Going Along with My Post from Yesterday…

This is a picture I took of the Puerta de Alcalá during my very first week here in Spain. If there’s one more thing I could add to my list from yesterday, it would be the Madrid sky.

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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

Changing Beings.

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I have been in Spain for over 4 months now and I’ve been reflecting on aspects of myself that are different since my new life here. I use to think that it was such a cliche to say that people change when they travel, but it really is true. I have noticed so many new things about myself and I have changed in so many ways already in the short time I’ve been here in Madrid. Or maybe, we don’t change, but we discover things about ourselves that we never knew before.

One vast improvement (at least for me) is that I am significantly less shy. I would describe my former shyness as debilitating. Really. I would miss out on opportunities because I was too shy to ask someone a question or for more information. That has definitely changed. While I was in Paris, I had no issues walking right up to people to make sure that I was heading in the right direction or for recommendations of places to eat that were nearby (and I had to do this in French!). This is, by far, the change that I am proudest of since moving to Spain.

Another thing that I have noticed about myself is that I no longer care what other people think about me. It’s so liberating. I use to base so many of my decisions on what I thought the reactions/opinions of others would be. Not anymore. I do and wear and say what I want and I don’t care what others think of it.

Sort of along the same vein as not caring what people think is that I am much more outgoing. This may be due to the fact that I live in a European city where I know next to no one and have the mentality of “when will I ever see these people again?” that causes this…but I like it.

I have also found that I am much less dependent on others to do things that I would like to do. I use to hate doing things on my own – even going to the convenient store. Now, I’ve traveled to Paris and London all on my own. I’m thinking of doing another solo trip to Paris in May because there are so many things I still want to see there. Plus, the puente in May is about 6 days, so I could see the things I want without feeling rushed like I did during my last trip.

All of these things may seem insignificant to others, but I am really proud of my little accomplishments/changes. I hope they stay with me even after I leave Spain.

What things have you discovered about yourself when you’ve traveled?

New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve been back in Spain for over a week now and it has been nice to get back into the swing of things. I didn’t realize how much I actually missed teaching my students until I went back to work on Tuesday. The kids were a lot more enthusiastic about being back than I had anticipated. And it’s always nice when a group of 11-14 year olds are super excited to see you and are asking you all sorts of questions about your holidays. The only damper on my first week back to school was my terrible jet-lag. I was on Maryland time for the vast majority of the week, which meant that I was terribly sleepy at work and wide awake when I was trying to fall asleep at night. All of that’s over now, though, and I’m back on Spain time.

This past year has been a bit of a roller-coaster for me. I went from not knowing what in the heck I was going to do, to applying to be an auxiliar in Spain, waiting in limbo until I found out whether or not I would be accepted, and then prepping everything for my move to Spain. And in the spirit of this new year, I have decided to make some resolutions for the first time ever. Here are a few of my resolutions for 2013: More

BEDA FAQ.

First off, HELLO my lovely readers! I know I have sucked in posting this past month. I have been quite busy at my school and I traveled to London during a long weekend we had last week (I’ll write another post about that later this week). I have been bombarded with emails regarding BEDA and the application process so I figured I would write a post answering the major questions I’ve gotten. To those that emailed me, I did finally respond! Again, I am SUPER sorry for replying so late…I’m normally not that bad, I promise!!

Anyway, here are the main questions I’ve gotten about the program:

When does the application period end?

January 31, 2013.

What is the Skype interview like and when did you find out about yours?

I received an email about a week after I submitted my application informing me of the date and time of my Skype interview. I know things are different this year, however, because the application period ends in January as oppose to March like last year. So I don’t know if the coordinator has already sent out emails letting people know when their interview is for or if she will start to do that after the application period ends.

As far as the interview, it’s nothing to stress over. First of all, the interview is in ENGLISH. The only question the coordinator asked me was my preference regarding what age group I wanted to teach and the number of hours I wanted to work. The rest of the interview was me asking her all of the questions I had about the program and living in Spain in general. Think of the interview as your opportunity to highlight any experience you have that makes you a good candidate and to show how enthusiastic you are about the program. My interview lasted a grand total of 7 minutes and I think that was the average time for most of them.

Is BEDA very competitive?

I would say BEDA is more selective than competitive. There are certain things that will give you an advantage:

  • Knowing Spanish
  • Experience living abroad (especially in Spain)
  • TEFL certificate
  • Education degree
  • Experience working with children

Having any of the things above will give you a GREAT advantage. It’s not like BEDA gets a TON of applications. Generally, for each opening, they have 2 candidates. At least, that’s what the coordinator told me during my interview last year when I asked her about the odds of being accepted/rejected. However, the program has gotten a lot more fame so that ratio may have increased this year.

Also, it doesn’t matter when you submit your application. BEDA is not like the Ministry program where preference is given to those who apply earlier. So if you haven’t sent in your application yet, no worries…but you only have a little over a month left, so get on it!

Can you live off of the monthly stipend?

First off, your stipend will depend on how many hours you work. So you could earn anywhere from 693-1040 euro. Most auxiliares will tell you that you’re going to have to supplement the stipend by giving private classes…and that’s true. I don’t, but that’s only because I live with a family so I don’t pay for rent or food. It’s always toughest the first few months, but once you learn how to manage your money and start to get a good grip on private classes, you’ll see the stipend is plenty.

Has BEDA ever had payment issues like the Ministry program?

No, BEDA has never had payment issues. The auxiliares are always paid on-time via direct deposit at the end of every month.

Do we get to decide when we take the mandatory course with Comillas and how long is it?

No, you have no say when you take this course. You will be assigned a group and once that happens you will be given a day and time for the course. This year, most of the classes are on Fridays, either in the morning or evening depending on how many hours you work.

The class generally lasts about 3 hours. Somedays it’s not that bad and others you can’t wait for it to be over, but I would say I have definitely found the courses to be helpful.

How much assistance does the program give with getting all your paperwork/cards/bank/apt when you get there?

BEDA is EXTREMELY helpful in getting you all set up. During orientation, we filled out all the paperwork in order to get our NIEs. This was such a relief for me. They provided all the documents we needed and let us know exactly how we needed to proceed. BEDA handles making the NIE appointment for you and sends you an email letting you know when your appointment is. You go with a group of other auxiliares and a worker from BEDA to your appointment at the police station when it’s time for you to file all the paperwork to get your NIE. I really can’t express enough how helpful BEDA is with that whole process.

BEDA also sets up your bank account for you. At orientation, we received our account information and debit card. All you have to do is make sure to go to the bank again once you have your NIE to switch your account over from extranjero to residente.

During orientation, you also fill out all the paperwork regarding your contract and your enrollment with Comillas for the course. The only thing BEDA does not help you with is finding an apartment. But I’m sure they could give you some tips/advice if you emailed them.

What exactly do you do at your school?

This question really depends on your school and the coordinators for the BEDA program there. At the school I am at now, I only work with the English teachers. I teach 1 and 2 ESO (so the equivalent of 7th and 8th graders) and 1 Bachillerato (equivalent of juniors in HS). With my ESO kids, I take half of the class for 25 minutes and do whatever activity the teacher and I have decided on, then I switch and take the other half of the class for 25 minutes and do the same thing. I take my half of the class to a laboratory so I am on my own with them during that time. With my Bachillerato students, I teach them on my own for 55 minutes. I do the listening and speaking section of their English book for whatever unit they’re on and then whatever activity I would like for the remainder of the class time.

Each auxiliar will tell you they do something different. Also, it depends greatly on the age group you teach. I enjoy having the older kids because I find that I can do more activities with them that I enjoy and are a bit more challenging.

Do you enjoy being an Au Pair? Can you really do this while participating in BEDA?

Yes, I really love being an au pair. Granted, I don’t really see myself that way. It really feels more like I was adopted into this family. I loveeeeee the family I live with. I refer to the parents as my Spain Mom and Spain Dad and I love the kids as if they were my siblings. Obviously it’s possible to do something like this while participating in BEDA since I’m doing it 🙂 I would HIGHLY recommend it because I feel like you gain a whole new experience by living with a family rather than on your own or with roommates. It really is a matter of finding a family that you feel is a good fit for you. Don’t make the decision lightly, however, because it is a big commitment.

I think that covers most of the questions I get about the program. If I missed any or if you have another, please leave it in a comment below.

I will be updating again soon about my London trip and about my upcoming trip home for the holidays!!!

¡Hasta Luego!

10 Things I Miss from the Good Old US of A.

I’ve been here in Madrid for a month and a half now and I think that’s plenty of time to realize certain things you miss from back home. Here is my list:

1.

Chipotle. I would give anything to be able to have a carnitas bowl with some guac.

2. Punctuality. It is very well-known here that Spaniards aren’t the best at being punctual. If a Spaniard tells you that they’ll meet you at a restaurant around 2 for lunch…expect them at 3. That’s just the way things are around here. I’m very big on being punctual, so this is a bit of an adjustment for me.

3. Eating Times. I miss having lunch at noon and dinner around 6. This whole lunch at 2 or 3 and then dinner around 9 (and that’s early) is rough for me.

4. Stores, restaurants, and banks being open the entire working day. I can’t get use to places closing here for the siesta. And banks closing at 2:30? What is up with that? Most people work here until around 4 or 5, so when do they have time to go to the bank? Thankfully, my bank is open late on Thursdays, so I know that’s the only day I can go to the bank.

5.

American TV. I really miss watching my TV shows as they air live. I enjoy things like sitting down on Thursdays at 9 to watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Also, it’s very easy to get spoiled here since all of my friends have seen the episode before me. I have to be super cautious while browsing facebook in the morning so I don’t get spoiled.

6. Movies. Most films here get released much later than in the US and you have to really hunt for a place that will play them in English. I can’t deal with dubbed movies. It is not the same. I’m dying to see Perks of Being a Wallflower and there isn’t even a mention of when it’s going to be released here in Spain. Just to give you an idea of how much later movies come out here: Magic Mike came out over the summer in the USA and it just came out last weekend here.

7. American sports. I love the Yankees and I love the Steelers. Not being to watch a lot of the games/having to watch them by streaming them on my laptop is no fun. My Yankees are the in the playoffs right now and I’m generally sleeping when the games are being played  😦

8. Target and Kohl’s. Those are my two go-to stores in the US and they don’t have them here. I miss them so much…it’s really kinda pathetic. OH and I miss Bath&Body Works. I mainly miss the wall plug-ins/candles. I keep getting emails from them talking about candle sales for fall and they make me sad.

9. Kraft Mac and Cheese. I know that I can find it in places like Taste of America, but it’s ridiculously expensive! I miss being able to get a bulk pack at Costco for cheap. And there is no mac and cheese as good as the blue box.

10. Family (including dog) and Friends. This goes without saying. My family and friends are, by far, what I miss the most here in Spain. And the time difference can make it difficult to call/skype/facetime people. This is my current background on my laptop:

I miss my doggy 😦

Now, I will say that there are also many things that I prefer about Spain and wish we had in the US. However, that’s for a different post.

What things do you all find you miss from home while abroad?

Toledo in Pictures.

When you click on a picture in the gallery, on the bottom right, there should be an option to see the pictures in their full size right underneath where it says what type of camera was used for the picture.

Anyway, I highly recommend going to Toledo. It is culturally diverse and so beautiful. The cathedral alone is worth the trip.

Segovia (Mostly in Pictures).

The first thing I want to say is that if you are able to rent a car for this trip, I would highly recommend it. There is an amazing scenic route to Segovia that is definitely worth your while. This picture was taken during one of our pit-stops on our way to Segovia:

Now, once you arrive in Segovia, there are many things to see. I’ll just show you my favorites. First, of course, is the famous aqueduct:

Next up is the cathedral:

And, finally, my FAVORITE thing to see in Segovia is the Alcázar Castle. SO gorgeous!

I really don’t want to show too much of the castle because it is something that needs to be experienced in person. I will say that it is amazing and you get some gorgeous views from the tower:

That’s a wrap on Segovia. Oh and click on the pictures if you’d like to see them bigger and in nicer quality 🙂

¡Hasta Pronto!

“There is One Consolation in Being Sick; And That is the Possibility That You May Recover to a Better State Than You Were Ever in Before.”

First let me say that I love, love, LOVE my new school! It’s been such a wonderful change to actually look forward to going into work. Plus, I get along great with the 3 teachers that I’m working with. The kids at this school are fantastic and since I’m working with the older groups, I’ve found that I’ve had an easier time getting them to talk with me and building a good rapport (I knew my knowledge of Justin Bieber and One Direction would pay off one day!). It’s nice to finally be enjoying what I came here to do 🙂

Of course, when one thing starts to go well, another starts to go wrong…only a few days after starting at my new school, I got sick. It started Saturday evening and proceeded to get worse on Sunday. I had a fever/chills and a horribly congested nose. I spent most of Sunday lounging around the house and drinking water. I called the school Monday morning and told them that I couldn’t come in because I had a fever. Monday was spent very similar to Sunday. I pretty much looked like this:

I decided that I didn’t want to miss another day of work and headed into the school on Tuesday. Major mistake. I woke up feeling better and thought I would be able to get through the day fine…wrong. I ended up with a fever once again and completely exhausted with a very sore throat from talking to my classes. My teacher even told me that I shouldn’t have come in at all and that I needed to rest. When I got home, I called my insurance company and they told me to go to urgent care at my neighboring town since that what the closest hospital to me. Luckily, my Spain mommy (as I like to call her) called my insurance company and was able to get them to bring the doctor to me. I’m definitely not use to having a health plan that covers house calls from a doctor…but I love it! The doctor arrived about an hour later and told me that I had some type of bacterial infection in my throat and prescribed me some antibiotics and gave me a doctor’s note to excuse me from school for the rest of this week. Oh and I didn’t have to pay a single penny for the doctor’s visit. Afterwards, my Spain mommy drove me to the pharmacy so I could get my prescription, which only cost me about 8€ . Have I mentioned that I live with the greatest family here in Spain? I would probably have been living off of lipton soup if I lived by myself, but I was able to have delicious homemade soup instead 🙂 Plus, it’s been really nice to have the kiddies around me because they can always make me laugh, which is a great thing when you’re feeling sick and mopey.

Well, I think I’m going to have my first nap of the day. I’ll keep you all posted. Oh and since I have free time these next few days, I’m going to finish up the posts I promised weeks ago about Segovia, Madrid, Ávila, and Toledo.

¡Hablamos Luego!

Ch-ch-changes.

There are two main reasons for my lack of blogging as of late:

1. I have been incredibly busy with work for the school.

2. When you have nothing positive to blog, it’s best not to blog anything at all.

I posted awhile ago about the responsibilities at my school for BEDA. I also mentioned that I had spoken with the coordinator regarding the issue of me being left alone during one of my classes my first week. Well, even after the coordinator called and spoke with my school, they had a meeting with me and informed me that I would be left alone with the students because that was the way that they had designed the auxiliar hour to function. I didn’t bother to mention this again to my coordinator because I thought that maybe I could cope with the situation. I was able to deal with that aspect pretty well, just like I thought. However, I could not get use to the amount of students that I was responsible for and the amount of lesson planning that I had to do. I spent over 7 hours on Sunday researching lessons and videos for my 6 Monday classes. I knew this week would be the true test of whether I could handle being at this school because it was the first week with full school days. All of September was half days, so I didn’t have the majority of my assigned primary students.

Turns out that this school and I are just not compatible. I had a complete breakdown yesterday and made the decision to call the coordinator again first thing in the morning and tell her that I could not handle the situation at my school. During my commute to the school this morning, I called the coordinator and explained my situation to her and she offered to switch me to a different school. I happily agreed. I should mention that my main issue with the school was that they were treating me like I was a legitimate teacher rather than an auxiliar.

Tomorrow I have my NIE appointment at the comisaria at 8:30 in the morning and will be starting at my new school afterwards. My new school is in another region of Madrid, so I won’t even be in Majadahonda anymore. My commute will likely be a little longer and I’ll be working less hours, but I will GLADLY make those sacrifices in order to maintain my sanity. I’ll keep you all posted about the NIE appointment and my first day at my new school.

¡Hablamos Luego!

P.S. To my friends back home: I am terribly sorry for my lack of communication. I promise that it was due to lack of time, not my lack of missing you all since I miss you all terribly! Now that I’m switching schools, I should have more time to talk 🙂

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