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22 posts categorized "*Pre-departure tips"

Get certified or nah?

A big decision I had to make once I knew I wanted to teach English in Spain is whether or not to get my TEFL certification. The Spanish government does not require language assistants to take the course, so it was a matter of personal choice. Ultimately, I chose to enroll in the course, but not before making a classic pros and cons list!

Let’s start with the cons. Right off the bat, this course isn’t cheap. It took some of my savings to cover the cost and it hurt. I took my course through CIEE and it was $1,000 for a 10-week class: 150 hours including a 20 hour practicum. Additionally, it was time-consuming. I took this course while working a full-time job, so I would come home and work for 2 hours minimum on the unit. I put in more work than I expected and I was exhausted at the end of each day.

On the other hand, I learned so much during the 10 weeks and I felt more prepared for my job. Despite the price, you get a lot of value and material from the class. Also, even though I don’t plan on teaching for the rest of my life, I have the ability to teach ESL in other countries (or even online for extra money!). I love traveling and immersing myself in other cultures and having this certification gives me an advantage for other opportunities. Lastly, I connected with a network of people going through the same process who were traveling to all corners of the world. In fact, one of the girls was also coming to Madrid and we met up when we arrived! 

In the end, I'm happy with my decision to get certified. So if you want to teach English as a foreign language, do a little research into the requirements and weigh your own pros and cons to see if the course is right for you!

Besos,
Claire

Bespectacled in Madrid

How to

        Hello fearless future auxiliares & current teachers,

        I don't know about you, but even with very good insurance in the U.S. glasses for people with myopia can be extremely pricey. But in Spain--it's so easy and economical!! I have -3.25 in both my left and right eyes (meaning it's very hard for me to see things 3 feet or more away from me without extreme blurriness). Glasses are necessary for me, and maybe you too! 

        You don't need insurance in Spain to have excellent eye care. I walked down my posh street in Salamanca, Madrid to one of the many many chain Multiópticas.

Quick notes:

  • No contacts for 24 hours. They say it messes with the graduation for accuracy of determining your prescription and will turn you away, I know, not common in the States. 
  • No appointment needed.
  • They have deals as low as 2 glasses for 159€ INCLUDING: the eye exam, anti-reflective AND added protection for staring at screens. 
  • TONS of options! I'm super picky, and I found multiple that I loved!
  • You pay when you get your glasses. You may be asked to leave a minimum deposit of 20€ or you can just pay the whole price.

You don't actually see an optometrist like in the states. You will meet with a tech who'll complete your eye exam in literally 5 mins. You only need identification (TIE, passport) to proceed with an eye exam. They have literally the SAME equipment in the states. 

When you're in the eye exam, you are able to say the alphabet in English or Spanish, and you only need to know the words "mejor" (better), "igual" (the same), and "peor" (worse).

Depending on the business of the store, you can have your glasses within 1-5 business days. And there you have it! They were super nice, and so patient. I think I spent an hour trying on glasses, haha! 

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"4 eyes, 4 eyes you need glasses to seeee!" haha Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs reference. 

Signatura

Instagram: @kamalaalcantara

Auxiliares in Primary School: What I Know For Sure

What I know for sure

Helloooo fellow and soon-to-be auxiliares/teachers abroad,It's Kamala again! 

I’m am a HUGE advocate for learning from experience. Experience is one of life’s greatest educators. But, it never ever hurts to be given a “heads up”. If you’re having a tiny bit of anxiety as a 1st year auxiliar/English teacher/teaching abroad in general, dive into our blogs here. We’re experiencing it first-hand. I spent an hour or two a day reading blogs about living and teaching abroad--I wanted to know the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s a dose of experience for you, straight from my heart and fondest/not-so-fond memories:

  1. Try to secure housing AT LEAST within 1 hour commute (Metro, etc.) from your school. Seriously, I know it’s only 16 hours a week, but as you may have seen in my post about my actual schedule--chances are you’ll actually be in school a full day 9am-2 or 4pm. Living in the center of Madrid sounds cool but if you’re not placed near it--you can also take a metro into the center! You have to be in school 4 days a week...do you want to be on a train for 16 hours plus a week!?!?

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  2. Communicate with your Director/a, Head of Studies and teachers. Up front, talk with them and make sure you’re clear about their expectations of you. What do you do if you’re sick or running late? In class, teachers are typically really excited if you have a cool game to learn English with the kids or love it when we create materials (board games, etc.) for their classroom. You should have a teacher or your coordinator on WhatsApp and a means to communicate after school or over the weekend if necessary! Also DO NOT PLAY HOOKY, honestly, we do have a LOT of days off. This will also ruin it for future auxiliares. When you're very sick, let them know and they'll understand--you may be required to bring in a doctor's note. Talk to your school! At my school, when we want to take a holiday (the term for vacation/day off) for travel or something else--it absolutely has to be important. For example, some of the British auxiliares requested two days off extra before the Christmas holiday because flights were significantly cheaper to go home and be with family. This is okay! Make sure you tell them in advance because you'll have to make up the hours.

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  3. The kids will NEVER be completely quiet so don’t stress about it! I teach in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th grade. The kids are NEVER quiet. NEVER. Maybe for a couple minutes during an exam or video, but someone is always going to be talking, chatting with their neighbor, playing with their pencil cases--etc. They can’t sit still; the teachers typically yell at them in Spanish if it gets too crazy loud, but if a couple kids are talking here and there the teacher just continues talking over them if the majority of kids are paying attention.

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  4. Spanish kids hug and kiss you, and stare at you. In Madrid, it’s perfectly okay to hug and kiss the students back--to say nice things to them, to play with their hair and kiss their boo-boo’s (hygienically). You will see a lot of affection between the teachers and students--kissing on the forehead, the cheek, and warm and loving hugs. If it doesn’t melt your heart when a tiny human is super excited to see you and throws their arms around you, you may or may not be a robot or an unactivated sleeper soldier. About the staring--coming from the U.S., a lot of Spanish kids have watched American films, dance to American music and might even eat American products, but it’s rare that they’ve met an American before (besides other auxiliares). Back to hugging, believe it or not, tiny humans are powerful in groups--sometimes one student will hug you, then another...and next thing you know you're struggling to balance from the weight of 15 or more students!

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  5. Be flexible everyday. Bahaha, I know this is evilly vague--it’s because I want you to really READ this tiny paragraph. When you come into the school, you’re probably going to work with different teachers in different classes! We all know teachers come in every shape and size and personality. Some might be more prepared or more lax than others. Some days I’m asked to lead the entire lesson with no prep (for example: Social Sciences, they’re learning about first aid and penicillin.) This is fun for me--it means I have free reign to make students come up in front of class and play games! Acting ANYTHING out and being a really animated person is EASY to do on the fly.
  6. Theatre skills help so much! When learning English in primary school, they are learning things like: emotions, instruments, sea animals, animals, occupations, boy/girl etc. Once they pair the pictures to the vocab words, it’s SO EASY to use ALL of class time “Acting it Out!” Let’s say the students are learning about sea animals, you can call one student up to the room and have them act out the sea animal, have the class raise their hand to guess. Emotions too! I had a small group of 5 students (this is typical, I rotate 3-5 students in a group for intensive english) and I would dramatically act out being sad and they have to guess. Not only does this reinforce their learning, it is entertaining and they are so excited to act out as well. Drama is good in this case.

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  7. Make them RAISE THEIR HANDS!!! If you tell the class “Who can tell me what the weather is like outside?!” Everyone’s going to start yelling or “Me! Me! Me!-ing” at the same time. You MUST tell them to raise their hands as much as you can. EVEN in small groups of 2 children, I’ve learned this the hard way, trust me!

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  8. EVERYONE loves STICKERS! or “pegatinas!”. Be it 2nd grade to 6th grade, they LOVE and would KILL for stickers! Okay, not kill but severely injure! Stickers are super motivating for 2nd-4th grade especially. When I have them in groups of 2-8; I make fun theatre games or read them stories and ask them a question on each page. I turn EVERYTHING into a fun competition where they win points and depending on how many stickers I have, I will give the winner 3-6 stickers of her or his choice, and 2nd to 8th place will have one sticker less than the preceding. They are obsessed with the stickers I buy from “Accessorize!” They’re always excited to work with me whether they get stickers or not--and I haven’t noticed a sharp change in motivation--but it’s always fun to reward them with stickers. They’re certainly more eager to read aloud and try their very best to speak.
  9. DON'T USE YOUR PHONE IN CLASS. For one thing, this is sometimes considered rude, and most schools will ask that you're not on your phone. Another thing, students are SO distracted by your phone. Sometimes, I'll tell the teacher that I want to show them a video or play a game--this is okay. But if you're texting a friend, or your SO--this is a no-no.

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  10. You should hang out with your fellow teachers! Trust me, I'm sure one or two of them at least want to hang out with YOU! In my experience and in speaking with other auxiliares, most teachers are going to be your age or only a bit older. Either way, they probably know the best bars, best food and how to make the most of Madrid. Why not be friends with the people you work with in close proximity 4 times a week? Plus, you could improve your Castellano!
  11. No one really knows the term "auxiliar". You're called "profe" or "teacher" or your first name by all your students, and when asked by anyone you meet in Spain you say you're an English teacher or "Soy profesor/a de Inglés". If you say, "I'm an auxiliar" to anyone who's not an auxiliar, they probably won't know what you mean...  

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  12. This is one of the coolest "jobs" ever. You get to live abroad in Spain, in Europe! You have over THIRTY days OFF for Spanish holidays and school break where you're free to travel the world. (This is not including the fact that you have 3 day weekends!!! Plus you only work 16 hours a week!? YES, you're going to have those days or weeks when you're gonna wanna scream "I HATE KIDS!", you're students are acting up and can't be quiet for two seconds, and maybe they just plain don't want to learn English. Breathe! It's okay! :) You have this unique opportunity to escape your own cultural limits living in a completely different country and you can also share your culture with others. We can influence a positive sentiment towards the United States.  Being an auxiliar does not even feel like a job to me, more like a higher calling to prepare the next generation of bilingual leaders to raise stronger and healthier families.

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I’m dying to hear your thoughts and questions on what it takes to survive as an auxiliar!

Signatura

For more of my adventures, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara

 

Tips For Teaching

This week I’ll switch it up and devote my post to some tips I have for future auxiliares.

Tip #1:  BE FLEXIBLE

One week a teacher told me she wouldn’t be in for our class the following week.  Instead of class, she told me she’d send me instructions for a game I could create for the class in two weeks.  Now, I’m pretty sure this is not the norm.  I was given a heads-up.  I’ve heard from other teachers that they’ll show up to their class only to find a substitute teacher or no teacher at all.  Others have said they’ll arrive to class only to be told they’re not needed.  While this can be frustrating, ultimately you’re still getting paid for these class periods you “don’t work.”  You can use this time to prepare for other classes that week or read that book you’ve been dying to read.  Ideally the teacher will tell you ahead of time and give you something to prepare during that period.  But maybe not!  Who knows!  The hustle and bustle of some other work cultures is not prioritized here.

 

Tip #2:  BE FLEXIBLE

In a slightly different way…  I graduated from college with a BA in art history.  I spend one-third of my school-week in biology classes.  ‘Nuff said.  Initially I was concerned.  Science was always my least favorite class.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t connect with it the way many other students did and do.  It’s definitely one of the most exciting classes I’m in here.  The teacher is a powerhouse.  She has the most command over the classroom of all the teachers with whom I work.  The students have a lot of respect for her and it shows; they pay more attention in these classes than in my other ones.  I’ve already learned a lot from this teacher’s style of teaching--lead-by-example teaching.  She rolls along with the subject matter with an almost frenetic energy.

On top of all that, the biology classes reinforce lessons that are important.  The teacher devotes class time to relevant information such as global warming, nutrition, and general hygiene.  Just last week I gave a presentation created by a fellow auxiliar on illnesses related to the digestive system and respiratory system.  Some slides talked of the dangers of smoking, of not brushing your teeth, of not flossing, of drinking alcohol, and so on and so on.  Needless to say, you only have to be a human being to connect with these lessons.  I’m currently creating a presentation on genetic mutations.  Not my forte, but I try to have fun with the formatting (font, font size, color, images, animation).

Moral of the story:  you may be in classes that don’t particularly excite you.  This may not matter at all.  All classes are an opportunity to learn as long as you keep an open mind.

 

Tip #3:  BE FLEXIBLE

Ha ha.  I crack myself up.  Something that’s not so funny?  Commuting over an hour and a half to work.  Personally, I don’t mind my hour-and-fifteen-minutes commute.  It gives me time to wake up and prepare mentally for the day.  This manifests in my listening to music the entire time.  When the program talks of placement in Madrid, that does not mean the city center (though it could!).  Madrid is one of seventeen autonomous regions/communities of Spain, so there’s Madrid the City and Madrid the Region.  Keep this in mind when putting down your suburb preferences.  Research them in order to make an informed choice.

 

I never liked stretching.  Some people call me go-with-the-flow, others call me rigid.  Regardless of your own malleability-status as you read this right now, being an auxiliar can do for you whatever it is that you need it to do for you--including forcing you to stretch yourself to be the best auxiliar you can be.  “Ask not what your auxiliar-position can do for you………..” -- that’s how the quote goes, right?

9 Reasons You Should Drop Everything & Teach Abroad in Spain

9 Reasons

Hello dreamers, world travelers, future auxiliares and teachers abroad, 

If you opened this, maybe you want a change in your life, thinking about living abroad, maybe you're on the fence about moving to Spain to teach--or you've already made up your mind and want a sign or more affirmation! Here's your sign--go, DO IT! As a recap, I'm Kamala, I moved to Madrid, Spain in August 2017 with the CIEE Teach Abroad program. I'm 27 years old, dedicating most of my adult life to higher education, educating university students and then homebuyers as a mortgage banker. My fiancé and I were falling into a tiny existential crisis--we have so many skills and degrees between each other and so much ambition. We knew we wanted to make a positive impact on the world...but first we wanted to know the world---we dreamed of traveling the world first! But, we didn't know how and didn't have much money saved at all. SO, we found a legit program that also married what we loved: education, the opportunity to make a positive impact abroad, the chance to learn and grow, and we could travel! Which brings me to my very first reason:

Retiro Park Lake

Adobo Stock Photo, Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
  1. You can travel Europe and to the gate of Africa CHEAP! By cheap what I mean is freakin' cheeeeap flights to another European or African country as low as 20€ ($25.00) ROUNDTRIP! You can stay in hostels for as low as 15€ a night (maybe lower), we stayed in a hotel even for 50€/ night in Paris (YES, Paris!!!). I even found a flight to the Philippines for 400€ (easily a $1200 flight in the U.S.). 

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2. As an auxiliar you only work 16 hours PER WEEK 4 days per week, I repeat: SIXTEEN hours per week & 3 day weekends! If you're already a working professional, you know that we work an average 40-60 hours a week easily in the U.S. and we STILL make time to have fun and have a social life, take selfies and "adult". IMAGINE, 16 hours a week of work,  you could find yourself, travel to over 20+ new cities and countries, make sooo many friends, actually go to the gym, sleep for 8+ hours, nap AND anything else your heart desires. We're paid 1000€ per month, that's plenty to live on--but I do suggest saving money before coming (at least $3000).

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3. Food & Drugs--Legal Drugs ;) -- are so affordable! During the weekdays, a lot of restaurants in Madrid have a "Menu del Dia" this is basically a hearty 3 course meal (including wine, beer or soft drink) for only 10-15€! In Spain, LUNCH is the biggest meal of the day! You'll find so many deals everywhere you go! With over 6,000 restaurants, you're bound to never run out of delicious affordable meals. Pharmacists in Spain have the amazing superpower to grant you drugs that normally need a prescription in the U.S.! In the U.S., when something minor ails us (headache, cold, 1st day fever) we usually go to Urgent Care or maybe even a hospital or primary care physician. Here in Spain, you can walk into a 12 or 24 hr pharmacy anywhere and tell the pharmacist your symptoms and right there and then they hand you medicines to alleviate your symptoms--even prescribing multivitamins and the like. For example, WITH INSURANCE, one of my prescriptions in the U.S. costed me $180 per month. Here it is $49/month. Ibuprofen is around $2.00. Antibiotics, cold medicines, and other medicines cost under $10 as well.

4. You can finally become fluent in Spanish! So many Spanish people in Madrid want to learn English, and meet up to have a language exchange. You'll also be surrounded by the beautiful sounds of European Spanish (Castellano) every single day. If you're already fluent, you can learn French or German or another language, you have 152 hours in your week you can basically do anything! When I first came to Madrid in August, I didn't even know how to order at a restaurant, have a regular conversation outside of small talk or even understand Spanish spoken to me. Now I can eavesdrop on the metro (just kidding), have intimate deep conversations, navigate different shopping situations in Spanish and converse with anyone I meet! I'm still learning everyday. If you want more tips on becoming fluent in Spanish, check out my blog about it!

5. It's a humungous Resume booster! Top employers in the U.S. are looking for leaders, self-starters and people with excellent communication skills. When you live abroad, you are faced with so many challenges and opportunities that will force you out of your comfort zone and beyond your limits. Living abroad changes you, it betters you and equips you with skills you can't possibly obtain living in the same country your entire life. You have to learn to navigate a completely different world and work with people with different cultural practices and beliefs. You might even add Spanish to your resume! If you're coming straight out of college, this would look impressive to a future boss or hiring team. Living abroad, away from family, far from friends--you learn to be independent, increase your own confidence and if you travel even further while living abroad, the possibilities for tremendous positive growth and enlightenment are that much closer. 

 

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6. The Spanish lifestyle is so different, lively and exciting! Most Spanish people do not start work until 9am, they don't eat lunch until 2pm and dinner is at 9pm or later. When you walk the center of Madrid, on a Tuesday around 11pm-1am, you'll notice hundreds of people out having dinner on the many many restaurant patios, laughing and talking very very late into the night. Clubs do NOT close until 6AM. SIX in the MORNING. Most Spanish people don't start to go out until 2am. If you're a party-goer or clubber you know that in the US, most clubs will close between 1:30-4:00am and the party doesn't start til 12am. Some clubs in Spain don't even open until 6am so you can keep the party going all night!!!! I know I didn't believe it at first but it's true.  Some clubs have live shows included in their entrance fees, and almost always come with a free drink or two. You'll find that ladies get in free before 1:30am at a lot of hot clubs too!

7. You could become a world-traveler. Besides being severely cheap to travel between European countries, EVERYTHING is super close to Madrid. You could fly to Portugal, Africa and several luxurious island/beach paradises in 1 hour; Paris and Rome in 2 hours, and Hungary in 3 hours. Before moving to Spain, in nearly the three decades I've lived on this Earth, I had only been to two other countries outside of the U.S.: Mexico (Rocky Point, of course--I'm from Phoenix, AZ!) and the Philippines (my mom's home country, and my 2nd home country). After living in Madrid for only 5 months I have been to over 5 more countries and I have planned travel to over 10 more countries in the next 3 months alone.

 

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8. You will make a positive difference in so many young lives. As an English language and cultural assistant (auxiliar), you have the unique opportunity as a native English speaker to impart Spanish children ages 3-18 with a required skill to obtain high-paying jobs. In Spain, many jobs require Spanish citizens to pass an English test (it's literally similar to the GRE and is tricky for me--as a native English speaker). Check out my blog on what a day in a Spanish school as an auxiliar looks like! Come teach abroad!

9. Build valuable connections and incredible new friendships (or love?) In Madrid, there are so many opportunities to meet and connect with people from across the globe, or someone like you who just wants to live life to the fullest and see the world. It takes a certain kind of person to travel to a new land and experience diversity on purpose! You're going to expose yourself to new people and sometimes that means a new friendship or even romance. I've seen it and experienced it first hand. Traveling here WITH the love of my life has strengthened our bond like never before. I've made wonderful new friends that have become like family. I've even deepened connections with friends back home. When you move away from home, you know in your heart who your true friends are--they are the ones who are still right there with you even though thousands of miles separate you. You have to see for yourself. JUST GO!

 

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Signatura
 

To see more of my adventures or if you have any questions or comments, follow me on Instagram! @KamalaAlcantara

 

 

Why Teach Abroad?

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The first time I heard that teaching English abroad was a real thing, I thought, “Wow, what a cool thing to do with your life!

Yet, despite my intrigue, I never considered it to be a serious option for myself. It was something other people did, not me. I don’t know why, but I felt it carried a stigma of not being a viable post-graduation plan.

However, now that I’ve chosen to go through with it and have been living in Spain for over four months, I can happily say that that line of thinking was completely misguided - this has without a doubt been one of the best life decisions I’ve made to date. Period.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on why this experience has been so wonderful and influential to my growth as an individual. So, without further ado, here are my three reasons why anyone who is even remotely interested in the idea of teach abroad should definitely consider it as a legitimate option:

1. The People You Meet and Everything They Teach You

Naturally, moving to a new country means meeting a lot of new people from a different culture. I both expected and looked forward to meeting a lot of Spaniards and becoming immersed in Spanish culture while living in Madrid. What has surprised me, though, is how much I've learned from meeting and speaking with the other language assistants like me.

I say “like me” lightly because in reality, the language assistants in Madrid come from all over the world, with different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. We are united by the fact that we all chose to come to Spain to teach, which builds a bond and sense of community between us, making it that much easier to learn from each other and grow together. It has been so wonderful to listen to how others found their way to teach abroad, what they want to get out of it, and where they want to go next. As someone who is searching for my own path in life and struggling to figure out my next steps, this exposure to the variety of viable paths available to me has been eye-opening and inspiring. 

2. The Free Time that Shows You What’s Important to You

As a language assistant, I work sixteen hours a week. Sounds super lush, right? What on earth could I possibly do to fill up all that free time?

That’s just it, though. I can do anything I want with all that free time. Teach abroad is a breath of fresh air after working myself to the bone studying in a high-pressure, fast-paced American University. I used to be so busy and focused on school that I never had time to discover what was truly important to me. How could I possibly have chosen a career path right out of college if I had never figured out what I want from life?

This year is giving the opportunity to do just that: to learn what my priorities are and what will make me happy in life. I’ve discovered a newfound love for cooking, something I never had time for before. I’m getting the chance to travel and see more of the world, and the more I see and experience, the better I’m able to define my goals for the future. I’m slowly starting to grasp what’s important to me and how to build a fulfilling lifestyle. 

3. The Different Way of Life that Teaches you Life Skills

Living in another country, immersed in another language and culture, has taught me a lot of practical skills. Problem solving and improvisation are much more second-nature to me now, as I’ve had to navigate and survive in an unfamiliar world. From trying to buy groceries I don’t know the name of to needing to get to the hospital in the middle of the night by myself, I’ve had to learn to use my resources and even more importantly, how to ask good questions.

Furthermore, the very fact that I’ve adapted to a different way of living has broadened my mind and made me inherently more understanding of cultural differences, and I believe that is a fundamental skill that will never cease to be of use in any future endeavors I undertake.

 

So there you have it! Of course, not everyone’s experience is the same, so the above list merely represents the reasons I’ve personally found to be the most valuable and rewarding, and why I will forever be grateful that I made this choice. I hope they may be of help to anyone who is on the fence about deciding to teach abroad!

11 Free Things To Do in Madrid!

Madrid is a city bursting with life; literally ALL DAY & ALL NIGHT, there is just so much to see, so much to do, so much to EAT and so many things to spend money on! But sometimes, you just wanna go out, have a good time and NOT spend any money. Or maybe...you're just broke for the moment and you're in between paychecks...or you're an auxiliar and have a fixed monthly stipend--No pasa nada, you'll find something you'll like on this list whether you live in Madrid, or if you're just passing through! Check it out!

  1. Stroll around the Ópera, Gran Vía, Retiro, Sol and Goya Metro stops--these areas are PACKED with tourist hot spots, Instagrammable scenery and you literally just have to walk around! If you so happen to have a couple euros on you, this could potentially buy you a delicious ice cream and a small snack! Hours of free fun with your significant other, visiting family, friends or just a simple solo trip...
  2. Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid It's free to stroll around the garden and admire the palace up close. Carve out an hour or so of your day for this...you're gonna wanna take pictures (see my picture above) and stroll on over to Almudena Cathedral!

3. Admire the Almudena Cathedral --just a minute's walk from the palace. Even if you're not religious or just not Catholic, tourists from all around the world love to visit the Almudena Cathedral. Over a century years old, this Roman Catholic church is a sight to behold from the outside in. You can even donate 0.20 euros to send a prayer to the Virgin Mary. If you have an obsession with gorgeously gothic and artful doors, you'll love the one below outside of the cathedral.

4. Experience the famous Mercado San Miguel This market is a must-see! This culinary paradise holds wines, candies, paellas, tapas and so many Spanish delights! If you're looking for a taste of Spanish culture, step on in! It's free to take in the sights and smells of all the delicacies, but if you've got 5 euros on you, you'll be able to try Spanish Paella, taste a chupito of yogurt, have a cup of wine or share a couple tapas!

 

5. Stroll along El Capricho Park This park is precious! Large green trees, vibrant flowers and autumnal leaves welcome you...you'll also find precious treasures and lakes as you make your way through the park. It's a great way to get some free exercise and enjoy nature with your lover or friends.

6. Wander around Retiro Park Madrid's Retiro Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. Hundreds of people enjoy the park in multiple forms. You can paddle boat, bring your dog, picnic, drink, eat, enjoy a museum, run, do yoga, play sports and almost anything you can do in a wide open space with plenty of grass!

7. Write a poem or read a book at Desperate Literature This perfect little bookstore just opened 2 years ago offers plenty of the newest and best selling books in English and Spanish. They even have an adorable reading corner for children--along with English children's books. Some books even cup with a shot of whisky if you decide to purchase them. You can even write a poem on an old-fashioned typewriter--don't forget to leave your name--they may publish you!

8. Check out the sunset or sunrise at the Temple of Debod The Temple was a gift from Egypt; so here you'll find a piece of Africa in Spain! As you can see in the picture below, it's quite a picturesque place. It's also right by Calle Serrano, a posh shopping district where you'll find Nike, Louis Vuitton and other high end products.

9. Head up to El Corte Inglés's Top Floor - Gourmet Experience It really is a gourmet experience. In Sol, this famous Spanish mall has it's food court on the 9th floor. You can actually step outside and enjoy a quick bite to eat or just simply to enjoy the sites. The view from the top is marvelous--and you don't have to spend a dime to enjoy it.

10. Check out all the cute things in HEMA, Tiger and ALE HOP. Seriously, just walk in! It's kind of like a Spencer's mixed with the irresistible $1-$3.00 bins at the front of all Targets plus a PG rated Novelty Store in Las Vegas.

11. Chill at Plaza Mayor. This plaza is highly Instagrammable! There are always events going on here; tons of vendors will sell there wares and you'll find a lot of performances. If you're thirsty, they have great restaurants and little shops to grab a drink or some lunch!

BONUS - CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN MADRID

Plaza Mayor in Sol has over 100 vendors with nativity scenes, Christmas trees, toys, winter clothes, books and all things Christmas! It's free to look around and take pictures--but trust me, you'll probably want to bring a 20 euros or so to purchase some Christmas swag!

I will continually add to this list, but Madrid ALWAYS has a lot of events--especially in Lavapiés and in the Sol and Malasaña areas. You can find so much to do! You could spend the day window shopping or just getting lost in the mesmerizing narrow streets. Comment below if you'd like to add to the list!

As always, follow me on IG for more travel tips @KamalaAlcantara

xx,

Kamalía

20 Differences: Spain vs. Latin American Spanish

A Petite Traveler

When I first moved to Madrid, Spain at the beginning of August 2017, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, and also by all the cultural differences, especially in the language. I learned Latin American and Mexican Spanish growing up in the United States. Here in Spain, I've learned European Spanish from my host family stay and from Tandem: a prestigious language learning school in Madrid. I'm still learning from my private Spanish classes, my intercambio partner who is a native European Spanish speaker, and from living in Spain! I've rounded up 20 differences in verbs, expressions, and what things are called here for your leisure. Of course, I do not offer an exhaustive list and I will continue to add to it! Please leave comments or follow me on Instagram @KamalaAlcantara if you have any questions or comments!

(All of my photos are purchased and licensed through Adobe Stock, except the one of me above, that's just a selfie! Haha.)

 

1. Vosotros

In the majority of American schools, our Spanish teachers skip this form and we only use "yo", "tú", "él/ella", "nosotros", and "ustedes/ellos/ellas". This is because they only use the vosotros form in Spain and there are over 20 other Spanish-speaking countries. Sorry, Spain! So if you're like me and you're immersed in Spain Spanish or otherwise called "Castilian" or Castellano, it sounds like a different language apart from Spanish!

For example: "¿Como estáis, chicas?" This means, "How are you?"--to 2 or more girls/women or even more basically: "How are ya'll?"

2. Vale.

In Spain, this word means "okay" or "alright". It is used in almost every sentence, everywhere, by EVERYONE! Once you start using "vale" you're on your way to assimilating into Spanish culture. 

3. ¡Qué guay!

This translates to "cool" or "awesome" or "amazing! This word is very highly used from children, to teenagers, to young adults, and to 30 to 40 somethings. 

4. Zumo

Juice. NO ONE says "jugo", no one...unless they're not from Spain... 

5. Conducir

This is the verb for "to drive". You may have learned "manejar". In Spain, everyone uses the word conducir.

6. Coger

I know, I know!  This is something Rated R in most Spanish-speaking countries, however, in Spain, this means "to take" (transportation or an object). For example, "Voy a coger un taxi." I'm going to take a taxi. 

7. Coche

This is the word for "car". You might have learned, or use the word, "carro". If you say carro, half the time they'll probably know what you're referring to, but everyone says coche here. 

8. ¡Genial!

Literally it means, "great!" You'll also hear this ALL the time! It's almost like "awesome!" For example, "Oh, I found an extra bottle of wine for the party!" You can respond, "¡Genial!"

9. Ahora Mismo

If you say, "ahorita" (translates to "right now"in Spain, you'll get some funny looks. They know what you're talking about; but it's more common to say "ahora mismo". It means "right now" or "this very minute" but it also can mean "in a couple minutes" or something you're about to do next!

10. Móvil

It's the word commonly used for "cell phone" vs. "celular".

11. Sobremesa

In Spain, we eat dinner around 9:00-10:00pm (21:00-22:00 Spain time). Late late late into the night, after dinner is over you'll find the Spanish still talking at the same table with friends, lovers and family. This time spent after dinner still talking at the table is referred to as "sobremesa". You don't actually use it in speech like, "let's go sobremesa", no! But just know there is actually a name for it! I love this culture...take your time and enjoy life!

12. No Pasa Nada.

You will hear this A LOT in Spain. It basically means "don't worry".

If you're taking too long at the grocery store to grab your card to pay at the cash register and you say, "Sorry! Just need to grab my card..." the cashier will probably say "No pasa nada". Literally this phrase is thrown out daily!

13. ¡Hombre!

This is literally just like saying "MAN!" or "Oh man (I forgot something)" in American English. Or like "what the heck!" This is usually said in excitement or exasperation. 

13. ¡Venga!

This basically means, "come on!" and can be said seductively all the way to angrily. It can mean "hurry up", or "let's go!" It can be said when an irritated dad is rushing a very slow 5-year old. You'll hear this a lot!

15. Puente

This word translate to "bridge" but in Spain it also refers to a long holiday break from work or school (like a 3-6 day weekend due to a holiday like Christmas or Semana Santa.) 

16. Ordenador

The word commonly used for "computer" or "laptop". In Spanish class in the U.S., you probably learned, "computadora". 

17. ¡Qué chungo! 

This word is a little versatile. Children and adults say it to mean "creepy" or "problematic". In this way it means "how creepy! or "how problematic!"

However if you were to say, as my private Spanish teacher said, "¡Ten cuidado! Ella parece una chica chunga." You're saying, "Be careful! She looks problematic", or like someone rough-looking that you shouldn't associate yourself with.

You can also say: "Estoy chungo/a" to mean something just doesn't feel right, or you don't feel well but you just don't know what it is.

18. Patata!

In Spain, instead of saying "cheeeese!" when someone takes a picture, you say "patataaaa!"

19. Cortado 

When you go into a café or one of the many delicious bakeries in Spain, you wouldn't say you want an espresso with milk, you have to say "¡Quiero un cortado, por fa!" They'll instantly know you mean you want an espresso with milk. Trust me, after 10+ cafes saying it wrong, my life is so much easier now!

20. "¡Ching ching!"

This is how you say, "Cheers!" in Madrid, Spain. It's also pretty widely used in other languages in other European countries--same sound but different spelling!

And there you have it! I'll be sure to add to this list as I learn more words!

xx,

Kamalía

 

For more travel tips and adventures, follow me on Instagram: @KamalaAlcantara

Deciding to Apply to Teach Abroad

So you are considering applying to teach in Spain. Excellent decision.

BUT! Here are some things you should consider before you make the decision to uproot your entire life and fly halfway around the world with only your most essential or favorite belongings crammed into a tiny suitcase:

Do I like to travel?

Now, this is an important question. If you do not, what are you thinking! If you do, perfect, CIEE is the best way to see the world. Getting to Spain from America is a feat on its own, and with the long weekends and free time provided, there are many weekends for exploring, whether it is Berlin, Morocco, or Retiro Park here in Madrid.

How do I feel about children and teaching?

Do not forget, teaching is the main reason you are here! While you are provided with countless travel opportunities, we are here as language auxiliares. Students come first. Many auxiliares forget that while here. And, mainly we are teaching children, aka students aged 5 to 17.

Do I want to learn about myself?

Being in Madrid will push you to your limits. Some days are easy. Ridiculously easy. Some days are hard. Ridiculously hard. Some days I want to skip through Plaza Mayor and see everything. Some days I want to hide in my room and be a hermit. Both are okay, but in the process, you will learn more about who you are than you ever had before. Be prepared to see your rawest form of self, and be prepared to break that person down and rebuild who you are. This decision will change you for the better.

Top 10 FREE MUST-HAVE Mobile Apps in Spain and the World!

Top 10 Mobile apps

Apps are an integral part of our lives; we use them DAILY. Below is a top ten non-exhaustive list of the apps I use to enjoy Spain and the world in order of HOW often I use them.

Navigating Europe has been so much easier for me with these apps; I wanted to share them to help make your life easier too!

 

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WhatsApp - (GLOBAL) This app is EVERYTHING. It is your communication to ANYONE, ANYWHERE around the world. You can text, call, video call, send pictures, and videos all for FREE as long as you have data or WiFi. You NEED this, if you don't have it, DOWNLOAD IT NOW. Tell your family and friends to download WhatsApp to communicate with you for free.

UnnamedGoogle Maps (GLOBAL) Google Maps is extremely reliable when navigating the streets of Madrid, and other major cities and countries. It also gives you accurate wait times for metros and factors this into your travel time. It gives you multiple train line options as well. Literally, I use this app every single day to calculate fastest routes, best routes, look up how far airports are in different countries, map out multiple destinations for a day and to get home!

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SkyScanner - (GLOBAL) I have a method when it comes to buying cheap European/African flights. First I go to Google Flights because you can see a calendar of low fares and it's easier to determine WHEN you should fly and for how long. I use SkyScanner second. It's a nifty app to have because it searches for the best bang for your buck, shortest and cheapest flights. I always use both in tandem to locate the cheapest and shortest flight.

Unnamed-2TransferWise (GLOBAL) This is a LIFE-SAVER app that I used to cheaply transfer money between my American bank account to my Spanish bank account. Seriously, transferring money is SUPER easy with this app. The exchange rate for amounts up to 100 euros is typically only $3.00 when most banks charge $30-50.00. I will also be using it to transfer euros to USD when my American bank accounts start to run low (I'm still paying for my car and student loans...).

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TripAdvisor (GLOBAL) I LOVE to use Trip Advisor to find top restaurants and THINGS TO DO! You can just walk around a new city and find new things, but with Trip Advisor, you can get insider opinions on wait times, what hotels REALLY look like, tips on how to make the most of your time and more. You can use it ALL over the world to see what are the most popular attractions, parks, museums and things to do! I use it almost religiously to plan trips locally and abroad.

Unnamed-4DuoLingo - (GLOBAL) FREE language learning app, why not!? You'll find that a lot of travelers have this app. It's very easy and fun to use and you can learn multiple languages on different accounts in your app. For example, I'm going to Rome, Italy and Amsterdam very soon so I have accounts for Spanish, Dutch and Italian, all seamlessly switchable and holds your place. For more tools to learn languages, check out my other blog on language learning tips.

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El Tenedor (The Fork) - (GLOBAL) Spanish people LOVE this app. Yelp is super popular in the U.S. Trust me, I didn't eat at a new restaurant unless it had AT LEAST 4 stars on Yelp, and I used the pictures uploaded to help me order. Yelp isn't very popular here and you won't find many reviews. But you can reserve restaurants, see reviews and find top restaurants as you would with Yelp.

Unnamed-5myTaxiThis is what it sounds like, a Taxi app. There are TONS of taxis in Madrid, and major cities, TONS. But sometimes you want to schedule someone to just pick you up for the airport at 4am or schedule a 5-seater van for a trip on the weekend. Or maybe you're pre-gaming and need someone to grab you and your friends in 30 minutes or now and you don't have time to head to the streets and flag someone down.

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GoEuro - (EUROPE) GoEuro is a convenient transportation app that shows you logistics such as fastest travel time, best way to travel and different prices. For example, on our day trip to Segovia, it suggested: flight, Taxi, Uber, BlaBlaCar and Renfe pricing with travel time included. Our best option ended up being the Renfe because it provided the best travel times. It's almost like a travel companion with the answers for, "How should I get there?"

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Bla Bla Car - (EUROPE) This is a VERY popular and CHEAP way to travel around Spain. Bla Bla Car is literally a carpooling system where you put the date of travel, and location and it searches for users who just happen to be traveling to your destination on those dates.  I have SEARCHED for trips on Bla Bla Car; but I have not yet actually booked through Bla Bla Car but my friends who have used it enjoyed it and are still using it for CHEAP travel!

Don't forget to leave me some love or questions and comments below--for more travel tips contact me on Instagram: @kamtheadventuress, I'd love to hear your opinions and travel stories!

xx,

Kamalía

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