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50 posts categorized "*Spanish Culture"

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!





Becoming Fluent in Spanish

Hey friends!

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! :)


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! 



For more adventure, follow me on Instagram: @KamalaAlcantara

Moving To Madrid


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.

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.



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).



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.


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.


So you decided to move to Spain!

What a decision! I did not realize how big this was until I bought a one way ticket and landed in Madrid. Were there times I wanted to give up? YES!! Especially when the San Francisco consulate was booked until October (since June), I bought a second passport (in case the consulate took my application before I traveled which ended up being unnecessary), went in to the consulate every day at 8 am for a week and did not land an appointment (got a parking ticket), and I had to drive to Sacramento (2 hours minus traffic) for a 20 minute appointment. However, I wouldn't change a thing!

Spain has been magical and I already feel at home. I went to Germany last weekend for Oktoberfest and although I had the time of my life, I missed Madrid so much! I missed the warm weather and the warmer people. I missed being in a familiar city and walking around without a GPS. Madrid has a way of capturing your heart and never letting it go. People here are not strangers living in the same city...they are a community who work in harmony.

To those of you who live here now, explore! If the city captures your heart, don't be scared of it...embrace it! To those of you who are thinking of moving here to teach, follow your heart. You will be rewarded in the end. Finally, to those of you who have never been to Madrid, I suggest you take a week off of work and buy a plane ticket here!

I can't wait to see what my future here holds!

Unexpected Blessings

It has been a whirlwind of a week - lots of adjustments and excitement.  Orientation went well and offered a good deal of insight in terms of banking, phone plans, important documents and appointments, meeting people, learning how to get around and a nice introduction to the culture of Madrid.  (I posted a couple of pictures at the end of the post, so if you're interested in checking them out make sure to scroll down!)  

At this point, I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel, surrounded by other auxiliars all looking for housing.  It is here that I find myself so relieved.  I happened to log onto Facebook the last night of orientation (Thursday), right before we headed out to our "Farewell dinner", and saw a post for a family looking for an "au pair" near Arganda del Rey (the suburb where I will be teaching).  I sent a message and got in touch with the woman and, next thing I know, I was making my way the next morning to the very school where I will be teaching to meet with this lovely woman, who is a teacher at the school I'll be working this year.  

That in itself was a blessing, I met a lot of the teachers at the school, the bilingual coordinator, the director of the school... And everyone was sooo wonderful!  I spoke with Raquel and had a really good conversation with her about the possible situation and everything sounds very reasonable.  I think it is going to be a great experience...

So, the plan is to meet her again tomorrow at her house, to see where I will be living and meet her boys!  I am excited for the new journey (and what seems like the ideal situation).  There are still a few more things that I need to do in the meantime - print out paperwork, make copies, pick up my bank card, and go to my TIE appointment (to apply for my residency card) - but I recognize that I am in a really good place right now.  

The only "glitch" in my living situation is that Raquel asked for a week before I move in - and we have to be out of the hotel by Wednesday (unless I want to pay to stay a couple more days - which was a pretty definitive "no").  I decided, in the end, that I would make the most of my break between Wednesday and Saturday to travel back to the first city I ever truly experienced in Spain - Salamanca.  I booked a bus to and from there and a hotel for when I am there.  I decided that, since I won't be putting down a security deposit or needing to pay rent, it is a good way for me to spend that time (since I'd be paying to live somewhere for those three days anyways, why not make it a place that I'd like to go and see again??).  

In the meantime, I will finish working on all the final paperwork and appointments as I look forward to my first adventure outside of Madrid.  Feel free to check back and hear more about the upcoming excitement!  Until then, ¡buenos viajes!

(Is. 41:10)

A look back at the week...

IMG_0043(The Crystal Palace, as the sun is starting to set, in Retiro Park.  Fun fact, at one point Retiro park was only open to royalty - that's a lot of beautiful space for a very small group of people!)

(The "center" of Madrid, located in Sol.)

(My "café con leche" in a local coffee shop, where my orientation group stopped before heading to watch Flamenco!)

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