We asked fellow Dreamers Abroad five things that they would do differently if they were just starting out on their adventures now. After finishing one year teaching as an auxiliar in Moralzaral, Spain, here’s what Amanda had to say:
WHAT I KNOW NOW
Here are five things that I know now:
1. It was the trust that I had put in CIEE during my Argentinian adventure that directly led me to choose them when I finally decided that it was time to make Spain! happen. They are a non-profit company that allows students and teachers to become United States ambassadors all around the world. Let’s all just a take brief moment to laugh about the ¨non-profit” aspect of that. I put 2 grand on a credit card thinking that they were my ticket out of the US once more. CIEE is a middle-man and they provide support to people who are wanting to obtain an auxiliar position in Madrid, Spain. Little did I know that the Ministerio de Educación accepts auxiliar applications for potential candidates at no cost to many regions in Spain. Pretty neat. So that’s probably my number 1 thing that 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. There’s the link below for those of you who are interested.
2. This link will help you with housing, finding work, legal advice, you name it. It only applies to Madrid, of course, but there are others similar to it if you search for them, key word ¨auxiliar.¨ I went about 8 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 fairy tale world where rainbow-colored unicorns roam on candy-coated mountains. Can I come?
3. When I first moved here, I fell in love with a little Spanish village and immediately set about moving there. And why not? The rent was cheaper and the village was about 100x quainter than anything I had ever seen in my whole life. Should I have moved 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 in the city. 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, 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 (as 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, a.k.a the outer zones of Madrid. There you will be able to truly take advantage of and get to know those little villages, and you won’t have to live there full time to do it. 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 awhile or run to a bus stop to go somewhere warmer and more interesting. Remember, most of those perfect little summer villages in Madrid are located 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 your contract 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 empadronado. This is a fancy legal term that means that you tell the bureaucrats where you live so that you have 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. Speaking of the word lucky, I have used that word so much in these two posts that maybe I should make that my middle name. Hmm. Interesting thought.
When I first moved to Spain to the pueblo of San Lorenzo del Escorial, I didn’t demand a contract like a big ol’ dummy. Three months later, I found myself working as an au pair taking care of the world’s meanest seven-year-old and her demanding parents in addition to working my day job as a way to survive due to having to leave suddenly and move elsewhere. However, being an au pair is a whole nother can of worms entirely with its own shares of horrors and wonders so we won’t get into that for 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 came over here 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.
P.S. Download the apps Blablacar and Moovit. Between them and google maps, you should be set in getting around efficiently.
Amanda is 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. http://www.dreamsabroad.org/my-story-amanda/
Stay tuned for more posts!