Changing Beings.

travelquote

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?

London Calling!

For the people who really know me, they are well aware that I am a huge Anglophile. It all began when I was 10 years old and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. From that point forward, my love/obsession with England only increased. When I knew for sure that I would be doing BEDA in Spain, one of the first things I told my friends and family was that I would finally be able to travel to London. Two weeks ago, during the puente, I was finally able to travel to this wondrous place!

Upon arriving, the first thing I did was take the metro to my hotel so that I could drop off my bags. The metro for my hotel was King’s Cross Station (Yes, as in the King’s Cross from Harry Potter) so you can imagine my excitement. I had found out a few days before that there are Chipotles in London, so my first order of business was finding the Chipotle closest to me. I think that when I walked in through the door of Chipotle I could faintly hear the angels singing. Here is a picture of my bowl before and after: More

Paris! Sorry That This Post is So Long (I Think It’s the First Time I’ve Used the “Read More” Option).

People who know me well are aware that I am obsessed with 3 cities: Madrid, London, and Paris. I am currently living in one of my dream cities and I was lucky enough to visit another last week during the long weekend. Paris was everything I dreamed it would be and then some.

I’d heard from so many people that have been to Paris that I would be disappointed when I saw the Eiffel Tower in person. Well, they were wrong. I was a like a giddy school girl the entire time I was at the Eiffel Tower. I could not stop smiling. People probably thought I was a little crazy. I can’t even fathom someone being unimpressed by the tower. The Iron Lady is beautiful and awe-inspiring! I managed to ask an Italian girl that was sight-seeing with her mother to take a picture of me:

After my stop at the Eiffel Tower, I meandered over to the Musée d’Orsay. I can definitely say that the Musée d’Orsay is my favorite museum. I LOVED it. I know so many people love the Louvre, but the Musée d’Orsay has such charm! Plus the exhibition they had while I was there was impressionist paintings, which I love!!  More

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!

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**):

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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