in exchange for wifi. You have to understand that Diana and I pretty much didn’t have wifi while in Florence because our hostel’s wifi was complete and utter crap. There was no way we were dealing with no wifi. So instead of each of us having our own single bed, our room consisted of 1 single bed and a double bed. However, the single and the double were smack dab next to each other…so, essentially, it was just one giant bed:

MegaBedEmily had the “single” bed while Diana and I shared the double. It actually wasn’t so bad…and totally worth having wifi over.

Once we got our things settled in the room, Diana and I took off to explore Roma a bit. We quickly realized that crossing the street is a very scary affair in Rome. In Spain, I don’t mind crossing the street even if there’s no crosswalk because most Spaniards stop to let you pass. In Italy, however, there was no way Diana and I would cross a street without a crosswalk. They drive like maniacs! Exploring had to wait a little, though, because our hunger was our main priority. We ended up eating at a small little restaurant near our place (I can’t remember the name for the life of me) and it was pretty good. We were also able to satisfy our coffee fix there, which is always a good thing. We ended up wandering around and just seeing where we ended up. We walked to the Trevi Fountain, the pantheon, and while we said we weren’t going to walk very far…we somehow ended up at the Vatican. I didn’t even believe Diana when she said that I was looking at St.Peter’s Basilica. I was in actual denial that we walked all that way. We took some pictures and then proceeded to the metro because we decided there was no way in hell we were making the walk back to our hotel.

Once we arrived back to our hotel, we were pretty exhausted and just wanted to go eat. Diana had done some research on TripAdvisor and read about a restaurant near us called Mamma Angela’s. We walked over and it ended up being an excellent choice. Our food was delicious! The service is pretty great, too. It’s obvious that the waiters know a lot of the clientele are toursits and really want them to leave with a great impression of the restaurant. There was a slight (hilarious) misunderstanding between Diana and our waiter, which I won’t write on here but it made my evening. Don’t worry, though, karma came back to bite me for making fun of Diana’s embarrassment. But that happens later on in our travel. But, if you’re ever in Rome, I highly recommend Mamma Angela’s. The food is AMAZING (best pasta and tiramisu) and the waiters are incredibly nice and friendly.

Day 2 had been established as our “picture day” because it was suppose to be the day with the nicest weather. Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain: More

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 🙂

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.
Source

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?

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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Things I Love About Living in Spain.

I was talking with a fellow language assistant a few weeks ago about how sometimes I feel like I take for granted that I live in Madrid. She was saying how she has those moments sometimes and then she has to tell herself, “Shut up. You live in a European capital city.” And a few days ago, I came across this quote on tumblr:

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That quote reminded me of why it is that I love Madrid so much. After all, Spain has been my dream country since I was in middle school. So here are some little things that I love about living in Spain (especially Madrid): More

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