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 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!