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53 posts categorized "*Spanish Culture"

The Truth about Host Families


Living with a host family is an extremely unique experience that I would recommend to anyone. Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to have three wonderful families through my times studying abroad and teaching in Costa Rica and Spain. If I’m willing and excited to live in a stranger’s home three different times, I clearly am a huge supporter and somewhat of an expert on the topic. But I understand why some people might be turned off to the idea: what if you don’t click with the family? How will it restrict your freedom? So for anyone toying with the idea of being an “adopted” member of a Spanish household, here’s my honest take on the positives and negatives of living with a host family.


My host family and I watching the Christmas parade

An authentic look into the culture:
othing will give you a better look into the Spanish culture than living right smack in the middle of it. Living, breathing and being engaged with your host family every day helps you notice, catch on to and mimic customs distinct to Spain. One of my favorite things is to watch the news because not only am I attuning my ear to rapid-fire Spanish, but I’m also learning about what’s going on in the country. So don’t be surprised the next time “Madre Mia!” slips from you mouth.

-Relaxed practice with the language:
Everyone is insecure about speaking a foreign language, especially with native speakers. Every time before I enter a bakery or shop, I’m practicing in my head what I want to say so I don’t feel like a fumbling foreigner. But all of the pressure slips away when you’re sitting around the dinner table with your host family. The conversation is relaxed and easygoing. Plus, they’re learning English too, so there’s a level of empathy there.

-Built in support system:
New school. New city. New life. It can all be very overwhelming in the beginning. Going home and talking to your host mom about your day is really comforting because you know you have someone in your corner. Another plus is that they’re experts on the city. So if you don’t know how to use the public bus system, they’ve got your back. This is also a time when you’ll be exploring the world and learning so much about yourself. Having people to talk to about your trips and share those experiences with creates such a unique bond that soon you’ll be thinking of them as a second family.

-Free and homemade food:
For all of the other non-chefs out there (anyone else thankful for microwaves besides me?), this is a HUGE perk. The meals here are fresher than in the U.S. Not only are you eating healthier, but you’re getting an inside look into one of Spain’s most critical parts of its culture: food. 



25530483_10212315603503359_1465080248_o-Less alone time:
With your family at home, you have family obligations. Here, those same feelings tend to creep in. One big cultural difference between here and the U.S is that Spanish families tend to spend a lot of time together (and they enjoy it. Shocking!). You may feel guilty for chilling in your room and taking time for yourself. After all, they’ve volunteered to let you live there for free. It’s a hard feeling to shake and has been something I’ve struggled with all semester. My advice is to try and make an effort to be present with your host family every day, but also respect when you need to recharge. It’s a delicate balance that you’ll figure out day by day.

-Less independence:
One of the greatest things about leaving home at 18 in the U.S. is the independence. Whether you start college or work, you’re completely on your own-and it’s amazing. No one is asking where you are or when you’ll be coming home. But with a host family, it’s different. Shooting them texts about your plans, going with them on family outings and keeping them up to date on your travel itinerary are all things you’ll fall back into. As a 22-year-old college graduate who thrived off of those independent college days, it’s an adjustment to revert back to constantly keeping in touch with my “parents.”

-Adjusting your lifestyle:
It’s a no brainer that with a new country comes a different way of life. Being open minded is the easiest way to adapt to Spanish customs. For example: your eating pattern. Spaniards will have a late lunch around 3 p.m. and then not eat dinner until around 10 p.m. In the beginning, snack up between these meals and eventually your stomach will become accustomed to late meal times. *Tip: wear stretchy pants! Most meals will include multiple courses. Spanish mothers are extremely concerned with how much food you eat, so you will feel pressured to stuff your face. Secondly, smaller cities take a siesta time in the middle of the afternoon, meaning that businesses close from about 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. There have been multiple times where I’ve forgotten this and wasted an entire afternoon trying to run errands when everything is closed.

Lastly, experience the social and nightlife. Spaniards put a lot of importance on enjoying time with friends. So it’s typical to see most people out after 10 p.m. eating tapas and bar hopping until 5 a.m. (my host parents do this on the regular!). As an American, I’m used to eating earlier, going into any business at any time and staying out until 2 a.m. at the latest, so it definitely takes some time to physically and mentally keep up with the Spanish lifestyle. While some customs might feel unnatural to you at first, it’s a really cool experience to embrace a culture different than your own. 


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!


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

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

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



Where are you from?

Hello my name is Colin Gill and this is my first blog for the Teach Abroad Spain blog.  I was meaning to post earlier but the last couple of months have been quite busy trying to settle into my position as a Language Assistant and other life events.

I have been living in Spain for nearly three months now and a question that I have been thinking about and reflecting on is when someone asks, "Where are you from?".  For me, this question is not usually because of my physical appearance, but rather when I speak in Spanish and an accent is detected.  Or when I write something in Spanish with grammatical errors.  At first I did not think much of this question, until recently when someone messaged me on a dating app saying, "Hello beautiful, you must be a foreigner because your Spanish is quite bad.  Lets meet."  Did he actually think I would meet up with him with such a statement?  Not only was I taken aback by his rude comment, but I was also painstakingly reminded that no matter what I am an outsider here.  Additionally, it made me reflect on the ways in which I am privileged in the USA.  I am white and I have a "Standard American Accent" [whatever that actually means].  For example, when I go into a grocery store, go on a date, order a coffee, etc. I will be assumed to be an "insider" in U.S. society.  No one back home will ask where I am from.  I will be assumed to be an American. 

The question of "Where are you from?" made me also remember discussions I have had with my friends back in Seattle who are people of colour and frequently receive comments such as, "You speak English so well!" or  "Where are you REALLY from?".  When in fact, most of them have lived in the U.S.A. for decades and sometimes longer than my own family.  They are American.  Nonetheless, they are treated and viewed as outsiders in U.S. society.  I was aware of these instances of othering that my friends encountered, however, I had never experienced first-hand what it means to be an outsider based on accent or nationality.  Certainly I have faced othering due to my sexual orientation and genderqueer identity.  But this felt different because it's based on my accent and nationality.

Because of my skin colour many people will not look at me physically as an outsider in Spain.  I will never experience the same form of systemic oppression that a person of colour faces.  Yet, being asked multiple times, "Where are you from?" is getting tiresome and is a constant reminder that I am an outsider.  Not to mention it reinforces in my anxiety ridden mind that my Spanish is no where near perfect and will never be my mother tongue no matter how hard I try.  

Thus far, I think this experience of being othered because of my accent has helped me develop a deeper empathy for people immigrating to new countries.  I will state clearly that this experience in no way erases my white and class privilege, but it has helped me better understand why the question of "Where are you from?" can be problematic and signify your status as an outsider.  Being an outsider enables you to see things that may be missed by the insiders within a society.  

If you have experienced something similar please feel to share with me.  Until next time, hasta luego!

The Power of Music

Watching my 4th graders dance "La Jota"

One of my favorite parts of immersing myself in a new culture is seeing it in action. Anything from trying new foods, to watching dances, to hearing music makes me feel more connected to Spain. What really sticks out to me about the Spanish people is how passionate they are, especially with their music.

Gorgeous building in the city center of Valladolid

This week, my school celebrated La Día de la Música by having the kids listen to traditional instruments of Castilla y León (the region of Spain where my host city, Valladolid, is). A group from a nearby village paraded around the playground playing the dulzaina and bombo. Everyone was feeling the music-teachers were dancing, kids were swaying and the musicians were feeding off of our energy.

Some of my fourth graders even wore traditional dresses and danced “La Jota.” It was like being transported back in time. You could see, hear and feel the history flowing through every note. Since American history is much newer than Spanish history, kids in the U.S. don’t have the same opportunity to learn and appreciate how music contributes to a country’s dynamic culture. Sure, we learn about the Harlem Renaissance, but you don’t see Jazz players having concerts at public schools. I definitely envy the Spanish for this because music is such an important part of culture and super fun to listen to!

Today, the kids listened to a Rondalla-an ensemble of stringed instruments played with a pick (like a guitar). It comes from the word “Ronda” which means to serenade. And that they did. You couldn’t help but picture a Spanish couple slowly dancing around a dimly lit tapas bar at dusk. It sounds cheesy, I know, but music does that to you. It helps you picture the past and feel an emotional connection to the sounds. The kids were actually quiet most of the time (which is rare) because they were so entranced by the melodies.

While the kids might not understand how important music is now, it exposes them to the sounds of their history and is something tangible that they’ll remember. I’m so glad to be part of a school that takes time away from stuffy textbooks to give the kids a more interactive experience. As a foreigner, these are the moments that I really love because I can actually hear the difference between this culture and mine. Even though I’m not a Spaniard, for a hot minute I get to pretend I am because we’re all hearing, feeling and clapping the same beats together-which is a pretty cool feeling.




Salamanca and Ávila

The Journey

Jenna, Maria, and I decided to take a day trip to Salamanca and Avila through a company called Smart Insiders. The company is a multicultural organization that specializes in trips and event planning. We were to meet the group at 9:00 am and head straight to Salamanca. The three of us decided to pack some to-go champagne and breakfast for the trip since we weren't going to make any stops before arriving to our destination. Once we arrived at the meeting point and were on the bus we headed off on our day adventure and it was a beautiful drive. There were rolling hills filled with small farm houses with many animals such as cows, horses, pigs, and dogs. The three of us were enjoying ourselves chatting and taking in the sites. We arrived to Salamanca at 11:30 am, and decided to take a quick break, grab a coffee, and start exploring.

Salamanca is a pretty small city so we knew we would be able to see the majority of it in the 5 hours that were allotted before heading to Ávila. Salamanca is on a hill with a University: Universidad De Salamanca, Old and New Cathedral, good shopping and restaurants, and a beautiful plaza in the center of the city; Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a large plaza located in the center of Salamanca, used as a public square. It was built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a popular gathering area.The whole city seemed a gold brown color because of the ornate sandstone architecture. 


Our first stops were the cathedrals and they were gorgeous. I couldn't believe how detailed the interiors of both were. Because we went on Sunday there were masses going on in both so it was nice to see how the church is utilized on a weekly basis.  ​​

Next, we decided to head to Plaza Mayor which is one of the most beautiful plazas I’ve seen. In Spain it is very common to have a plaza or meeting point located in the center of the city. In Madrid I live very close to Plaza Mayor, along with a few others for people to get together and socialize. Once we got to the plaza we were greeted with an old fashioned Flamenco street performance. We met some nice guys from Madrid who were also spending the day in Salamanca and we asked if they could take our picture.  ​​ ​​


At this point in the day we were really hungry so we decided to go and grab some lunch. We went to a restaurant a little ways away from Plaza Mayor called Rio de la Plata. We arrived and ordered a wine and decided we wanted to eat some traditional Spanish fare such as pork, croquettes, and fried calamari. Croquettes are small breadcrumbed fried food in the shape of a roll. Usually the main ingredients are mashed potatoes or ground meat, shellfish, fish, cheese, and vegetables. Ours were ham and cheese and they were the best I've had in Spain so far. Salamanca is also known for their delicious meat so when I tried the pork I was very impressed with the flavor. I would go back to Salamanca just to have their meat dish again. Overall, I would rate the quality of food higher than in Madrid so I am excited to venture out of the big city to find other hidden gems in other cities around Spain. 


After lunch we needed to get to the bus because we were heading to Ávila which is an hour drive from Salamanca. The city is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name, and is a city in the rolling hill country northwest of Madrid. It’s best known for its intact medieval city walls is known for it’s beautiful Roman architecture. On our way to Ávila I was taking in the beautiful rolling countryside. I thought it was even more beautiful than our drive to Salamanca. Once we arrived before we headed into Ávila, the tour guides took us to a looking point so we could take in the entirety of they city surrounded by the walls, and it was absolutely beautiful.  ​​


Once we arrived in the city everyone in the group walked to the plaza, which as I mentioned before, is the center of the city. As it was getting dark the lights were illuminating on the stone walls and it was magical. ​​ Maria, Jenna, and I were getting tired so we decided that we would walk around for a little and grab some dinner. We went to this old cafe where they had hamburgers and other American inspired dishes. Since we already had our fill of Spanish food this sounded perfect to us. Once we ordered we sat and talked with our waiter and practiced a little Spanish.

At 8:30 it was time to go back to the bus and head back to Madrid. On the walk back it was dark and the city was gorgeous since you could see the lights very well, and get to see more details of the architecture.  I was happy with Smart Insiders and how they organized the day getting everyone to two cities. I look forward to more day trips like this in the future and being able to see different parts of Spain. 

20 Differences: Spain vs. Latin American Spanish

A Petite Traveler

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

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


1. Vosotros

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

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

2. Vale.

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

3. ¡Qué guay!

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

4. Zumo

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

5. Conducir

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

6. Coger

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

7. Coche

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

8. ¡Genial!

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

9. Ahora Mismo

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

10. Móvil

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

11. Sobremesa

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

12. No Pasa Nada.

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

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

13. ¡Hombre!

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

13. ¡Venga!

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

15. Puente

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

16. Ordenador

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

17. ¡Qué chungo! 

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

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

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

18. Patata!

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

19. Cortado 

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

20. "¡Ching ching!"

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

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




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

All Hallows' Eve

This past Tuesday we celebrated Halloween at school. I wasn't sure what to expect celebrating in another country, especially Spain. I was informed that in this country Halloween focuses on the haunted and scary aspects of the holiday, a lot more than in the U.S. When planning for the activities at school we were informed that most of the students will dress scary instead of picking a costume that fits into pop culture. The teachers explained that this is more appropriate for Carnival which is celebrated in late February.

In the beginning of October, all school staff had a meeting and decided to dedicate half the school day on Halloween for activities for the students. Some of the activities would include Crafting, Scary Stories, Halloween History, Trick Or Treating, and Face Painting. We also decided that the students would be allowed to dress up as well as all staff. The week before that Tuesday everyone in the school was busy decorating the halls for All Hallows' Eve, and by Monday you could feel the excitement in the halls.

Another auxiliary and myself decided that we were going to paint our faces scary since we were in charge of the face painting activity. This would be the first time I would look "haunted" for Halloween so I was excited.

The morning of, we got ready together and barely made the bus since we spent a lot of time making sure we did a good job with our costume makeup. We ran through the metro tunnels of Madrid and many people were staring at us not sure what was the hurry and what we were doing. Halloween is a fairly new concept and celebration in Spain, so older generations don't understand. When we got to school we quickly met with the other auxiliaries to take a picture before the chaos began.


The four of us were assigned different grades for the hour so all students could experience the different activities. The teachers decided to rotate between the classrooms to make it less chaotic.

The first classes I went to were 6th grade. In class the teacher went over some crafts and songs, while I was helping to paint faces. Once the teacher was done with her part, I decided to share some American culture with some Youtube videos. Most of the kids really like Michael Jackson so I played the "Thriller" video. 

Next, I went to fourth grade where I knew I would have to paint 60 student's faces in a short amount of time. I was expecting to paint a pumpkin or a spider, but all the students wanted to look scary. I thought this was an interesting observation compared to American children. The fourth grade teacher Jose put on a scary movie while I started. By popular demand all the students wanted to watch Chucky, but they had to settle for Corpse Bride by Tim Burton. I know when I was in the fourth grade I would have been terrified to watch Chucky so this made me laugh that they were all brave enough to want to watch a scarier film. I spend most of my time with fourth grade so I've gotten to know these students very well, and because of that I am more comfortable with laughing and joking around with them. Fourth is a very good age because they are older but not old enough to feel too cool to get to know you.

After the breakfast break with the other teachers I went to my last scheduled classes which were fifth graders. Again, everyone wanted to be painted scary with blood, stitches, and scars. By the end of the day I was really getting into painting the kids with costume makeup, which was not my expectation. Some of the painting was getting very elaborate and I was enjoying it a lot. This was the first time I felt I was truly getting into the spirit of Halloween; a day for the dead. Celebrating in Spain has affected

my views of Halloween, and I believe that moving forward I will try and celebrate the holiday with a little more fright.

After the half day was done and all kids were heading to lunch, the teachers met on the playground and were all relieved our planning went smoothly. It had paid off and all the students had a good time. We were also excited because November 1st is a holiday in Spain so we had the next day off, and everyone was ready to go out in the city center that night.


Overall, it was a really good experience getting to celebrate the holiday in a school environment again. Since this day was such a success, it is making me look forward to the upcoming holidays toward the end of the year. I hope to think of creative ways to incorporate American culture of the holidays, and to help the students gain a new perspective. 

All the Pintxos!

All the Pintxos. That was our motto when visiting País Vasco. Unsure of what really a Pintxo was, I did some light exploring on the difference between a tapa and a pintxo. The only time I've ever heard of a pintxo was at my favorite Spanish restaurant in Chicago, Café Ba Ba Reeba. There, pintxos are just one, small, bite-size piece of a stuffed olive or chorizo wrapped date. At least, that's what the waiter told us on my last brunch on Chicago before heading here. Although small, they are delicious! I mean, everything there is, let's be real. But the tapas there are definitely meant to share since the portions are bigger.


So what are pintxos? 

Pintxos in Spain are usually small snacks eaten at northern bars so, similar to tapas, but pintxos are usually spiked with a skewer or toothpick on a piece of bread (Pinxto literally means "thorn" or "spike".) You can find croquettas or tortilla skewered onto a piece of bread as a pintxo or find more elaborate mixes of ingredients on top of it. I wouldn't consider myself a "foodie" by any means, but I am always excited to try the local cuisine of any place I visit — I was especially pumped to try pintxos in San Sebastian since this city is known for its gastronomical experience. Apparently, it has a high concentration of Michelin chefs, but you know #Ballingonabudget, so the pinxto bars would have to do. (Also, discovered what a Michelin chef was while reading and trying to curb my appetite before heading North). 



The experience 

Upon entering the bar, the pintxos are usually just lined up on the counter and you pick and choose, which ones you want to try. We really took my Dad's motto, "it's a marathon, not a sprint" to heart since we went on a pintxo crawl and hopped from bar to bar eating our way through San Sebastián. Do as the basques do, right? Well, the food did not disappoint. Some favorites included a spicy meatball, goat cheese topped with caramelized onions and walnuts and a few other ones that we had no idea what they were even after asking the waitress. We (sometimes) remembered to take some pictures before devouring and indulging. Check out some pics below (thank you to my friend, Christine, for her amazing lens!) Still daydreaming about the next time I head North to have more of this amazing cuisine. 


Getting Started In Teaching

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The Tour

Before the school year started, I decided to venture to the city where I will be teaching this year, a town called Getafe. My school is about 55 minutes from where I live in La Latina, so the commute was a little longer than expected. To get to my school I have to take two metro lines and a bus. Luckily my roommate from orientation decided to tag along for the test commute since she is also teaching in the area. After two metro lines and a bus we finally made it to my school. I was a little nervous meeting everyone, but I was also excited to see what the classroom environment was going to be like.

I received a tour from the Director at the school; her name is Monste. The school is divided into 3 different buildings. One building is for children ages 3-7 and the second building is for ages 8-12. The third building is the gym and all gym classes are taught in english. After the tour I felt a little relieved in knowing where I would be working this upcoming school year. 


That evening I received a message from one of the first grade teachers; his name was Victor. Victor wanted all four auxiliaries to meet that night and get to know each other before our first day. Only two of us agreed, but we decided to meet at a very cute cafe called El Jardin Secreto, which translated in english is named The Secret Garden. This cafe is known for milkshakes, but I decided to try the Irish coffee.

In Spain you sleep a lot less so it was definitely needed. When Victor arrived we greeted each other with the customary hug and kiss on both cheeks; (still getting used to that). We went inside and met the other auxiliary whose name is Karlyn and also from the United States. The night was filled with good conversation and the meeting instantly put my mind at ease for this new adventure.




The First Day

Monday morning after my hour commute and arriving to the school I had some jitters. We were meeting with Montse the Director and Jose, who is a fourth grade teacher. His purpose for being in the meeting was to translate since Montse doesn't speak fluent english. Once we met and went over logistics the crazy day began. This first day was solely observation of the different grades to see which ones peaked our interest.

My first observation was Victor's 1st grade class. It was fun watching Victor teach in english and interact with the children. I was starting to realize how much of an impact I was going to have with enhancing their language skills. Next, I went to 3rd grade with Sergio. He is very passionate about teaching and tries to make the classroom fun. In Spain the teaching methods are more dry compared to the U.S. The reason being that parents pay a good amount of money for the student's materials, and feel it necessary that the teachers teach straight from the book. Sergio doesn't necessarily agree with this method and so he likes to think of creative ways to teach the material. I am excited to help think of new and exciting ways to make the classroom fun as well. 

After the first two classes the children go to recess and that means that the teachers have Almuerzo which is a snack with coffee before lunch. I was expecting some very light food, but when we arrived in the cantine I saw a buffet of breakfast food which is very exciting for us auxiliaries because it is traditional home-cooked spanish fare. In spanish culture it is very important to spend time with other co-workers but the problem is not everyone speaks english, so the english teachers were doing their best to translate conversation. Before the year is over I think that being exposed to spanish speakers all the time will help me to become conversational.


After Almuerzo there is one more class before the 2 hour siesta... I went with Jose to fourth grade and this class was by far my favorite. The children were so interested in knowing more about me and their english was the strongest I had seen yet. I really liked the children's personalities instantly. In class I explained to them that I was from the United States and had lived in New York City for a little over two years, and their eyes got so wide. Most of the children know about New York and it's exciting for them to meet someone that has lived there. I'm excited to be able to teach them more about the culture in America and help them gain a better understanding of how Americans live.

After lunch I ended the day with 6th grade. They are very good at speaking English as well. I was impressed that they were learning very hard material in another language, such as the different parts of the brain. This material would be hard for a fluent english speaker at both that age and education level. By the end of the day I was exhausted and realized that children have a lot of energy. I knew that I would need to rest a lot to be able to keep up with them on a day to day basis. 

The next day we received our schedules and I was placed with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. I was very excited because after spending time with all the grades I knew I wanted to work with older children. I would be teaching English and Natural Science for all three grades. I am also sitting in a few of their art classes and helping work on their english in free time. 


The End Of The First Week

At the end of the week all the teachers planned to have a get together at Victor's house. After classes on Friday we all met in the parking lot to head over. I rode with Lucia who is a 2nd grade teacher. She speaks english pretty well so we could at least talk a little on the way. When we got to Victor's everyone pitched in with getting drinks and snacks set up. We had wine, beer, charcuterie, chips, etc... it was really nice to be able to spend more time with the teachers even though some don't speak english. I feel that my Spanish is getting stronger every day being with them and hearing the language frequently. I'm so excited for this year and all the new opportunities it holds.




A Day in Toledo, Spain



If you’re wondering which cities are a MUST-SEE day trip in Spain, wonder no more, you HAVE to spend a day in historical and breathtaking Toledo. We spent the entire day here for only 40€! The city is packed with delicious restaurants with 3-course meals for only 10€, tasty Marzipan and other
DSC00583homemade edible treasures. The narrow streets hold pathways begging to be explored and photographed. Stores overflow with archaic swords, armor, gold and metal knick-knacks and pretty fabrics to wear.


We travelled there with a super organized and fun travel company by the name of City Life. They coordinated our transportation, activities and showed us the best spots for photos for only 22€! The bus ride was about an hour there from Madrid's Moncloa stop. We even went zip lining across a river for only 8€; and it came with a sick professional photo! You can also book your travel through Renfe, download the super handy FREE mobile app we used to book cheap train tickets called "Go Euro!" (We used this to book our trip to Segovia, Spain roundtrip only 13€!)

DSC00599Every building was deeply detailed, adeptly chiseled to engrave belief and faith into art and to allow the ancient stories to unfold. The deeply rooted history of the people and cultures of Muslim, Judaism and Christianity come together to create a city filled with incredible architecture and traditions outlasting centuries. 


At the city plaza, you'll find Western influence, such as a McDonalds (let's face it, McDonalds is everywhere), but the city has managed to hold on to its archaic and beautiful treasures. It's so romantic to walk around with your significant other, we even walked into a wedding celebration! Though it's perfect to explore with friends and family too. You don't have to travel far for picturesque sights. 


The food was incredible, along with the service! As I mentioned, it was only 10€! We started with a drink, then you choose a first dish, a second dish and then a dessert. I asked for a glass of wine because it seemed the fanciest, and they gave me my own bottle of wine! My first dish was my first taste of paella, a traditional must-try Spanish dish. My second dish was a steak and french fries (patatas fritas) and I ended it with a tasty tiramisu cake. Perfecto!

You must see Toledo for yourself!





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