A Month and a Half in the Life
Somehow it feels like I've been in Spain for more than just seven weeks (okay, so a little more than a month and a half), but even so, time seems to be flying. I now have six weeks of teaching under my belt, have acquired eight hours of private classes per week, opened a bank account, picked up my TIE (foreign identification card), made some good friends, had fun exploring Madrid, and traveled around a bit. I've also gotten paid by my school and earn enough between that and private classes to pay for all of my expenses here and still have a little bit to travel around with. Where to you ask? So far on my list I've checked off a day trip to Toledo (an hour away), a weekend trip to Salamanca (2-3 hours away), and a longer weekend trip to Manchester, England (a two hour flight away).
The seven weeks haven't been without struggles. As mentioned in a previous post, the apartment hunt was a bit rough. Finding a bank and private classes took me a while too (see below for my suggestions on those). Madrid is typically dry, but once fall hit it rained for almost three weeks straight. I've gotten a cold twice now. The presidential election was stressful for everyone here, even being an ocean away. I've also had to learn how to handle a couple of classes that aren't my favorite to teach. However, with that set, moving abroad is always an adventure, and you have to take everything in stride and laugh at the stories later.
Overall though, I'm enjoying my time here in Spain. I love only working Monday-Thursday. I teach at my school from 10-2:30 with a couple breaks and then tutor from 5 to 8 in the evenings. Not working on Fridays gives me a day to run errands, relax, or get some more traveling in. I love living next to Retiro Park, which is great for a cafe and people watching, a relaxing walk, reading a book, or going for a run. I love being able to go to a pharmacist and get meds instead of having to pay to see a doctor. I love walking everywhere (and losing a few pounds as a result!). I confess that I don't speak Spanish as much as I would like to, but I'm still getting in some great practice and could find ways to speak more Spanish if I wanted to make it happen. I'm already thinking about renewing my position for next year and am excited for family and friends to come visit.
As always, feel free to comment if you have any questions! I'm very happy to help!
Until next time,
Some more helpful hints on various items:
1. Spain gives us a student visa, even though we are here to teach. Use this to your advantage! You can get great discounts in Spain and around Europe if you flash your student id. They've been content with either my visa in my passport or my TIE.
2. Wait at least a full month before you pick up your TIE and then don't put off picking it up. It will make it easier travelling around Europe and doing some other things around Spain. To avoid the lines, arrive around 11 am or before. People like to sleep in (don't we all) and will start arriving in hordes soon afterwards.
3. Private classes typically pay better than working for a tutoring center. On average, the tutoring centers might pay you 10-15 euros an hours, whereas private class will pay 15-20 euros an hour, depending on your experience.
4. If you can't find private classes on your own (ask everyone you know), then try looking on the Auxiliaries de Conversacion en Madrid Facebook page. There are posts about a variety of things, but I found about half of my classes through that. You usually have to be the first one to respond to a post, which for me meant sitting in front of my computer for a few hours and making sure I got the notifications on my phone right away.
5. If given the option, I would highly recommend asking for Fridays off instead of Mondays. Why? There are a few reasons. First, holidays falling on Mondays and Fridays are almost equal. Second, students typically don't want private classes on Fridays, but they do on Mondays. Having a three day weekend is amazing, so I prefer to teach and give private classes Monday-Thursday in order to maximize travelling time. Finally, students get antsy on Fridays. It's almost the weekend. Who wouldn't feel that way? You'll probably enjoy your teaching time more if you have the students when they are more willing to be at school.
6. To open a bank account easily, go to Sol. They are used to handling new accounts with foreigners and typically only require a passport. If you try to go somewhere outside of the center, they will usually want your TIE, perhaps some utility bills in your name, etc., and you will definitely want your first paycheck from your school before you are able to get all of that in place. I had a lot of success with Bankia, which is open until 6:30 in Sol (love!) and doesn't charge any fees until you are 30 (score!). Some other friends also had success with Sabadell. Santander didn't work for me this time around, even though I tried 3 times at separate branches. =(
7. The metro in Madrid is amazing. The trains go pretty much everywhere and come every two to six minutes. I highly recommend getting your abono during the CIEE orientation (they set up the appointment for you). Getting your abono will save you so much money and you can easily reload it at the ticket machines at any metro stop.
8. When traveling within Spain, it can be tempting to take the speed train, but double check the bus prices. The lower cost can often offset the shorter travel time.
9. My favorite traveling accommodations are Airbnbs, when I don't have friends or family to stay with. I find that they price is equivalent to a hostel, but they are usually cleaner and nicer and don't require sharing a room with 12 other people. For me, it can even be cheaper to stay in an airbnb as you usually have access to a kitchen, where you can make some of your meals instead of constantly having to eat out.
10. When looking for cheap airline tickets, try the following: Ryan Air, Edreams, Student Universe, Norwegian Airlines, and any others that you know to be reasonably priced. You might not get the extras, but I've found I can survive off a carry-on and my own snacks.