Questions/Comments?Contact Us

15 posts categorized "Kamala Alcantara"

A School Day in the Life of an Auxiliar

Carving pumpkins at CEIP Hermanos Pinzon with my 2nd graders!


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.


Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 1.06.25 PM

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! 
50247036 50247036 50247036
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!! 
For more travel tips and to see more of my adventures, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara







Becoming Fluent in Spanish

Hey friends!

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! 



For more adventure, follow me on Instagram: @KamalaAlcantara

The AZ to Spain Visa Documentation Process: Part 1

As a future CIEE Language and Cultural Assistant in Madrid, Spain, you are required to obtain a Long-Stay (180+ day) Student Visa from the Spanish Consulate in order to remain in the country.  As stated on the Spanish Consulate website, "The Visa will be valid for 90 days. During the first month of your stay in Spain, you must go to the Local Police Station where you will receive a 'Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjero' (NIE/TIE). " The following information is my experience being an applicant from Arizona and going through the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles, focusing right now on the documentation process. Below are the steps I took in the initial documentation process. Check back for Part 2 the actual Visa appointment after June 23rd!

  1. Make An Appointment In AZ, we have to fly to Los Angeles, CA for an in-person appointment! To successfully achieve your visa before mid-August 2017 (for the Teach in Spain – 4 weeks immersion, other programs differ, see the CIEE Spain Visa Guide for help) we’re instructed to schedule our appointment between June 19th and June 30th. Since there are very limited appointments in the Los Angeles Spain consulate, I booked an appointment in mid-April for June 23rd, 2017! If you haven’t booked now, keep looking and refreshing the page since appointments are continually added. Making the actual appointment when times are available is SUPER easy.

 Navigate to the site (link above). Click “Make an Appointment”!


Create a username and password, then follow the prompts and select the time that works best for you.   


They will email you appointment confirmation and it will be titled “The Consulate General of Spain in Los Angeles Appointment Confirmation”. On the email they will include links and further instructions for your Visa appointment. (You also must print the email confirmation page and bring it with you too.)

  1. Read the website for your specific consulate! Now that you’ve scheduled an appointment, you need to invest time in reading the site for everything you need to bring with you! I spent maybe an hour and a half (I'm a fast reader) to read everything and open links and research documents.
  2. Download the Visa Application Checklist This is literally the list that has all the documentation you need to bring with you for your Visa. Download and print all the documents needed from the website (most documents you need to get on your own, I will expand more on this.)
  3. Make your own list of steps to obtain EVERYTHING. Here is MINE below: 
  4. Visa application form – (Download on Spanish consulate website, fill out in capital letters with black ink) Original and a photocopy
  5. 4-6 copies of passport photo (white background, obtain at CVS Photo by house, takes 5 minutes $13.00 for 2 copies)
  6. Passport - Original and a photocopy of the main page (I have this already.)
  7. Driver’s License - Original and a photocopy
  8. Acceptance Letter- Original and a photocopy (Ministry of Spain sends this early June)
  9. Evidence of Funds – Original and one photocopy - print 3 months bank statements in mid-June
  10. Medical Travel Insurance - Original and a photocopy (CIEE sends this in late May)
  11. Medical Certificate - Original and a photocopy (Print on Spanish Consulate website)

Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor –make sure to let them know they need to print your Medical Letter for the Consulate with their letterhead and sign documents for you, bring the CIEE medical form on the CIEE application site AND bring the medical letter with translation on it already. Keep in mind you’ll need your immunization records if your doctor does not already have them to sign off on CIEE medical form. (Tip: The County Records office will have all your immunizations records, as medical providers are required to send this data there.)

  1. Certification of “absence of police records” –Original, a photocopy and translation into Spanish.

In Arizona we must obtain a FBI background check. I went through an online FBI-approved channeler at http://www.myfbireport.com/. I obtained fingerprint cards Monday, sent them in priority 1-day mail at FedEx ($26.00) on Tuesday, and then received my FBI background check forms by Saturday ($39.95 +$9.00 for the 1 additional copy we need for our placement school, +$14.00 optional USPS Priority Mail). I obtained the document inside of a week, but it does take a couple stops and exchanges before it's ready for the Visa appointment. Here are the steps for AZ:

  1. Stop by Phoenix Police Records Department to obtain 2 copies of fingerprint cards This process only took 15-20 minutes around 8:00 am when they opened, bring an ID and $6.00 per card, $12 total. It was strongly suggested to grab 2 copies just in case a print isn’t readable, the second copy will help provide a second print to analyze. You don't want to have to go back and do the process all over again. 
  2. Send 2 copies of fingerprint card & Request Forms (print on my FBI report website) to:
  3. National Credit Reporting
  4. ATTN: FBI Consumer Report Request
  5. 6830 Via Del Oro, Suite 105
  6. San Jose, CA 95119
FBI report Screenshot
This is what the My FBI Report site looks like...
  1. Obtain Spanish Translation certified through Rev ($33.00/per page, if no records, the FBI background check is only 1 page) They say it is a 24-hour turnaround but they literally sent my translation in 15 minutes!
  2. Mail FBI background Check to U.S. Department of State in DC for Apostille.  $8.00 per document (need money order--processing time is 5 weeks)
  1. Visa fees $160.00 Money Order only - Money orders are to be addressed to the General Consulate of Spain Los Angeles.
  2. Prepaid “Express mail” envelope through U.S. Postal Service or FedEx completely filled out with your name and address in both the “To” and “From” sections, (pick up in early June...)
  3. Disclaimer duly signed (print this 1 page form from Los Angeles Spain Consulate website)

And there you have it! Again, this is for the Los Angeles Spain Consulate for Arizona residents, even so, always check the Spanish Consulate website! Overall, we spent $155.95 for everything mentioned above excluding Visa fee, gas $ for the drive and hotel for a night for our in-person visa appointment. 

It'll be just as magical as Beauty & the Beast once you've finished gathering the documents!


Good luck everyone! As always, post comments if you have any questions and follow me on IG: @KamalaAlcantara

Many blessings,


Top 5 Excuses NOT to Travel

Hi friends!

I wanted to talk about a pet peeve and arch-nemesis of mine: EXCUSES. We hear them all the time and even make them all the time, mentally or to anyone around us. They can be the chains we put on ourselves; they hinder progress and stop us from having fun or stepping outside of our box! I wanted to remind anyone who reads this that only YOU can stop you. I've been bombarded with so many stories of how "lucky I am", and how "impossible" it is to travel abroad. It's so overwhelming, yes, but it is certainly not impossible. I always say, "Do it!" I can't tell you how many times I'm met with, "I'm SO jealous!" or "I wish I could do that TOO!" or "I can't imagine!" and EXCUSES. I wanted to counter the top 5 I've heard:

"I can't travel I'm broke!"

Don't let money stop you! You HAVE TO BUDGET! From my own experience as someone who grew up in low to middle class, I've found that exploring the world does not have to be expensive. You can even enjoy some cities and check off your travel-specific bucket list items for cheap or even for free. There are a lot of creative ways to save money! For example, with my regular paychecks at work before moving to Spain, I had 80% directly deposited to my checking and the remaining 20% directly deposited to my savings. This little trick allowed me to save more than I ever have in my lifetime. If I don't have the money in my checking, I can't spend it! You have to know where your money is going. Maybe you DON'T need that extra $13 cocktail or the $3.00 guac. I took a HARD look at EVERYTHING I spent my money on in the last 6 months and noticed I was spending $80 on mani/pedis per month which is $480.00 in 6 months That's 1-2 roundtrip plane tickets in the U.S. and like 5-10 roundtrip plane tickets in Europe. I started painting my own nails... but I digress... Check out these awesome budgeting templates from the Huffington Post here!

"An investment in travel is an investment in yourself!" - Matthew Karsten

"It will be hard to find a job in the U.S. when I come back!"

Did you know that 75% of the CEOs leading Fortune 100 companies have international experience? You'll find that most employers value leadership, organization, self-starters, and people with excellent problem solving and communication skills! The challenge and experience of living abroad will certainly inject or increase these soft skills in you! Check out Forbes' Six Myths to Ignore About Working Overseas! UC Merced also released info on the benefits of having experience abroad. International experience doubled the chances of securing a job, imparted valuable job skills and secured higher salaries!

“So much of who we are is where we have been.” – William Langewiesche

"I'm too scared to fly!"

Did you know that you're actually more likely to be STRUCK BY LIGHTNING than to die in an airline accident? It's true! There's only a 1 in 8 million chance to die from a plane crash vs. a 1 in 6.3 million chance to get struck by lightning! Not to be bleak, but you're also more likely to die from drowning, a gunshot wound, a car accident, or heart disease...

“Man [and women] cannot discover new oceans unless he [or she] has courage to lose sight of the shore.” - Andre Gide

" I have children...and a house...I can't!"

Sure you can! This is not my situation, but I've ran into so many families who are traveling and living abroad with their children. When I ask for their "why" I hear: "because I just had to, so I did it!", "I wanted something transformative for my family", and honestly you're a MOM or a DAD--I educate 6 to 14 years old children 16 hours a week--I CANNOT imagine birthing another human and then raising them almost 24/7. You literally have the most wonderful magic already. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. And you can always rent out your house for extra money abroad, or Airbnb your house...?

For more inspiration check out this blog of a family abroad and ALL about traveling with children: Suitcases & Sippy Cups

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” –Susan Sontag


"I can't just leave everyone/thing behind!"

Hey! Don't think about it like that, but...YES YOU CAN. You will most certainly be missed. And you will also miss them...well maybe not the ones that never text back... But consider all of the experiences, growth, and knowledge you will obtain from taking the challenge of living in another country. Every single minute, $1.8 million is spent on travel, you are not alone! But you'll have WhatsApp where you can communicate with all your family and friends for free wherever you have data or Wifi on your phone. There's Skype, Netflix.... Plus, maybe you can bring a friend or (existing) significant other with you! The opportunity of a lifetime awaits you, and your community will welcome you home with open arms!

A wise anonymous human once said, "We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."



Instagram: @KamalaAlcantara





ACCEPTED! The CIEE Application & Me


     Thanks for stopping by to read my very first post! I'm Kamalía, like Kah-mah-lee-yah. I wanted to talk to you about the CIEE application process.

    A few quick things about myself: I was honored with the role of an Official Blogger for CIEE! I am a proud alumna of Harvard University and Arizona State University. I’ve served as a university advisor for the TRIO programs and I love to teach others and learn. I’m 27, with 3 degrees and a craving to explore the world!

My maltipoo baby, Jacob and I

On to other important things, I was recently accepted to the Teach in Spain + 4 Week Immersion program and I’m extremely excited!

    If you haven't started yet, the CIEE application system is easy to navigate. You can conveniently save and submit one item at a time, and log out and come back and complete it later! So no excuses that you don’t have the time! 

    The resume part might trip you up--but no fear, I always gave my students this awesome easy-to-follow Harvard Resume guide here:


    One more tip for scanning your degree or your passport photo, you can easily download the free app iScanner to your phone and just take pictures, send them to your email and instantly upload them from your computer. 

The personal statement took me the longest because it is asking WHO you are, WHY this path, and WHAT motivates you, PLUS it's PERSONAL! The CIEE personal statement asks you to answer certain questions and they're flexible on what format you use. I like essay-style, so I wrote the questions in Microsoft Word, answered them individually in paragraph form, then deleted the questions and wove the paragraphs together.


For help on personal statement writing, I love this site: http://college.usatoday.com/2012/10/12/10-tips-for-writing-a-grad-school-personal-statement/.

 It briefly explains a grad school statement; but it can easily be catered to creating your CIEE personal statement. Plus it’s great practice for gap-year students who may eventually go on to graduate school! I know it can be hard to share about yourself, but do get a pair of eyes to look over your essay, someone you trust. Don't change it too much, just have them look out for grammatical errors, remember, the personal statement is about you! 

Now, I would love to share with you some reasons why I want to go to Spain!

Here is an excerpt from my CIEE personal statement:

    “I have a heart, mind and spirit that aches to consume knowledge, explore the world, taste different foods, live in the moment, educate, explore and to be exposed to all the beauties of culture. Spain innately offers the treasures and opportunities to satiate the pangs of this hunger. There is much to discover about the history of Spain through the Catholic churches, to housing the oldest operating restaurant in the world, to living a completely different lifestyle than I’m accustomed to. The very first savory appetizer that drew me into this country was served upon my very first day of 4th grade in one of my favorite classes appropriately named “Spanish”. My teacher had been inspired by the art and language of the country over her entire summer vacation and was now imparting that energy, insight and music into the ears of her students. I went home with a masterpiece of 64 different crayon colors on a sheet of paper, slightly crinkled at my fist, with the shape of Spain on it; with the city of Madrid in bold at its center. For Christmas, when most little girls asked for a Barbie Dream House and Game Boys, I wrote to Santa Clause for a globe. The world seemed so small on my globe. I could trace my finger a couple inches to the left across the ocean from North America to Europe, then just a couple inches more to the Philippines, my mother’s home country.


    ‘Learn to Change the World’ emblazoned every entrance and website of my Masters program at Harvard. These were the very words that initially inspired me to apply to the program to quell my intrinsic urge to create positive multicultural environments, fight social injustice, and to bridge the gap in health and educational disparities on a domestic and global scale. If I am truly to change the world, shouldn’t I have at least experienced the world?”

    Thank you for reading the first two paragraphs of my personal statement! 

    Aside from my craving for culture, I am most excited about experiencing Spain and other countries in Europe, becoming fluent in Spanish, crossing off a lot of items on my “bucket list”, blogging, making new friends and trying new foods and drinks! I’m nervous to leave my family, friends and dog children behind; but adventure calls to me, and I refuse to ignore it!

    Look out for more of my future posts on the VISA process, placement and adventures in Europe!



Follow me on Instagram for more adventure and travel tips...or just to say hi! @KamalaAlcantara


Kamala Alcantara - I Want To Teach in SPAIN to...
South Mountain, Phoenix, AZ | Photo by: Carlitos Hernandez | March 2017





Keep Me Updated