To apply or not... is that even a question??
It’s March... And the sun finally came out today (after a week of rain)! I was on a run the other day and I realized that I, and all those who arrived in Madrid to begin work in October, have been working as an auxiliar (English Language Assistant) for over 5 months now. It is truly amazing to think back on where we began and where we are now. One year ago I had yet to even apply for the CIEE Teach Abroad Program and now here I am. And I can only imagine where I will be in a few months time...
In mid-September I arrived in Madrid for CIEE’s Orientation. I was thrown into a week of information to help prepare us all for what would follow. There was information about banking, phone services, TIE appointments, housing, classroom lesson-planning and more... It seemed almost like a blur as we rushed from one thing to the next, getting ready to settle into life in Madrid. I remember getting my SIM card for my phone on day 1, deciding that communication was one of my top priorities at that moment. Later, we were given information about banking and various banks that would be easiest to work with. Another young woman and I in the program got up early one morning - before the day’s first session began - to be at the Banco Sabadell, closest to the hotel, as soon as they opened so that we could get our bank accounts set up right away and make it back to the hotel for when the session started. Everyone began the frantic search for housing, each in their own ways... some people had better (and faster) luck than others and those “others” found different methods of coping - whether staying with friends, booking an “air b’n’b” or a hostel, or widening their view of what the “perfect” place might actually look like or even considering options like being “au pairs” and living with a Spanish family.
The whirlwind of the first two weeks in Madrid is something that now makes me smile. I won’t lie, it was a little crazy and even, at times, a bit overwhelming. But, looking back, from where I am today, I’m glad I stuck with it! I have spoken to many different language assistants over the year. Some have, like me, had awesome luck with housing and have remained at their original location; other individuals have switched living situations (some have even switched multiple times).
I have made wonderful friends with the auxiliars and teachers at my school. I have even begun looking at Master's programs with a growing interest in bilingual education. I love the family that I live with and I appreciate the honest day-to-day immersion into the Spanish lifestyle and culture. I have travelled a bit (and still have more to see) and continue to learn a lot.
And so, as the time to apply (or re-apply) rapidly approaches, I will only say this: to spend one year (or more) teaching abroad will teach you a great deal about yourself. You may find courage you didn’t know that you had, or you may find yourself forced to face things you would have shied away from in your home country, you may find a passion for teaching or traveling or for a country and a culture that you would never have expected.
Whatever you find, it could change everything... if you are willing to try!