These last few weeks have looked a little something like this:
Land in Madrid on September 6th. Taxi to Airbnb. Buy groceries to avoid living off of tortillas españolas and chocolate croissants. Figure out what to do for cell phone service. Walk the streets looking for “Se Alquila” signs. Eat delicious paella with previous host family. Purchase metro pass. Peruse Idealista’s apartment offerings for hours. Line up four piso viewings. Achieve success with piso number 4! Sign contract the next day. Move into apartment. Purchase a bunch of home supplies at the chino shop on our street. Fly down to Sevilla for the weekend to hang out with friends. Participate in a hip hop dance class. Complete CIEE Orientation with fellow auxiliares. Get all paperwork organized and submitted for the TIE (ID card for foreigners). Attend volleyball practice a few metro stops away. Grab tapas with friends near La Latina. Meet bilingual language coordinator and other assistants at my colegio.
As you can see from the solid chunk of action items above, there’s so much to do upon arriving in Spain that it can seem a bit overwhelming! It's no small task to move to an unfamiliar, Spanish-speaking country for a year, and the first month or so can feel like a checklist of urgent to-do’s. That said, you might notice that there are also several fun activities mixed into the semi-hectic apartment searching and paperwork filing described above. Sevilla, paella, volleyball, dance, and tapas were easy to fit into the schedule because my boyfriend and I got here really early.
Originally, we simply wanted to get to Spain at the beginning of September for sightseeing and friend-visiting purposes. However, after researching the lodging situation and legal processes, we soon realized that it would be a huge advantage to have a couple more weeks up-front to get all of our ducks in a row. We wanted to avoid cramming everything into the small time window between orientation on September 22nd and day one of school on October 3rd, and we were very happy with the results.
The two of us arrived here 16 days before orientation - which was probably excessive - but if you can book a flight that lands 5-7 days beforehand, you’ll thank yourself later. The Airbnb we stayed at was $30 per night, and hostels can be found for even cheaper. In a way, you're buying yourself more time to relax, see some sights, and explore the city in between important tasks like finding housing and submitting paperwork to the Spanish government. Less stress and more play!
Whether you arrive 3 weeks early or walk into orientation just as it’s beginning, you’ll be diving headfirst into a new Spanish lifestyle. Savor it as much as you can along the way, and remember to cut yourself plenty of slack as you get oriented.