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16 posts categorized "*Pre-departure tips"

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 @APetiteTraveler

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 @APetiteTraveler 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

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

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:
    -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!

Becoming Fluent in Spanish

Hey friends!

It has literally been 167 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 11 seconds since my last blog post; but I promise to post weekly! I'm aiming for every Saturday or Sunday. 

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! :)

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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! 

xx, xx

Kamalía

Moving To Madrid

Introduction

I have traveled to Madrid as part of the CIEE Teach Abroad program to act as a Language Assistant in a primary school. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind since stepping off the airplane. To start this journey, I would like to give an introduction to who I am and why I decided to start this new experience.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent most of my life there. I attended college at Kent State University where I majored in Graphic Design and minored in Photo Illustration. In December of 2013 I graduated with a BA in Visual Communication Design under the College of Communication and Information.

A year after graduating, I decided to move to New York City to pursue a design job at specializing in fashion e-commerce. I spent the last two and a half years there and loved the work that I was doing. To this day, I still very much enjoy this particular field.

Last year, my friend moved to Madrid, and she spent a lot of time traveling. She was always visiting new countries and experiencing new cultures. Hearing about this gave me a strong desire to start my own journey abroad.

I started researching various teach abroad programs, and came across CIEE. I applied online and within a week I was informed of my placement with Ceip Daoiz Y Velarde. When I approached my company about this opportunity they were very supportive; we made an agreement that I would continue to work for them. I now have the opportunity to work on a project basis remotely, while I am teaching and traveling, which is the best of both worlds.

Shortly after, here I am.. A week into my journey abroad. A lot has happened in the time that I have spent here in Spain. From attending the CIEE orientation, and moving into my new apartment in La Latina. I will try to make this post short and sweet.

The Journey Begins

I arrived last Monday after a red eye on Air Europa airline - I have nothing but good things to say about my experiences with Air Europa. I have flown with them twice to Madrid and both times the airline has accommodated me with excellent service. You are always well fed and hydrated along the way. Also, if you want to splurge for the extra legroom, the $40 dollar fee it's well worth it.

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I was anxious on my way to the airport and when I took my first step onto the airplane. I knew that I was about to step into something completely new and uncomfortable. Luckily for me, I was assigned a seat next to a girl very similar to me. We were the same age, and she also received her degree in graphic design - her name was Carly. Talking to her, immediately put my mind at ease because I knew I had someone close by who was about to go through the same experience.

Airport
We slept most of the way since it was a red eye flight. Good thing we got some sleep, because we had no idea how busy the week ahead of us would be. Once the airplane landed, I was starting to feel many different emotions. It started to hit me that I just moved to another country.

Everything that was so familiar and comfortable, would be far away for the next 10 months. Regardless, I knew that this was going to be the biggest learning experience thus far. When I walked into Terminal 4, there was this beautiful hallway of colored glass panes which instantly helped put my mind at ease. Carly and I decided that we were going to go get our bags together. Afterwards, we would make our way to the meeting spot to head to the hotel for the first day of CIEE orientation.

Once we arrived to the hotel that's when the "busy-ness" began. We checked into the hotel and got settled before the welcome dinner that evening. Here we met our small groups that we would be spending a great deal of time with over the next few days. My group leader was Paloma, a native Spaniard who was very happy and loved to sing. She would be getting us through orientation as fluidly as possible. The dinner spread was very nice. We were given a starter, main meal, and dessert which was fruit. I loved that we ended the meal with something that was both sweet and healthy. I should of savored this full dinner because I didn't know that I would only be eating small bites for the next 3 days, but when in Spain do as the Spaniards do!

Orientation Recap

Now this was a long chain of events and I won't go into too much detail, but I will give you an idea of how our itinerary ran everyday:

Every morning at 8 a.m. we received a really great spread for breakfast. There was a traditional Spanish fare such as Jamon, Tortilla Espanola, and a special tomato sauce that is served as a spread with toast. After breakfast, we had an hour to rest/prepare for informative presentations until 2 p.m. The presentations talked about getting acclimated in Madrid from opening a bank account to understanding cultural differences. After presentations, CIEE scheduled free time filled with fun events, which allowed us to go out and explore the city.

Paloma

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Day 1

Pictured above, is my orientation leader Paloma. She is leading us to the Flamenco show at Cardamomo - what a beautiful experience! I had never seen Flamenco before and being able to experience it first-hand was a real treat. When we walked in, we were served a vino and some tapas before the show started. I thought the lighting of the venue added a certain mood that complimented the dramatic music and dance (pictured above).


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Day 2

There were scheduled neighborhood tours that hit the North, South, East, and West of Madrid. I ended up going to the West to see neighborhoods Moncloa and Chueca. It was great to get out on foot and explore the city some more. After the tours we were taken to a tapas and cider venue, where we were served many different traditional dishes. After dinner a group of people decided to go to a rooftop bar and I joined in. Pictured above is myself and a group of girls after having a cocktail and taking in the fantastic view from the rooftop.


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Day 3

This was the final day of orientation so the organizers and leaders decided to take us to a nice restaurant in the art district of Madrid. It was a sit down dinner with unlimited vino and tapas. A few of the dishes that were served that night were tuna, pate, and truffles. Everyone was dressed up and overall it was a really nice, relaxing environment. It was a great way to end such a busy week.

Conclusion

Overall, I was very pleased with how the  CIEE Orientation went. I thought that the week was packed with a lot of useful information and lots of fun. Also, I met a lot of really cool people throughout the week that I will be keeping in touch with and hearing how their teaching experiences are going. I am thrilled to begin this new chapter and can't wait to see what this city has in store for me.

 

Panicked Packing

I am a planner. I go all out - checklists, detailed calendars, etc. So when it came time to prepare for something as big as moving to a foreign country, you better believe I planned like CRAZY.

I had read every single Facebook and blog post that existed about how to pack for ten months in Spain. I knew about the “Rule of 3” (only bring three articles of each type of clothing) and that I should lay out everything I want to bring and then cut it down by half. I had researched Spanish weather, how to secure a year’s supply of medication, and the baggage size regulations of the airline I was flying on. I bought space saver bags and practiced arranging my pile of things into my brand new suitcase until they fit just right. There was even room to spare.

And then I weighed my suitcase: 85 lbs.

The weight limit for any single item of baggage is 50 lbs. For an extra fee of $100, an item can weigh up to 70 lbs, but no more.

Panic.

I had planned so carefully and worked so hard to ensure that everything fit into exactly one suitcase - I had planned to avoid the inconvenience of dragging two bags around Madrid. In my eagerness to plan for space so perfectly, I had completely overlooked planning for weight. I felt a tightness in my chest as I sat on the floor next to my overweight suitcase, wallowing in disappointment and frustration.

In the end, after poring over the airline’s website and talking on the phone with a representative, I figured it all out. I paid a fee for an extra piece of luggage (a duffel bag that could sit on top of my suitcase, therefore not an extra nuisance to carry) and was able to laugh at myself about the whole thing. The lesson learned was that in any endeavor, no matter how much you plan, there will always be something that goes wrong. And that’s okay - the key is to be flexible and not let one hiccup, even one that weighs 15 extra pounds, ruin your overall experience.

Hey, at least I measured my suitcase before getting to the airport, right?

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It's all coming together...

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Slowly… but surely. It’s been a bit of a scramble here in Tampa the past couple of weeks. Preparing has been an adventure on its own. Yesterday, I returned from Tallahassee, my state capitol; I went to get my fingerprints and background check taken care of. Now, I wait for my documents to be returned from the Apostille. 

** Quick tip: when dropping off your information for the background check, you can find a local service to pick up your background information and get all the notarizing done and sent diretly back to you. The  Apostille service I found: Capital Connections, was supper reliant and now I can have everything done at once.

For the most part, I feel like I have everything put together for my appointment at the Consulate this August. I have faith in the process and know everything is falling into place, so for now, just going to continue to stay on top of my paperwork and enjoy the time I have left here with my family and friends before I go. 

Additionally, I feel reassured by my new friends from the program every day, which is helpful. We have been using Facebook and specific groups to get to know each other, or find housing and roomies. It is nice to have an open forum for the group to ask questions, socialize, and share the same excitement of moving abroad!

Well, that's it for now!
- GOTM

The AZ to Spain Visa Documentation Process: Part 1

As a future CIEE Language and Cultural Assistant in Madrid, Spain, we 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 we (my boyfriend and I) are taking 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”!

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

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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. We went through an online FBI-approved channeler at http://www.myfbireport.com/. We obtained fingerprint cards Monday, sent them in priority 1-day mail at FedEx ($26.00) on Tuesday, and then received our FBI background check forms by Saturday ($39.95 +$9.00 for the 1 additional copy we need for our school, +$14.00 optional USPS Priority Mail). We 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
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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. 

Good luck everyone! I will post Part 2 right after my visa appointment June 23rd!

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

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But seriously though, we should get medals with our visas...

Carlitos and Kamala Pats Run
Boyfriend & I after conquering the 13th Annual 4.2 Mile Pat's Run in Tempe, AZ | April 22, 2017

Many blessings,

Kamalía 

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