We asked Dreams Abroad members five things that they would do differently if they were starting out on their adventures now. After a year working as an auxiliar (language assistant) in Moralzarzal, Spain, here’s what Amanda had to say:
WHAT I KNOW NOW
Here are five things that I know now about working as an language assistant:
1. It was my experience with CIEE in Argentina that led me to choose them for my Spanish adventure. CIEE is a non-profit company that allows students and teachers to become United States ambassadors. Let’s all just take a brief moment to laugh about the “non-profit” aspect of that. I put two grand on a credit card thinking that was my ticket out of the US once more. CIEE is a middleman and provides support to people wanting to become a language assistant in the likes of Madrid.
Little did I know that the Ministerio de Educación accepts language assistant applications for potential candidates at no cost to many regions in Spain. Pretty neat. So that’s probably my number one thing I would do differently. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have used CIEE’s mostly stellar support system, but it would have been really nice to know about this other option.
2. This Facebook group will help you with housing, finding work, legal advice, you name it. It only applies to Madrid, of course, but there are other similar resources covering different areas if you search for them. I went about eight months without knowing that it existed, and it is awesome. Just, please, for the love of all that is holy, follow the rules and search in the previous posts. Chances are that if it hasn’t been discussed in that group already, you are living in a fairytale world where rainbow-colored unicorns roam on candy-coated mountains. Can I come?
3. When I first moved here, I discovered a little Spanish village I fell in love with and moved in. The rent was cheaper and the village was about 100x quainter than anything I had ever seen in my whole life. Was I right to move there? Absolutely not. Without a car, it is nearly impossible to get to the Madrid airport in the wee hours of the morning (cheapest flights) without a taxi (which would cost extravagant amounts of moolah). If you have friends in the city, or are wanting to travel, stay within the city borders of Madrid. Here is a little secret: you will fall in love with allllllll of the little villages in Spain. It is actually a constant struggle for me. Not long ago I was teaching in Mataelpino (Kill the Pine!), a little town in the mountains, and it took everything I had not to call my boyfriend right then and there and tell him that his commute to see me was about to get a lot longer. All, or most of them, have old-fashioned bakeries, cobblestone streets, beautiful mountain scenery, purer air, are cheaper to live in, tons of local festivals and have truly friendly atmospheres. All of which is directly opposed to the meth-riddled trap houses and racist-infested small towns in Oklahoma. I’m looking at you, Porum!
Helpful hint: Don’t be shy about taking on private students in the afueras (Madrid outskirts). From there you can explore those little villages without actually living there. Also, it helps to remind yourself that in the winter, those little towns cease to be anything but cold, sad little igloos where nothing and no one exists outside save to poke your head out once in a while or run to a bus stop to go somewhere warmer and more interesting. Remember, most of those perfect little summer villages around Madrid are in the mountains, and it is FREEZING in December. Sunny Spain? Not in the damn mountains during winter, it isn’t. Ahem!
4. Not only should you get a contract when you rent an apartment, you should make sure that it is valid. My current landlord had me sign an invalid contract and I only found out when I tried to register with the office to become an empadronado. This is a fancy legal term that means that you tell the bureaucrats where you live so you can get access to a few legal rights/benefits. In a few days when I go to get my deposit, hopefully she won’t try to mess me over!
Update: She didn’t, but there are tons of horror stories out there, so I consider myself lucky as usual. In fact with all the good fortune I’ve had, I am considering making ‘Lucky’ my middle name!
When I first moved to Spain, I moved to the pueblo of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Like a big ol’ dummy, I didn’t demand a contract. Three months later, I found myself working as an au pair, taking care of the world’s meanest seven-year-old while combating her demanding parents, all while working my day job so as to survive after having to leave suddenly and move elsewhere. An au pair position is a whole ‘nother can of worms with its own share of horrors and wonders, so we won’t get into that right now!
5. And finally, had I known that my one true love was over here, I would have gotten my butt in gear, saved up harder and faster, and come over quicker! This is cheesy, I know, but he’s super cute. We met on an application called Happn if anyone wants to know. It’s a cool little app that lets you see the people that you almost bump into daily.
Amanda was living her second year in the city center of Madrid with her boyfriend. She is teaching online courses and loving life! Amanda’s first segment explains the beginning of her travels leading up to her adventure in Madrid. Make sure to check out where Amanda is today!