Kyle Talbott is a fellow language assistant that works at the same school that I work at this year. He is a very charismatic person and is also very knowledgeable about the culture and history of Spain. He was even before starting this year! Because he is this way, I thought he would be the perfect person to speak about his first year in Madrid.
Why did you choose to move and teach in Spain?
“There were several factors that brought me to Spain. I studied Spanish language and literature in college, so living in a Spanish-speaking country was almost an inevitability. It would seem kind of senseless to spend all that time learning Spanish to not have a chance to put it to use! I also have tenuous familial connections with a Spanish family that lives in Alcala de Henares. However, I am not Spanish – not even European – but my family has a history in Spain that spans back to when my grandfather was stationed here in the sixties. Both my grandfather and my father were in Spain while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Lastly, living in Europe has been a goal of mine for many years. Spain just seemed like the natural choice given the above circumstances.”
What are your goals while you are here?
“I came to Spain with two goals: one was to find a way to stay in Spain for a few years. The other, more important goal, is to learn how to live differently. Living in Spain is sort of a daily adventure. The Spanish culture feels almost alien at times, and the rhythm of life here is distinctly different than in the States. My hope with coming to Spain was that being in this strange and interesting environment would open my mind to different sorts of lifestyles.”
Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field before you got into teaching?
“I had actually taught before coming to Spain. In the year and some months before coming to Spain, I was teaching two English as a Second Language classes at a small community college in North Carolina. I also taught an Adult Education/GED course for about six months. In fact, I took this position as a language assistant in order to get experience teaching children. I figure that if I am going to pursue a career in education, then I should broaden my experience with teaching people of all ages.”
What did you think teaching in Spain would be like? Where are you teaching?
“I am teaching in a small primary school called CEIP Antonio Osuna, in Tres Cantos. Tres Cantos is a small, middle class town about 30 km north of Madrid. I really only had one apprehensive about teaching here in Spain, and that was working with children. These are little kids too with an age range of 4-11. Before Spain I had not spent any significant amount of time around kids younger that about 15.
My understanding of kids was that they make a lot of noise and are generally dirty creatures. I had already taught before, so I knew that I could do that. I knew that my job assisting another teacher would be drastically less demanding than teaching a course myself. Happily, the anxiety I initially felt about working with kids has dissipated. Actually, most days, I enjoy some of them. Other days I enjoy none of them, and one day I am sure that I will miss them.”
Why did you choose to teach abroad and why did you choose Spain over other countries?
“Ok, full disclosure, I had many reasons to leave the states that had been accumulating for quite a while. Primarily however, I just had to escape from the country that just elected Donald Trump as president. That may amuse, offend, or confuse you, but, that is the naked truth. As I said before, Spain was the natural choice for living abroad if I was going to be in Europe. I was also just curious to live in Europe. I wanted to understand how people in Europe relate to one another socially and politically, relative to how we relate to each other in the States. In conclusion, I had a desire to live abroad ever since I started college in 2012. Once Trump was elected, that desire transformed into an imperative.”
What are your perceptions of Madrid so far?
“I want to start by saying that Madrid is a fantastic city! There is literally something for everyone in this city. Personally, I enjoy city life, so Madrid is a good fit for me. My only problem with Madrid is its small size. Being small is not necessarily a problem, unless you try to cram 3 million Madrilenos into the same small city. It is the 9th most densely populated city in the European Union, but it wouldn’t be if the city were not so tiny. Living in a densely populated city means you are always dealing with crowds, and personal space as you know it is impossible to maintain. I have only lived in the center of Madrid since being here, and this is probably why I am focused on the crowd sizes. In the next year, I want to move further away from the center where I hope to enjoy Madrid even more!”
What has been the most difficult since you arrived?
“Honestly, it’s the little differences between life in the States and life in Spain that I find most frustrating. For instance, maybe only around half of the businesses are equipped to take credit/debit cards; for some reason there are only six kinds of topping combinations for pizza in the whole country; copious amounts of bread is served at every meal and in between meals; stores don’t open until 11 or 12 on regular working days; the whole country seems to regularly go on vacation simultaneously and then nothing at all is open; and lastly, the Spanish put as much milk into their coffee as they do coffee.
Sadly, flavored coffee creamer is something you are just not going to find in Spain. Aside from these minor frustrations, I would have to say the amount of walking required to live in Madrid has been difficult to adjust to as well. I can confidently say I have done, by far, more walking in the last 4 months than I have in the past 4 years! On the one hand walking is better for my health and the environment than driving, on the other, walking is tiring and time consuming.
Teach in Spain and Get a History Lesson
For me, a history buff, I enjoy sightseeing and touring museums the most. So, my most memorable experience would definitely be seeing the Amphitheater and Circus Maximus in Mérida. Both date back to the time of Christ, and both are amazingly well preserved. It might sound completely uninspiring to most, but seeing and touching these monuments puts you in touch with everyone who has done the same over the centuries! Imagine, someone living in 1502 was vacationing in Spain and visited Merida. Even in 1502 these structures were over 1,400 years old! Now, imagine all the people who must have visited these monuments just in the 5 centuries between his visit and mine! This feeling of solidarity that you have with people who may have lived centuries ago is something that I find to be just endlessly romantic.
I have also very much enjoyed the Spanish people. They have a very generous and practical nature in general, and many of them have invited me into their homes. I have had several Spanish feasts that I am likely to never forget. Admittedly, I am sometimes intensely annoyed by certain cultural practices of theirs, but, I find them to be fascinating, if not a perplexing people.”
Kyle has hit the ground running with his time here and to teach in Spain. I know that he is staying for at least one more year to pursue a Master’s Degree. I hope to hear more about his adventures in Spain and beyond!