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12 posts categorized "*Pre-departure tips"

Arrival and Orientation

Why hello there! It's been a little over a week since I last posted and A LOT has happened within that time: flying to Spain, orientation with CIEE, apartment search, government paperwork, exploring Madrid, etc. Basically, it's time for a new post. =) Since I'm sure ya'll don't want to read a 20 page essay, I'll just highlight the arrival and orientation process this time around and focus on the housing search in the next post. 

    This past Wednesday, September 21, I flew direct from Chicago to Madrid, an easy 8 hour flight (highly recommend going direct anytime you can). Several other CIEE members were on the flight, which was nice while we waited to board. Perks of flying to Europe? Free wine with your meal! =D The food was also better than on flights in America. Because it was a long flight, we all had screens in the backs of our seats, which was nice in order to pass the time, but also made it impossible for me to sleep with all the flickering light. Would definitely suggest bringing a sleeping mask, neck pillow, and ear buds! 

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    With the time change, we wound up landing in Madrid on Thursday morning, and also went from summer to fall in one short flight! As CIEE provided a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel, we decided to wait instead of paying for a cab. It was about a 3 hour wait  once we got our luggage, but we decided to pass the time by getting some cafe con leche and using the free wifi that Madrid Barajas offers. Several other CIEE flight groups joined us while we waited, so it was fun to get to know everyone in the meantime. Once we got to the hotel, we all checked in and then had free time until the orientation welcome dinner that evening. The phone company, Orange, was there during our free time with a special promotion for us, of which I definitely took advantage of. 

    Since I was in the Basics program, our orientation was pretty much an all-day one day event on Friday. It was very helpful as we got information about the best health care providers to use, safety in Spain, housing and teaching tips. The Community of Madrid also came in to do their orientation for us so that we didn't have to go to that on another day. We were on our own for lunch, so some of us went to 100 Montaditos, which is a super cheap place for lunch or dinner with reasonable food. For our farewell dinner, CIEE took us to a fun pincho restaurant in Madrid. There was a lot of information in one day, but most of us in the Basics program had already spent a fair bit of time in Spain and CIEE also sent us out the Power Point slides from all of the presentations so that we wouldn't forget. 

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Travel Tips:

    1. Pack light. I mentioned this in my previous post and definitely wound up bringing more than I should have, but try to keep it to a minimum. It's never fun having to lug everything around. Nowadays there are always extra baggage fees, so it's nice to avoid those as well. Plus, it's fun to go shopping once you get to Spain. =) Also, make sure you pack carefully so that you don't have to spend an hour digging for what you need once you get to the hotel.

    2. Be wise with your carry on. The best things to bring are extra clothes (in case of lost baggage), some toiletry supplies (sometimes you just need to brush your teeth or put some extra deodorant on!), snacks (in case you get hungry on the flight or waiting for the bus like we did), chargers, adapters (plugs in Europe are different from the states), and a few things to do either while you wait or on the plane (just don't go crazy and pack a lot of books as those weigh a ton and aren't fun to haul around). 

    3. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once you get past security. Everything in the airport is always more expensive. Make sure you fill it up before you get on the plane too since they might not give you as much liquid as you would like on the flight. 

    4. Make yourself comfortable. Flying to Europe isn't a short hop. Depending on travel time, you'll probably want to sleep in order to help with jet lag. Neck/regular pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, comfy pants, etc. can be lifesavers. 

    5. Fly direct. It might be a little more expensive, but it will save you so much time and the headache of having to worry about baggage, missing the next flight, etc. 

    6. Give yourself wiggle room. Something always happens, whether it's extra traffic getting to the airport, a delayed flight, long security lines, etc. Give yourself extra time to get to the airport, don't try to squeeze in less than an hour layover between flights, and be realistic about when you will actually arrive. 

Why Spain... again??

    Wednesday I leave the U.S. yet again to move to Spain for a year. Again? Yes, six years ago I made the same trek across the ocean to teach English. Last time, however, I had just graduated from college, wasn't sure what I was going to do with my degree, and was also single. That year was an amazing experience, although not without the normal share of difficulties and culture shock that come with moving to another country. (If you are curious about my previous experience there, you can search past CIEE blogs for Rebekah Horney or click on this link.)

    In the five years since returning to the states, I have finished a master's degree in international education, gotten married, moved from Nashville to Chicago, been a nanny, substitute teacher, research assistant, local coordinator for a high school exchange program, and a center director for a tutoring company. A lot has happened in that time, but my love for Spain and international education has never wavered. Being unfulfilled in for-profit test prep, I was eager to get back into international education and knew that teaching English in Spain to public school students was one way to do that. 

    I've studied abroad and taught abroad in Spain with CIEE before, so even though I knew there were other options to teach English in Spain, they were my preferred route to go. I love the application, pre-departure and orientation information they provide and this time around I also completed their TEFL course, which I very much wish I would have done last time. The application process is fairly easy with them and thanks to all of their information on the visa process, I was able to submit everything on the first try and got my visa back in only three weeks. CIEE also put together a Facebook group for all of us going to teach there with them this year, so I've already met up with some of the girls in my city and booked an airbnb with them to stay in after orientation and while we look for apartments. 

    Madrid will be a new city for me, and I am so excited to be heading there. I studied abroad in Palma de Mallorca, lived and taught in Huelva, travelled to Valencia and Sevilla, but have only been through the airport and train station in Madrid. Not only does it look like a beautiful city, it is also easy to travel to other locations in Spain and Europe from there! I can't wait! Plenty of pictures to follow upon arrival. Hasta luego! 


Helpful hints to anyone interested in participating in this program in the future:

    1. Apply for everything early. If something winds up being incorrect or missing, such as a background check, you will be glad you have the extra time to try again (that was me last time around- thankfully I learned my lesson). 

    2. Read through all of the information you are sent carefully. Print out the information and highlight key points and add your own notes. Put dates into your calendar so that you don't forget something. Make a specific folder for all this information so nothing gets lots. 

    3. Do your research. Ask around for the best places to book flights, find apartments, etc. Speaking of which, don't put any money down on an apartment before you see it in person. There is plenty of time in between arriving in Spain and when you have to start teaching to find a place. You don't want to fall victim to scam artists. 

    4. Plan financially. You will be given some good information about how much to bring, but you will want to keep in mind that you need to have enough to rent a new apartment, last through a month before your first paycheck, and have some extra to do the fun stuff. Have a back up plan in case you have the unfortunate event that I did last time around of having my paycheck delayed. Call your bank and talk to them about your intended move. I found out this time around that my bank has a partner bank in Spain which means no ATM fees! That's a lifesaver. 

    5. Pack light. This is harder for me the second time around, but I'm slowly downsizing. Styles are a little different in Spain and you will want to do some shopping while you are there. Plus, it's never fun having to lug several suitcases through airports, train stations, etc. 

    6. Don't stress. Everything will get figured out. Spain is a more relaxed country, so some things take a little longer to get done, but CIEE is there to help, along with the other program participants. Spain is also a developed country, so if you forgot to bring something, they have plenty of stores to chose from.


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