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.