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A School Day in the Life of an Auxiliar


I know everyone is just itching to know what it's like to be an auxiliar, or a language and cultural assistant. First, I'd like to throw it back! When I first discovered CIEE through a random soul search on Google, I couldn't believe my eyes! You work 16 hours a week, only FOUR days a week, teaching English and American culture to Spanish primary or secondary students with a monthly stipend and visa sponsorship to LIVE in Spain for a year!? "Sign me up!" was my first thought. I started devouring travel blog after travel blog to learn more about this position in Spain and to truly see if it wasn't too good to be true. Everything I read encouraged my decision to take the plunge; the cons seemed so minuscule compared to the pros like: living in another country, learning Spanish, traveling to as many countries in Europe as we could on our 3-day weekends and many Spanish holidays and basically becoming a world traveller. 

The process to get here through the CIEE application and the Visa process in general required dedication with all the time sensitive documents requested, but it was WORTH IT! Check out my blogs on both of these topics by clicking the hyperlinks! 

My placement school: CEIP Hermanos Pinzon

I was placed at a primary school, per my request, and emailed the school about 3 weeks out to visit and go over scheduling. They were happy to receive my email and immediately set up a Friday to come tour the school and meet the administration. My school is approximately 45 mins commute from my lovely piso in Salamanca, Madrid and I live a convenient 3 mins walk from the metro. As long as you're by a metro stop, typically your commute won't be too bad. 

I met with my bilingual coordinator, the designated school official who you "report" to and leave your concerns with. She speaks very good English and introduced me to all of the bilingual teachers, staff and sat down with me and the Head of Studies. The Head of Studies was also extremely welcoming with a warm hug and two kisses. She asked me which grades I would be most comfortable teaching and which day (Monday or Friday) did I want free. We didn't create my weekly school schedule then and there but I was told I'd receive it the day we start teaching October 2nd. I loved seeing the children running around and trying their best to use English to say "hi" and "how are you?" The students refer to us and their teachers as "profe", your first name, or "teacher".

So, what IS it like being an auxiliar at the school!?! 

I will tell you everything. There are 3 other auxiliares at my school and we all have different schedules. Below is my schedule for a typical MONDAY, since I have Fridays OFF! I'm at the school starting at 9:00am-4:00pm.


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On Tuesdays, I have a similar schedule-- the breaks are the same, just different classes. On Wednesdays, I have a late start and can sleep in until 7:45am instead since I don't have to be at school until 9:45am. On Thursdays I have a HALF DAY! I'm at school from 9:00am-12:30pm and then I have Fridays off! 

The day goes by SO quickly. My school is a bilingual school, which means half of all lessons are taught in English (Science, English, Art, PE, and etc.) so the teachers ONLY speak English to them when they are in these classes.

An image placed in front of the profe's bathroom at CEIP Hermanos Pinzon
Being an auxiliar is more than an opportunity to travel the world; it is also about changing the world, and changing lives. The Spanish government created the auxiliar program to equip its citizens (from a very young age) with the means to become fluent in English or German. These languages have evolved to become absolutely essential in job acquisition and thousands of companies are requiring English in potential employees. 
So as you can imagine, I came with nearly a suitcase full of teaching aids and a mind full of ideas and games to interactively engage students to learn English.  
What I do in the classroom depends on the teacher. During the week, half my time is with 2nd graders, the other half is spent in various 3rd, 4th and 6th grade classes. With the 2nd grade teacher, she's very structured and I'm very involved in the students' learning: constantly talking to the students, working with students 1 on 1 or at their table in groups of 4. 1 on 1 work is typically with students who are behind in the class and need extra help speaking and using their workbooks. Group work is typically fun games that the kids are crazy about. The students LOVE the auxiliares and DAY ONE I was greeted with kisses and hugs. However most of them DO NOT love to learn English. They constantly try to speak to me in Spanish. Although I know what they're saying, we CANNOT speak Spanish back to them and have to pretend we don't understand them and/or speak to them solely in English. Also, 5-10 minutes out of 2nd grade class time is typically getting them to sit down and stop talking, haha! They love to keep busy, and that's how you win as a teacher. Bring things they can touch and open and use their brains!
The 4th graders try harder to speak English; which makes sense, they know more English! With them, the teacher asks me to review science or English terms with them. She also gives me free reign to do whatever I want for half the class or in groups of 2 at a table in the back of class. For example, we played Hangman with science terms, I encourage them always to use full sentences when speaking. They also LOVE, I mean LOVE Simon Says since they're still learning body parts.
An auxiliar definitely needs to be flexible! Sometimes the teachers ask, "Can you do a game with them to help them with their alphabets?" or "Can you teach us about Thanksgiving?" Always have a couple of low-maintenance games in your back pocket! 
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During the 30-min break, we have a teacher's lounge we can sit and rest. I typically use this time to sit, eat a snack and talk to the other auxiliares. 
In the 2-hour break, we can do whatever we want! We (the other auxiliares and I) typically walk to the library and spend an hour there, talk, enjoy the weather or eat lunch with the teachers the last half hour. 
What else do I do with my time?!
I try new restaurants, sleep (a lot), blog, explore my city, explore Spain and travel around Europe with my fiancé! Honestly, I'm in love with my life at the moment and sometimes I can't believe I packed up my life in the U.S. and moved to Europe. 
I will post more and more about the auxiliar life, any questions or comments, please leave them below!! 







A Festival-Filled Long Weekend

Hypothetical question: what would you do if someone were to tell you that you’re about to have a five day weekend?

That was a question I got to ask myself in reality when the bilingual coordinator at my school handed me my class schedule and holiday calendar and I realized that I had five days off the following weekend.

My mind began racing with the possibilities of places I could visit - beaches, mountains, even other countries. After a couple hours of research, I ultimately decided to capitalize on one of the best parts of living in a country like Spain - festivals!

I was lucky enough to be able to make it to the last day of Semana Cervantina in Alcalá de Henares as well as the last day of Festival Pilar in Zaragoza.

First up:

Semana Cervantina

Alcalá de Henares is a quaint little town that lies about forty minutes to the north-east of Madrid (cercanías lines C-2 and C-7). It is the birthplace of famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, whose house is still intact and can be toured for free!

Cervantes is best known for his work Don Quijote de la Mancha. For those that haven’t heard of it, here is my very humble and very simplified summary: a man who has a bit of an obsession with books about knights and chivalry wakes up one morning and declares himself a knight named Don Quijote. Don Quijote then convinces a farmer named Sancho to be his squire, and the pair set off on a string of haphazard adventures, including fighting “giants” (read: windmills) and rescuing “damsels” (read: loose women).


Naturally, Spain loves a good Don Quijote reference, and Alcalá de Henares is the motherland of paying homage to this fictional character and his creator. As a literature nerd who has taken an entire class on the novel, I was perhaps a little too excited to attend an entire festival dedicated to Cervantes.

And let me tell you, Semana Cervantina did not disappoint. Mere minutes after leaving the train station I stumbled upon the “Mercado Cervantino” in Plaza de Cervantes, where artisan stalls lined the streets selling trinkets, clothing, jewelry, pastries, and locally produced cheese and jamón. Medieval style flags were strung up in the air above the streets, which were bustling with people, many of whom wore medieval costumes. Children ran about and squealed with delight as the carnival rides spun them around and around. The atmosphere positively buzzed with energy and spirit.


But the best had yet to come. Just as I was getting ready to head back to Madrid, I heard music coming from down the street and noticed a herd of people gathering. I approached the melodious sounds and pushed through the crowd of people until I came face to face with Don Quijote himself - shield and spear in hand - riding his white steed, and Sancho Panza - flask in hand - riding his donkey. The characters were parading the streets, accompanied by musicians and two men holding a live snake and eagle. I nearly burst out laughing at the sight and couldn’t help but admire their level of dedication.

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All in all, an amazing day! Stay tuned for a follow-up post about the Pilar Festival in Zaragoza!

Home is where...

Home to me is so much more than where you simply live. To me, it's a place that welcomes you with open arms whenever you return to it, it's a place where you grow and learn about yourself, it's a place of significance, and a place that steals your heart and a place that you give your heart to. I've liked to think I've had four homes so far with Madrid, being the fourth. 

1. Darien, IL "A nice place to live"

2. Miami University, #LoveandHonor

3. Sevilla, NO8DO, No me ha dejado 

4. Madrid, TBD, Still working on the slogan.  



From the moment I arrived, it felt like I never left Spain. Keep in mind, I had never been to Madrid, specifically before, but walking in Lavapiés and La Latina along the cobblestone drinks, stopping for some tortilla española and tinto de verano (Missed you SO MUCH!), I literally thought that I have lived here before. There are plenty of differences between Madrid and Sevilla, which I'll get into in another post, but there's just something about Spain in general. I had the same feeling arriving three years ago. The air smelled of both adventure and calmness and gave me the most comforting Déjà vu (Can Déjà vu be comforting? Usually it freaks me out, but I'm going with it this time).



But it only took about 2 weeks for me to start calling it home. That happened way faster than I thought it was, but I think diving into orientation and finding an apartment on the 3rd day, things just happen at lightening speed. 


So when was the moment? I travelled to Palma de Mallorca with a group of  CIEE girls September 13-16 and while I loved the beach and exploring the island, I arrived home and I remember unlocking the door, stepping across the threshold with my suitcase and thinking, "Wow, it feels like I've been gone forever. It's good to be home." Then cue my roommate, Gianna, running toward me saying "You're back! You're back!" and me replying, "I'm home! I'm back home!" While it was a literal moment, it filled me with comfort and while I've been all over the place these past two weeks, I was so relaxed and happy.  There is something to be said about coming back to the familiar. Calle Magdalena looked a little brighter, a little warmer and Plaza de Antón Martín seemed serene, and the Kebab place looked more delicious than ever before. No lie. 


Now I guess the next step is making a list of the things the locals do, so I can actually call myself a madrileña. 

Sunday in the Valley

Today as I was leaving the gift shop inside the Valle de los Caidos (home to the remains of Francisco Franco, military dictator and president of Spain during the Spanish Civil War) my eyes fell upon a plastic pink rosary. Instantly I was taken back to my childhood, my mémé gifting me a similar style rosary but in dark, mahogany red. The plastic baubles seemed to glitter as I said my solemn Hail Mary's alongside my Gram before mass at 7am on Sunday mornings. There was a secret part of me that longed to wear it around my neck, purely for the sake of its beauty, although I knew this was taboo. To this day, when I see someone wearing a rosary around their neck, I instantaneously roll my eyes: they must not know its worth; its weight.

The Valle de los Caidos is one of the most disputed historical sites in Espana. It is a Catholic Basilica with regularly held services, a “national act of atonement” designed as a symbol of remembrance to those who perished during La Guerra, and also home to the body of one of the most hated men in all of Spanish history. Regardless of its reputation, it is beautiful and grandiose; an ode to the fact that most things in life that are controversial are simultaneously fascinating. Like the remains of Francisco, and the plastic gift shop rosary, these things mutually hold weight. Though different in composition and significance, they weigh on my mind today equally.

And then there are the kinds of things in life that lift you: like my favorite class of 4th graders in my school located an hour outside of the city. On Wednesday, before the national holiday set in and the kids bolted out the doors to freedom, I consciously recorded all of their names in my mind. Sarah, the shy but prodigious one, Adrian the clown, Martina – sweet and obedient, Jorge: lady killer, maker of paper engagement rings and stealer of hearts. Although I have loved my new position in my school entirely, and each class has brought its share of joys, there is something about this group of 20 4th graders that makes every day so much better. Seeing each of their individual personalities, watching them grasp a topic and genuinely learn; it validates what I’m doing here. With my life.

Finally feeling like you’re finding your purpose at 25 – that holds a lot of weight too. But the good kind of weight. The weight I’m ready to carry throughout this year. Through long days and hard days and really good days – like today.

Today was a great day. Filled with new Spanish friends, and controversial, beautiful places.

I hope I keep moving forward. I hope I carry the weight with grace and purpose.

Highs and Lows

This week has been a strangely bittersweet week with a mixture of highs and lows.  As I am constantly reminded, I have been sooo blessed by my entire situation here in Spain: I have the BEST family to live with (I just finished cleaning up the kitchen with Raquel after Alejandro and I made soft pretzels for everyone); I work at the coolest school with wonderful, caring, laid-back and friendly teachers and administrators (I’m not ever going to forget how great the teachers were the first day of class when I was sick); I have met great people to hang out with; I have a beautiful place to live and call home; and I have the opportunity to stay in touch with people who are far away.  All of these things, plus countless more, have been such consolations as I have had a strange bout of longing for all the things back home that I know I’m missing.

This past week the other auxiliars and I began to decorate for Halloween and that small reminder that Halloween was coming and that I would not be celebrating with the annual “Hahn-o-ween” party that I have gone to in the past brought a tinge of regret to my heart.  I have been practicing salsa dancing every day and am reminded of the incredible dance partners that I’m missing back at the Danceability studio in Buffalo.  My sister and my niece called me the other day and I know that she is continuing to grow up while I am here and that I will return home at Christmas to find a 3-year old in the place of the 2-year old that I left behind.  I look at the calendar and know that the teens I have worked with for so many years will be heading off in less than two weeks for their Confirmation retreat and that I’m not there to cheer them on.  Life continues to move forward, no matter where we are.

The chance to spend more time thinking and reflecting is both a blessing and a curse.  It is good to step back and reflect on what’s important - I have been keeping up on the fires in California as I think of family and strangers who have been (and continue to be) impacted by such devestation.  I am grateful for the safety of my aunt and uncle as I continue to say prayers for those who weren’t so fortunate and for those who are still in potential danger.  Family is important, the gift of life is important, friendship is important, giving of one’s self in service and love is important.  To have people that I love so much that I miss them so fiercely is a blessing.  And yet, on the other hand, it is so easy to fall into a feeling of sadness and self-pity as I feel so far away from the people who have are and have become so important to me - family and friends, my parish community(ies), the places in which I used to spend my time serving and being inspired.  

I was thinking about all this the other day when, lo and behold, something popped up on my newsfeed - it was a notification about the opportunity to join in a day known as “Serve the City - Madrid” taking place next Saturday.  Being the curious person that I am, I clicked on it and found that there is an event taking place fairly close to my neighborhood to spend the morning/afternoon at a local center for individuals with special needs, playing games and just spending time with those who come to participate in the day.  So, I signed up and am looking forward to the chance to get involved (hopefully I will have the chance to get involved more than just for the day)!

I will never be able to change the whole world - to put out all the fires, to help all the people who are in need, or to prevent the acts of violence that erupt - but I can love the people that are in front of me (even the ones who pick their noses and refuse to do their English work) and do my best to serve those around me, wherever I am.  

I promise that, later this week, I will actually write more about my school, my experience as a teacher’s assistant, and about my living situation; but I have probably written too much already for one post.  So, for now, I say “buenas noches”... 

(1 Thess 5:16-18)

Hostels Experience and Preparation

Hello everyone, my name is Jaime Sanchez and I have been here in Spain for about 4 days now. Since hostels are such a commodity in Europe, I would like to share my hostel experience with you. I arrived in Madrid one day early and booked a hostel about 4 miles from the Madrid airport. After I retrieved my bags, I requested transportation via uber. (side note: the Madrid Airport has different levels and it was kind of confusing to make sure I was at the right level to find my uber driver). Once I found my uber driver he was extremely helpful and very accommodating. He was explaining the area and talked a little bit about Avila, since I mentioned I would be living there. In my experience most Spanish people have always been kind and very sociable even if you are not fluent in spanish. As we pulled up to the Hostel he helped me take my bags down and drove away.
I walked inside the hostel only to find that there was no reception desk and as night began to fall I started to feel on edge. I called the hostel and unfortunately my spanish skills were not as efficient as I initially thought in order to understand what the manager was saying (they speak very rapidly). About 5 minutes later an employee from the Hostel found me and graciously walked me around the corner to the main entrance and reception desk. This was my first eye opener since I realized there was plenty of work to be done to close this language barrier gap.
My advice to you would be not to panic in this situation, go with the flow, and preemptively download a map of the city that does not require data/internet. Have the phone numbers printed out on hand and make your phone calls if they are extremely necessary. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet for the cell phone charges or establish an international plan right before you leave. Either way the Spanish people are more than willing to help you if you ask. Have your hostel papers ready and/or print out some maps especially of where you are staying that first night so you can at least point to the map and tell them where you are trying to go. After I found my hostel I sat down and enjoyed a terrific three course meal in the dining area and easily fell sound asleep. Keep an open mind and realize that sometimes plans may take more time, but eventually it should all work out in the end.

How to Survive Life Abroad

Strangely enough, I have been in Spain for over 3 weeks now. On one hand it seems like it has been so much longer than that but on the other I still feel like I’m brand new to everything as I continue to figure everything out. Realistically, if you decide to move abroad to teach the first couple of weeks will most likely be a blur. Between running to appointments (to obtain your residency card, to view apartments, to meet with your bank and find a phone company) and learning the lay of the land (it helps to just give yourself a little time to get lost and wander), there is so much happening all at once. At times it can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be unbearable... Here are just a couple of things that have been beneficial for me - if you have any other suggestions, definitely leave them in the comments section!

Helpful Hints (to make the transition better):
-Make friends:
    -Make friends with people in your orientation group (or outside of that) who you can check in with to commiserate with when finding housing is difficult (or you need a place to stay for a night!), who are willing to meet up and get lost in the middle of Madrid with you.
    -Make friends with teachers at your school - stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone and practice speaking Spanish with the teachers who don’t know English (and those who do)
    -Make friends with the other auxiliars at your school - talk to the people that are also at your school, working with the same teachers and students as you. Meet up for drinks or lunch on a free day (or after school). These are people you’re going to see often, so get acquainted with them and make sure you can offer moral support (on good days and bad!)

-Take time for you:
    -You have to know yourself for this one. Maybe your an extrovert and you need to be with other people - if so, make that happen and don’t make yourself miserable being locked up alone in a room. Or, maybe you’re an introvert - like me! - in which case, take time to step away from all the excitement every once in a while. Find a place where you can walk around and enjoy some alone time.
    -Find a place that helps you to be as wholly healthy and happy as you can be. I’ve talked to a number of individuals who have mentioned how great it has been for them to find a place of worship in Madrid. I know that I did some research and found an awesome church that’s a half hour away from where I’m living. Are there closer churches? Probably... but this is the one that feels like home to me. I know that going to church brings me peace and joy in the midst of the anxiety and chaos that can sometimes arise; so, for me, this is huge. I get up early to have time to pray each day before I jump into life with the rest of the family I’m living with and I know when and where I’m heading on Sunday morning.

-Give yourself permission to not always be okay:
    -I know that I have often struggled with the need to always be “fine” and not burden anyone with things I’m facing. That can be a dangerous line to walk. I’ve come to recognize that, if it’s okay for other people to have bad days and not be alright sometimes, I need to extend that same courtesy to myself. So, even though I love living in Madrid and I’m so glad I made the choice to come be here for the year, I’m allowed to miss friends and loved ones from back home and I’m even allowed to be upset that we’re all pretty far away right now. I allow myself the time to sit down and eat some twizzlers (brought, with love, from the US) and have a cry or write a letter to someone back home. And then, when I’m done with that, I go find a friend (or the dog or the kids or a nearby park) and remind myself of how awesome my life in Madrid is!

Blake Shelton and My Spanish Bank Account

Hello, blog.  He vuelto.  My first post (this one) will be a tale of failure and triumph.  I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner, but I arrived two weeks ago and hit the ground running.  I wanted to wait until I had some spark of inspiration.  I don’t want to write solely informational posts, or solely soul-searching ones either.  What pushed me to finally begin this word-focused journey was an encounter between a Spanish banker and myself.

At first I wasn’t sure if she was friendly, if I was annoying her, if she understood a word I said.  As I translated word after word in my head, she looked at me with a straight face.  I had no idea how I seemed: does it sound like I know any Spanish at all?  Does it sound like I’m crazy?  But in the middle of trying to open a bank account, I realized exactly what I was doing.  I was opening a bank account in another language in another country.  Me.  Opening a bank account in Spanish in Spain.  I felt as though I had conquered…something.  Not sure what.  But I realized after I struggled to say “I have a placement letter from the government” and “my program gave us a packet about the Expansion Account at this bank” that I had arrived.  I was experiencing the precise moments I had been thinking would solidify my experience living in Spain.  What defines living more than opening a bank account?  A lot of things.  But I hope you get the point.

Amparo and I spent a while together, or what seemed like a while.  I don’t have a Spanish cell number so I couldn’t receive a message to open online banking.  Amparo tried a few different things, made a few calls, but I could not receive the message.  As I felt defeated, I overheard Amparo say on the phone “extranjera.”  “That’s me,” I thought, “extranjera” (foreigner).  Ugh.  I am “extra,” not integral.

I said to Amparo, “Mi español es mejor que suena,” which hopefully means “my Spanish is better than it sounds.”  In a quick string of sentences she said that I speak well and that her level of English is low.  I looked at the stacks of papers across her desk, Spanish words floating everywhere, and felt comforted.  For the first time I stopped beating myself up about my Spanish ability.  “Wow,” I thought, “I am living my dream.  And even if my language level is not where I hope it’d be, I have enough to open a bank account, and that seems like a darn lot.”

Enter Blake Shelton.  On the bus ride back from the bank, Shelton’s 2013 hit song “Boys ‘Round Here” fittingly came on my shuffling music.  It’s a song about culture and place.  “Well the boys ‘round here don’t listen to the Beatles, [they] run Ol’ Bocephus (a nickname for Hank Williams Jr.) through a jukebox needle at the honky tonk, where their boots stomp all night.”  The boys ‘round Blake Shelton’s parts do X, but they don’t do Y.  Specific cultural activities take place while others, according to the song’s narrator, most certainly do not.  “The boys ‘round here, they’re keepin’ it country.  Ain’t...one know how to do the Dougie.”  The “Dougie” is a popular dance routine used in Cali Swag District’s 2010 song “Teach Me How to Dougie.”  The song repeats, “teach me how to Dougie, teach me, teach me how to Dougie” and directs listeners in its movements.  Every party at every university, every high school house party in the U.S. heard the Dougie at some point during the weekend.  Shelton’s lyrics, however, assert [yes, it’s been a while since I wrote creatively] that his group does not know how to do the Dougie.  “You don’t do the Dougie?” a female voice asks in the song.  “Naw, not in Kentucky,” Shelton replies.  

Cut to the music video for “Boys ‘Round Here” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXAgv665J14).  White men and women in denim and cowboy hats drink beer and dance in a barn.  Suddenly the doors open and a group of Black men look in at the party.  The partying people stop dancing and look at the men at the door.  After they look to each other, the men walk in towards Shelton at the center of the dance floor.  At first, the relationship between them is unclear.  But then, they hug and say hello.  Suddenly everyone at the party is dancing together and the Black men are teaching the white partygoers how to Dougie.  The music video shows that in his lyrics Shelton makes fun of the idea that one place includes all the same people doing all the same things and excludes anything or anyone different.

At my bank account opening I couldn’t have felt more like an outsider.  The account they were opening for me even includes the word “extranjera.”  But during the conversing about account numbers and my American telephone number, I felt proud of myself.  I felt as though I kind of fit into Spanish society.  If the Spanish language includes the word “extranjera,” then perhaps there is a place for me ‘round here.  


First Week of School! A look at the adventures from the week...

First week of school! First week of school!!  

As much as I enjoyed the chance to wander and explore with no real time restrictions, I was so happy to start up a, slightly, more structured routine this week.  Orientation took place at my school on Monday morning - we got our schedules, walked through the school, met the bilingual coordinator and some of the teachers, and became acquainted with the other auxiliars from the school.  It was a relaxed day and after we finished with that we were allowed to go home for the day.  Therefore, technically we didn’t begin in the classrooms until Tuesday.  

I woke up on Tuesday morning, got dressed for the day, had breakfast with the family that I’m living with and then headed off to school with Raquel (side note: I had the awesome luck of becoming an au pair for one of the teachers at the school I’m working at, so I go to school with her and it is awesome).  

Somewhere between the breakfast table and arriving at the school I realized that I was not feeling so great - I, who very rarely gets sick, was on the verge of losing my breakfast in the car.  We made it to the school and I made it to the bathroom before throwing up all that I had eaten for breakfast (and maybe some of dinner?!?).  Instead of introducing myself in the 2nd grade classroom that I start off in on Tuesdays, I was just hoping I’d feel well enough to get through the day.  Thankfully, the teacher was wonderful and had no problem letting me sit out that class (asking me if I needed to go home or needed anything else) and I was fine for the rest of the day.  As much as I wouldn’t wish that on anyone; it was truly reassuring that I am in a great school, where the teachers really do care and are wonderful individuals.  And, I feel like it can only get better from there, right?!  

The rest of the week was great!  I love working with the primary-age students (mainly second graders) and I enjoy meeting and talking with the other auxiliars and teachers in the school.  My schedule is great and, even with the “routine”, there are still daily changes and excitement taking place.  For example, the schedule I received last Monday will be different this Monday as I will switch one of my classes with the students to allow me a time in which I can work with any teachers wishing to practice or study English.  The teachers that I am working with are all very open and excited to collaborate; so I look forward to all the potential opportunities that may arise throughout the year!

I have Fridays off, so I took advantage of the free time to go back to my bank in Madrid and pick up my bank card (since they are only open Monday-Friday).  While I was in the area I stopped at a local coffee shop for breakfast, walked around and found a local shoe store to buy a pair of less dressy/more casual shoes to wear for work, and then made my way back home on the metro.  It was a good start to the weekend...  I had the chance to meet up with friends on Saturday and explore a little more of the city - nothing too exciting, but just enough of a break from all the Spanish to jump back in when I arrived back home to a family birthday party for one of the boys.  I got home a little after 9pm and was able to sit down with all the adults and listen to (and even participate a little in) the conversation!  And today is Sunday - truly a day of rest as I went to Mass in the morning and came home to relax and get prepared for the coming week.  I have to go start laundry, so I have some clean clothes, but I wanted to stop and check in before I head downstairs.  There will be more adventures to share in the coming days (I’m sure), so I’ll write again soon!

(Philippians 4:6-7)


Becoming Fluent in Spanish

Hey friends!

It has literally been 167 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 11 seconds since my last blog post; but I promise to post weekly! I'm aiming for every Saturday or Sunday. 

I've been living in Madrid, Spain for EXACTLY 2 months now and I'm in love with this country, the language of Spanish, the food, the sights, the sounds, the metro, and I'm still exploring and learning new things every single day. I'm writing today about the journey to becoming fluent in Spanish. A little about me, I studied Spanish for a semester in 6th grade, 2 years in high school and then completed Spanish 201 and 202 at the university level about 8 years ago. 

I've been told by multiple sources that it takes about 6 months of living in Spain to obtain fluency. I have 4 months left! Of course, you can't really put a timetable, but I find it interesting and I accept this challenge. I enrolled in the 4-week immersion program because in the program we take 4 weeks of classes through the prestigious Tandem language school. My Spanish grammar and verbal skills have definitely increased, but what is most important is my confidence speaking as well.

There are multiple ways to learn Spanish when you get here, through multiple avenues and companies.

I have two lists below that will mention paid and free options, respectively:

1.) Enroll at Tandem, or another language school (pricing depends)

2.) Take private classes through a Spanish instructor through an embassy or school (pricing depends)

3.) Rosetta Stone Spanish (pricing depends, may be deals, you can buy online or at a bookstore; this is a language-learning software that you can download on your phone or PC/Mac; I love it, but I prefer interacting with people)

4.) Read books in Spanish! We learned a lot of English from books, try purchasing or borrowing a book at your level in Spanish. Look up the words you don't know, pay attention to the order of words and the grammar. I'm currently reading El Principito by Antonie de Saint-Exupéry. You can find books in local papelerias, street shops, and stores like FNAC, Casa del Libro and the huge mall Corte Ingles. 

For free/gratis:

1.) Intercambios! Intercambio is basically a term for language exchange between you and a partner. For example, my intercambio partner is a Madrileña who is fluent in Spanish and wants to learn English. We were assigned through TANDEM, however you can easily find intercambios anywhere! Programs like City Life offer bar/restaurant events on Facebook where you can meet up with other people/students/teachers/auxiliares looking to become fluent in languages like German, French, Spanish and English! My intercambio and communicate through the app WhatsApp and take turns picking a quiet bar or cafe to meet up and speak Spanish and English.

We meet at a designated time, and for 45 minutes we speak about anything and everything in English and then we switch to Spanish and speak for another 45 minutes. It depends how long you want to hang out, but this was the perfect time for us. I've heard of 1 hour in each language and 30 minutes in each language from other auxiliares. We correct each other's grammar where necessary, talk about cultural differences, different phrases, teach each other new words and all while eating dinner or drinking wine!

2.) Duo-Lingo this is a fun free app great for learning Spanish and also has a lot of other language options like Portuguese, German, French and Italian! It's great for building vocabulary and also engages you to speak, read and type.

3.) Practice! When you go into restaurants, malls, bookstores, convenient stores, ANYWHERE, use as much Spanish as you know! Speak to friends or family members who are fluent, the more you speak, the better you will get!

4.) Spanish flatmates. Room with Spanish people, talk to them in Spanish, and listening also goes a long way! I personally have not had Spanish flatmates, but my friends who do find this an essential experience for speaking. Living with a host mom certainly forced me to learn fast!

5.) Watch films/shows in Spanish!  Re-binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix in Spanish! (yes it works in Spain!) Watch disney movies in Spanish, or any movie you can in Spanish. This will help with pronunciation, listening skills in general, and also written Spanish if you're watching shows captioned in Spanish. You'll notice that Netflix Spain captions are specific to Spain Spanish. For example, the vosotros form and "Vale!" is used! :)


6.) Listen to Music in Spanish. You probably already listen to music in Spanish or have heard it or maybe you LOVE it! Try listening to more Spanish music and listen to words and sentences in the songs, try to understand what the words and phrases mean. Maybe translate them in your free time (not on google!) 

I will keep adding to this list the more I explore and learn. 

Hasta luego! 

xx, xx


Trying New Things

Back in the States I would always tell myself I should try new things; learn to play the guitar, practice a new language, draw more. These are things I am passionate about but between work, school, and that Los Angeles commute I never seemed to find the time to do them.

Here in Madrid things are much more simple, I have found out that I actually have time to enjoy life. I started drawing again, I ran in Retiro, and I am practicing German (ironic because I am in a Spanish speaking country). I have also begun to travel a bit which brings me to the point of this post. When I travel, I enjoy taking pictures and videos of my experiences like any other person. My problem is that I capture these memories and they end up locked up in my hard-drive never to be seen again. So what I decided to do this time is to create montage video of these memories. Adobe Premiere is a video editing program that like many other things I have wanted to try but never had the time to do it. 

So here is my first attempt with this program. Hope you enjoy it.

 And if you are in Madrid do not be afraid to try new this, even if its sitting on a bench people watch. 
The simplest things can bring much joy.

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