“Ellen, guapa! Qué tal? Cómo fue tu viaje?”
Walking through the front door to CEIP San Fernando the first day back from Semana Santa, I was instantly greeted by these welcoming words and kisses on both cheeks from Rosa, the physical education teacher. A spirited woman and just about the friendliest person on the planet, Rosa is part of the reason I feel like I can call Spain a home.
When I made the decision to move to Madrid for Teach Abroad, I was extremely grateful and excited beyond measure. Two of my lifelong dreams have always been to 1) live in a foreign country and 2) become fluent in Spanish. So basically, this was the best decision I could ever make.
My first couple of months in Madrid were indeed a dream come true. I spent my spare time wandering down cobblestone streets, admiring gorgeous architecture, meandering through parks, visiting ancient ruins, and pinching myself to make sure that everything was real.
As incredibly happy as I was, however, it didn’t take long to feel just how far away I was from my amazing network of friends and family. Having moved to a new continent on my own, I hadn’t yet developed a new network of people, and so there were many moments when I missed the simple things: movie nights, family dinners, and just having people to sit around and do nothing with.
Don’t get me wrong, there was not a single instant when I regretted my decision to move. From the moment I arrived in Spain I felt perfectly comfortable, but being so far from my support system in the U.S. made me realize that for Spain to truly be a home, I needed to establish deeper roots.
Oddly enough, giving private English classes ended up providing me with a major sense of belonging. I happily agreed when two of the teachers at my school, Rosa and Laura, asked me to give joint private lessons to their fifteen-year-old daughters, thinking that the extra cash would be great. Little did I know, the personal relationships I would develop with those two teachers was the best form of payment.
Rosa and Laura take turns driving me to one of their houses, feeding me snacks, and kindly bringing me to the train station after the lessons are over. It has been incredible seeing how close the two families are and getting a direct glimpse into Spanish culture. It has been even more amazing how they’ve so effortlessly invited into their world to experience it for myself.
Rosa and Laura stay up to date on my life, always asking me about my travel plans and checking in with me whenever I’ve been sick. Their warmth and caring always brightens up my day and has helped integrate me into the community of the other teachers at my school. Not to mention, my Spanish has improved tremendously throughout all my conversations with them.
Now being seven months into the program, I’ve built up my much-needed support system of friends from both the U.S. and all over the world. But it’s Rosa and Laura that make me feel to connected to Spain and its wonderful culture, and for that I am so grateful.