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12 posts categorized "*Pre-departure tips"

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 

Top 5 Excuses NOT to Travel

Hi friends!

I wanted to talk about a pet peeve and arch-nemesis of mine: EXCUSES. We hear them all the time and even make them all the time, mentally or to anyone around us. They can be the chains we put on ourselves; they hinder progress and stop us from having fun or stepping outside of our box! I wanted to remind anyone who reads this that only YOU can stop you. My boyfriend and I have been counting down the days until each little checkpoint--Visa instructions, placement, Visa appointment and our eventual departure to Spain. It's so overwhelming, but we've received so many wonderful blessings and warm support from friends, families and strangers! We get a LOT of questions and so many people say "UGH! I wish I could do that TOO!" We always say, "Apply, do it!" But we're met with EXCUSES. I wanted to counter the top 5 I've heard and read about:

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"I'm broke!"

Don't let money stop you! You HAVE TO BUDGET! After extensive research scouring blogs and books, I've found that exploring the world does not have to be expensive.  You can even enjoy some cities for cheap or even free. There are a lot of creative ways to save money! For example, with my regular paychecks at work, I have 80% directly deposited to my checking and the remaining 20% directly deposited to my savings. This little trick allowed me to save more than I ever have in my lifetime. If I don't have the money in my checking, I can't spend it! You have to know where your money is going. Maybe you DON'T need that extra $13 cocktail or the $3.00 guac. Check out these awesome budgeting templates from the Huffington Post here!

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

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"I won't be able to get a job once I come back to the U.S.!"

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

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

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"I'm too scared to fly!"

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

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

"I can't make a living out there!"

Sure you can! With programs like CIEE Teach Abroad you get a monthly stipend to teach English in many countries like Spain or Thailand. With great planning, this can pay out your monthly rent, phone service, transportation expenses and food! You can also pick up some extra cash by private tutoring. Since you only have a 16-hour workweek, that's an additional WHOLE day in your week to generate income & travel! You can also find REMOTE U.S. jobs, and/or blog for a living—see here: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-create-a-travel-blog/! 

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

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

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

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

Abrazos,

Kamalía

Moving to Spain for 1+ Years?! What to Pack ‘n' Consider…

I was initially instructed to pack based on the “Rule of 3’s” i.e. 3 shirts, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 pants, 3 dresses, etc. and I am VERY glad I didn’t. I was moving abroad for a year and although it is a relatively short chapter in my life history book; it is still a move! Because of this, I had to plan based on what I use in any given day, week, or month back home.

Also, if you are doing the CIEE program or any organized teaching placement program you will have the ease of someone picking you up from the airport. If not, simply pay the $30 cab fare to pack all things necessary. In the end, it will be much cheaper to cab then replace all the things you didn’t bring and then throw them away, donate, or try to ship them back home. Other things I heard before moving here is that it’s fine to pack light because there is cheap shopping. Okayyyy, it might be cheap relative to back home but when you don’t have an income as a teacher for 1-2 months after arriving then the last thing you should be doing is going shopping. Not to mention that the clothes are as advertised… cheap in price AND quality.

I have compiled a list of all the things I brought for perspective along with additional suggestions for items to consider bringing. I hope my full list can provide a little more clarity than the guidance I was provided.

Clothes:

  • 14 pairs of socks if you are someone that works out regularly otherwise 10 could suffice.
  • 10 underwear and 7-10 bras in case you aren’t doing laundry on a strict routine or have longer vacations. You will sweat A LOT the first couple months in Spain so re-wearing bras is not feasible.
  • 5 camisoles to wear under cardigans and undershirts
  • 7 cardigans or nice shirts
  • 4 t-shirts and 5 long sleeved shirts
  • 2-3 sweaters
  • 3 pairs of slacks
  • 4 jeggings/jeans
  • 2-3 pairs of leggings – If you have fleece lined ones then bring them for winter time
  • 6 nicer dresses for work, going out, b-day celebrations, etc.
  • 2 maxi dresses
  • A pack of Nylons – Working professional women wear nylons in Spain. In the US, technically you should be too but we have become more lax over time.
  • 3-5 scarves – I brought 12 and accumulated 3 more in Morocco but I’m obsessed.
  • 7 workout outfits (leggings/shorts, sports bras, and shirts – this will vary depending on your typical workout regimens).
  • 3 zippy jackets for working out and/or keeping warm at night. I brought one fleece Columbia and two Polyester jackets.
  • 3 pairs of flats – You will be walking a lot! Comfy shoes that support your back are advised.
  • 1 pair of flip flops– Gotta love hostel showers.
  • 1-2 pairs of tennis shoes – I brought 1 pair of running shoes and my Reebok Nanos for lifting.
  • 1 winter jacket and 1-2 other jackets – I brought 3 peacoats and 2 fake leather jackets to dress up my outfits. I probably didn’t neeeed all 3 peacoats but they are all different colors, I didn’t want to make a decision on which to leave behind, and I wear them all happily. #smalljoys
  • Jewelry – A couple of your favorite pieces are advised but bare in mind that anything too flashy will likely make you more of a target for pickpocketing.
  • Sunglasses 

Toiletries, where Costco/Sam’s Club becomes your BFF (if not already), and other necessities:

  • Toothpaste – 3 large tubes and 1, 100 ml travel size
  • Tampons – 2 boxes
  • Orbit Gum– 3 boxes emptied throughout my suitcase– I’m an addict, I’ll admit. I’m also particular about having the Green or Dark Blue Orbit. Gum in Spain is the Sugar coated hard shelled ones and more expensive. No Bueno.
  • Toothbrushes – 4
  • Floss
  • Favorite cover-up, foundation, eyeliner and/or mascara – Bring 2-3 depending on your use habits
  • Razor – 3 packs of 4 shaving blades
  • Brush/ratting comb (if applicable)
  • Perfume – Bring 2 if 3 oz bottles
  • Moisturizer – 1
  • Face cleaner – 3
  • Soap bars – 3 to get started
  • Shampoo/Conditioner– one bottle each to get you started
  • Deodorant – 4. You know what works for you and you likely won’t find it in Spain.
  • Q-tips- 2-3 handfuls in a sandwich bag shall suffice
  • 10-15 Cotton balls and nail polish remover
  • 2 nail polish colors
  • Nail kit – tweezers, clippers, cuticle cutters, nail file, etc.
  • Teeth cleaning kit- I’m a freak and I like cleaning my teeth at the dentist regularly so I picked up one of these from Amazon for $10 and it’s a gem.
  • Mini sew kit – Little snags and holes can be easily salvaged.
  • Lent roller
  • Medicine – Advil, multivitamin, Omega 3s, etc. that are a part of your typical regimen.
  • Thermometer – Do you realllly have to go to the doctor?
  • Sunblock
  • External hard drive – You will want it. People often lose/get phones stolen or computers croak so backing up your pictures will be necessary.
  • Ziplocs – 1 box of them with zippers to pack your lunch or you can buy non-zipper ones here. I use Ziplocs to keep toiletries dry on trips. Travel ain’t always glamorous.
  • Converter– so you can charge your electronics.
  • Various sized padlocks – 2-3 for those hostel stays, gym locker, luggage locking, and to help a friend if they forget theirs : D

Additional things I brought to assist with the transition. This will depend on who you are and what brings you joy so this category is at your own discretion.

  • I got two coffee mugs for Christmas in 2014, one is molded like a peacock the neck being the handle and the other is an elephant with a trunk for the handle; two of my favorite animals! These remind me of loved ones back home and hold a lot of coffee for my relaxing Saturday mornings.
  • Adult coloring book and gel pens – If you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Protein Powder and Ziploc bags (as noted above)/shaker (I don’t like the latter because it leaks, it’s too bulky, and I don’t care to invest in the compartmentalized one). Ziplocs carry my dry powder until I add water later, cut the corner, and drink up.
  • Special seasonings. In my case, a big mama jama thing of lemon pepper. Some things are more challenging to find (i.e. hot sauce for you spicy lovers) or don’t exist here so if you like it enough, bring it. You’ll be okay without your excess of American goods though too, I promise!
  • 3 pairs of plastic chopsticks – my trusty travel companions. I take them wherever I go because I can eat everything I want with them and their easy to sneak into luggage.
  • Pack of Thank you cards – whether in the professional world or not, handwritten cards are thoughtful!
  • Big backpack for those flights with Ryanair- I hucked my purple turtle shell through the Sahara for 7 days and use it regularly to bring my workout clothes into town so that I can pit stop at the gym after school and before heading home. I’m allll about that efficient life.
  • A smaller drawstring bag or satchel – Great for carrying around your goods on lighter days. I also pack my drawstring bag in my medium sized backpack on trips so I can use it to carry the necessities throughout the day i.e. camera, map, notebook, pens, wallet, phone, etc. because I don’t have a large purse or a purse in general for that matter.
  • Fancy camera (if applicable) – Make room to fit it in your luggage, you won’t regret it.
  • iPod – Does anyone even use these much anymore? I do for long trips to preserve my phone battery.
  • Backpacking packs (if you have one) – Largest of the ones you can take on the plane and necessary for those 7+ vacation days or winter travels where clothes needed are thicker. Here’s my backpack that’s lasted 3+ years of excessive travel.
  • 3-5 pairs of headphones – Ridiculous I know but one ear bud goes out, get lost or left behind at hostels unintentionally. If you already have them at your house then bring them. Also, pick up the free ones from flights and trains when possible. Speaking of keeping things for free, I always klepto the fleece blanket from int’l flights to use for picnics or a beach adventure since it’s light weight and I can throw it away if it gets filthy.
  • Spotify Premium – Lifesaver abroad for anyone that LOVES music and isn’t willing to pay an arm and a leg for data. The best $11 I spend a month goes to Spotify since I’m pretty much listening to it anytime I’m not teaching or meeting with people face to face.
  • Kindle app. access– I used to be a short article reader but now that I metro everywhere I have lovely books downloaded to my phone (thanks Nikole, my beloved sister, for the Membership and great selection : P) to pass the time.
  • Journal – I have a 5 year Journal that Nikole, genius she is, gave me 4 years ago. This is my trusty travel companion to record life happenings of every single day in the year. It’s fun to recollect on what I’ve done or thought about in the past. For example, October 25th, 2013 I made a 2 year goal to teach or move abroad to Europe, Thailand, or Myanmar. Well I’m here under 3 years so woo for following through on a goal anddd being able to see what I was thinking 4 years ago!
  • 2 Notebooks – I presume you’re moving abroad partially because you want to learn the language of the country? If so, you’ll be taking diligent notes. If not, notebooks are easy travel companions to take on long flights and trains to jot ideas, make plans, write poems, journal entries, letters, etc. The best thinking time I have is when I’m plopped down in a train or flight seat so a notebook always comes in clutch.
  • Phone charging brick – You never know how long you’ll be sucked into the city for and in a new place the last thing you want is no access to resources in your phone. Thank you Dad for always gifting me things I always needed but never knew about!
  • 5-7 Pens – I’m sure you have them laying around your house. Bring them.
  • Cards – I love games so I brought 2 decks of cards, Loaded Questions, and Bananagrams. They have contributed to some of my favorite rainy day memories while back home or traveling.
  • Bible, Spanish Dictionary, and Lonely Planet Book – I brought these because sometimes I like tangible things to read and scheme trips. Definitely not necessary with the advent of the worldwide web and applications but it’s part of my wind down on long days or leisurely Saturday mornings.
  • 6 copies of everything – Passport, NIE, School Placement e-mail, passport photo, etc.
  • Deflated balls and ball pump – I brought a football and volleyball since I already had them at my house and didn’t want to pay to play in the park with friends. Pumps are about $5 from your local wal-mart if you don’t have one already.
  • Yoga mat – It serves two purposes. Allows me to participate in the obvious, yogi time but secondly, serves as a floor mat/rug next to my bed since all apts. I have seen here are hard wood or tile and gets real cold!
  • Reusable water bottle – Double check that you can even drink the city’s tap water. For Madrid you are good to go! Plastic waterbottles are cheap here i.e. 30 cents for 1.5L at the grocery store but that’s a lot of trash for the landfill…
  • Phone plan – Purchase once you get here. Many people did Orange or Vodafone for 20 euros for 2GB/month. I have 2 GB for 10 euro/month with Lycamobile and have only positive things to say about them!

Potential additional items if they fit otherwise purchase when you get abroad if necessary:

  • Heels/wedges- 1-2 pair
  • Boots – 1-2 pairs for cold mornings and travels to cold lands in the winter
  • A book or two – These things take up quite a bit of space so I advise limiting the quantity brought
  • Gloves – 1-2 pair
  • Thick/Long socks – 1-2 pairs
  • Earmuffs/Beanie
  • Umbrella
  • 1 Rain Jacket AKA the ones that roll into themselves, nothing fancy needed. OR I guess you could always do the good ol’ fashioned trash bag but I don’t think they have big ones here in Spain so you might have to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag).
  • Wine Opener – You’re moving to Spain after all : D

I hope this helps provide more clarity as you scheme for travels abroad! Exciting adventures await! : D

P.S. If you’re wondering how I brought all these things without exceeding the weight limits it’s through weighing my luggage before going to the airport. Aside from that, I used my drawstring bag to carry my precious laptop, iPod, headphones, notebook, pens, journal, necessary travel information and passport in a folder, phone and laptop charging cord, wallet, gum, etc. that needed to be easily accessed for the immediate international flight. My Backpackers pack was filled with my yoga mat, fancy camera and point and shoot camera, all other technology cords, and clothes. My two suitcases were filled with everything else and my purple backpack rested emptied in one of them.

3 ways to make the most of your experience abroad

Madrid Sunset

Moving to Spain will be easy in some ways and challenging in others. Luckily, we humans are a pretty adaptable bunch, and we pick up tips and clues about a new place as soon as we've arrived.

I've found that, despite any difficulties I'm facing with paperwork, bureaucracy, or whatever else comes my way, a shift in attitude and perspective can make all the difference in achieving a positive outcome.

Here are 3 ways to make the most of your experience abroad:

1. Stay positive (no matter what!)

Keep in mind that you’re applying to live for several months in a foreign country. Things might go smoothly, but they might not. It’s much more pleasant for both you and everyone around you if you can take a deep breath and maintain a positive frame of mind.

Handy trick: If you hear yourself complaining about something that didn’t go your way, add an “and” or “but”  to the end of the sentence and flip it into a positive phrase. Slightly cheesy, but it’s actually kind of fun and might make you realize that you’re being more negative than you intended to be.

  • Example #1: “Man, I’m so pissed that we waited for 45 minutes at Caixa Bank and then they wouldn’t let us open an account…. AND I’m really happy that CIEE gave us the contact info for Banco Sabadell because maybe we’ll have more success there.”
  • Example #2: “I can’t believe that we were just rejected by 3 landlords! BUT I’m thrilled that Idealista exists because I’m sure we can find some other options pretty quickly.”

2. Ask lots of questions (in Spanish, of course)

Turns out that you’re not supposed to touch any fruit with your bare hands in Spanish supermarkets. To make sure that this was indeed a rule, I exposed my naïveté to an attendant by asking what exactly I should be doing. Clearly, I blew my cover as a true Spaniard, but that happens all the time anyway. I got to practice some Spanish, have a positive interaction with the attendant, and learn that I simply needed to don a plastic guante (glove) and then use that guante to pick out fruits and veggies to my heart’s desire.

3. Dare to do new things (read: get out of your comfort zone right away)

Escaping your typical routine and engaging in new activities can produce a virtuous cycle that just keeps giving. I’ve found that, once I take the leap and commit to doing something new, I’m immediately more likely to do so again. Suddenly, my calendar has filled up with a dance class, volleyball practice, and sewing workshop before I even realize what’s happened.

The stipend for auxiliares is definitely livable but not luxurious. This makes the power of sign-up fees even stronger. If you put some cash down up-front to reserve a class/tour/experience you’re feeling a tad nervous about, that “sunken cost” will get you in the door when the date of the class arrives.

Cheers!

Jenni

The Apartment Hunt

Ya'll, this was rough. Even having lived in Spain before, I was not prepared for how difficult the apartment search in Madrid would be. In Huelva, I found and moved into an apartment in 5 days and had no issues contacting landlords and seeing apartments. Unfortunately, Madrid was a different story. To give you a bit of background on why the hunt was so challenging, let's start with the basics. First, September is the month in which about 2,000 auxiliares move to Madrid, not to mention study abroad students, Erasmus students, etc. Definitely would have helped to have known that before planning my flight. Second, almost everyone wants to live within a reasonable distance to the center. 

Thinking that 5 days would be sufficient again (before I arrived and learned about the chaos), some of the other CIEE girls and I booked an Airbnb for the same number of days following our orientation. One of the girls was lucky enough to have found a place right away, but she couldn't move in until a couple weeks later, so she still stayed with us. As for the rest of us, we quickly found that apartment hunting in Madrid in September is almost like a full time job. Due to the fact that there are so many people looking for apartments at this time of year, you usually have to be the very first person to contact a landlord as soon as they post and available room or apartment. We found out the hard was that even if you shorten your search to post listed within 48 hours, most landlords either wouldn't respond or would tell us that it was already rented. Some of the times in which we actually managed to book a visit, we were told upon arriving that it was soon to be rented by someone who had previously visited. 

In the end, we had to book another Airbnb for 4 days, after which myself and the other remaining girl were able to move into our new apartments (our third roommate is still waiting a few more days before she can move into hers). While stressful to go through, we came out in the end with apartments that we are all happy with and a few hilarious stories along the way. We also had the chance to get to see quite a bit of Madrid and meet some new friends along the way. Below I've listed some ways you can survive some of the stress of the hunt if you decide to move to Madrid in September as well.  

Ciao for now! 

 

Tips for apartment hunting in Madrid:

    1. Download the following apps: Google Maps (yes, they have everything including public transportation in Madrid already figured out for you!), Whatsapp (this is how everyone communicates in Spain), Idealista (preferred site for apartment hunting). There are other apps you can use as well, but these three at minimum are a lifesaver! 

    2. Reserve accommodations for at least a whole week while you look. It will give you a peace of mind to not have to keep moving around and wondering where you will sleep all the time. Airbnbs are my go-to since they are cheaper than hotels and usually nicer than hostels. Plus, you'll probably want to cook in a kitchen at some point. Eating out all the time is only fun for so long and then starts to get really expensive. 

    3. Don't plan on travelling until after you have an apartment set up.  Everyone wants to travel as soon as we get to Madrid since we have some time before school starts, but for your own sake, make sure everything is in place first. You will have a whole year to travel and plenty of opportunities between 3 day weekends every weekend and all of their holidays. 

    4.  Have enough financial back-up to get you through your first month and at least 2-3 months of an apartment (some places will ask for first, last, and a deposit). I mentioned this a little bit in my last post, but it's essential, especially since you don't get paid by the school until the end of your first month. 

    5. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Apartments go in seconds this time of year in Madrid. Make sure you are notified as soon as a new place pops up so that you can call/Whatsapp/email the landlord to go see it right away. Usually they go to the first person. Since you won't be the very first person every time, don't give up, just keep going. You will eventually find something. 

    6. Make yourself look good. Landlords can pretty much have their pick and Spaniards don't always love the idea of living with Americans, so do what you can to promote yourself. We found that saying we were there for the year teaching English with the Community of Madrid helped a lot! If you are a little bit older, sometimes adding your age in can also be a positive factor. 

    7. Lower your expectations. This is Europe, not the U.S. Apartments will be smaller and kitchens won't be equipped to the same level they are back home. Apartments in the centro are more popular and more expensive. You can still find some lovely places, just be prepared to not get everything on your wish list. 

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