So it may have come as a huge surprise, but I actually moved to SPAIN!
Ah yes. España, the land of paella and siestas. At least that’s all I knew about the country when I first arrived. I’ve never really thought about Spain that much before in my life, except when we studied it in Geography or History class. Spain has always been an unknown country to me that I figured my ancestors came from once upon a time.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I like things a certain way. I constantly need to know what’s right in front of me at all times. I’m not the type of person to make risky decisions and I don’t like venture off into the unknown. I’m a control freak, to say the least, so it’s crazy that I moved to a completely different country. And how I randomly selected a country I didn’t know much about?! Yep… that doesn’t sound like me at all.
But that’s exactly what I did.
I have been planning this move since August of 2017 and the time finally came to grab my boyfriend, pack a suitcase, and catch an 8-hour flight to Spain. I ended up settling into a town called Castellón de la Plana right on the coast of the region of Valencia. I’ve just finished up my first two weeks living here and I’m finally ready to share the story of how this all happened.
You might be wondering what exactly brings me to Spain in the first place… and how I’m able to live here and support myself. It’s all a pretty interesting story and I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.
Auxiliares de Conversación
I actually accepted a position to live and work abroad as an auxiliar de conversación — also known as a North American Language and Culture Assistant.
So what even is that?
I honestly had no clue what it was until this email from my university floated into my inbox one day completely out of the blue:
“The Education Office of the Consulate General of Spain in Miami is pleased to contact you with regard to the Spanish Ministry of Education’s sponsorship for
openings for U.S. and Canadian Language and Culture Assistants in the region of Valencia (Spain) for the school year 2017-2018.
There are nearly 1,000 positions available in elementary schools all over the region for university graduates or undergraduate students who comply with the requirements in the attached document.
Assistants will get a minimum monthly stipend of 1,000 EUR (1,115 US $ approx) and will also be provided with medical insurance. The duration of the program is from January, 2018 to June, 2018 .
The assistants will work in close connection with experienced Spanish teachers and are meant to collaborate mostly in teaching English oral skills. They will have the opportunity to learn about the Spanish language and culture and use their experience upon their return to the United States or Canada, thus helping to develop cultural understanding between the citizens of Spain and the United States of America and Canada.
The Valencia region is situated on the Mediterranean coast.”
As soon as a read this email, I didn’t think much of it. It was just like every other study abroad email my university sends out. But then I found myself going back to it several times throughout the day. It was an opportunity to work abroad teaching English for 6 months. And it was paid for!
I felt drawn to this email somehow. When would I ever have the chance to do something like this ever again in my life? All I could think was that it’s possible I was meant to do something like this. That there was something more. Like this opportunity presented itself to me and I was supposed to just run with it.
I couldn’t know for sure what to do with this information. I brushed it off, but I eventually showed it to my boyfriend to see what his thoughts were on the whole thing.
Let me tell you… that is the most supportive, selfless, and kindest man out there. I told him I felt called by this opportunity and what was his response?
“Okay, let’s go.”
I was stunned that he was willing to leave behind his job and his family to follow me on this crazy adventure I just conjured up in my head in the course of a single day.
Just like that.
Getting To Spain
Getting here was no easy feat. Trust me. It took blood, sweat, and tears for us to finally set foot in Spain. There was drama, there were legal issues, money, lack of support… you name it. It was a headache and a nightmare. That is the honest truth. I will not tell you that it was simple because it is far from it.
The program itself is a bit disorganized. We didn’t receive any information about what city we would be placed in until basically the last minute. And it took a lot of work for us to be placed close together so that we would both have comfortable commutes to our schools. It was frustrating because the more time that passed, the more expensive flights got. Plus, we needed enough time to get our visas!
We spent countless hours calculating commutes, figuring out bus routes and basically viewing every aspect of the city on Google street view. There were many hoops we had to jump through with not much time left before we needed to start at our schools in Spain.
But nevertheless, we made it.
My First 2 Weeks
We landed in Barcelona and took a train ride over to Castellón de la Plana. It was my very first train ride and I was in awe of how awesome it was! We managed to ride first class because of a pretty sweet deal they were offering that day. Then, we settled into our cozy little Airbnb with the most amazing host (P.S. use my referral link to get $40 off your next trip!)
I was curious to see what life would be like in Spain and figured my Cuban roots and would help me get by in the Spanish department. I assumed it wouldn’t be that much different from home because so much Spanish is spoken in Miami. But I quickly realized how different it really was.
I had the first week off because it turns out my colegio was closed because of festivities. So we lucked out because it gave us time to get to know the lay of the land, test out bus routes, and begin our hunt for a flat. My partner was placed in a small town outside of Castellón named Vila-real and I got placed in another town nearby called Benicàssim. Both are absolutely beautiful! We kept in contact with the principals at our schools and they were more than helpful throughout the entire transition of us becoming auxiliares de conversación.
It was tough finding a fully furnished apartment that allowed us to rent for less than a year. So we looked at a handful of places until we landed on the gem that we now live in! We were without proper working wifi or tv for over two weeks but we did manage to set up Spanish mobile numbers and open bank accounts. We were ticking things off our to-do list like crazy!
All that was left was to actually start at the school. My first day was wonderful. I got a tour of the school and met many of the teachers that I would be working with for the next 6 months. Everyone in my school is so nice and extremely helpful. They were very understanding and helped a ton with getting adjusted to Spain. I spent my first week of school observing in the classroom, meeting new colleagues, and getting to know each student. I mostly just introduced myself a little bit and had the kids ask me questions about where I’m from. I didn’t have a proper schedule in place until later on in the week, so I mainly bounced around from class to class until I had a firm schedule of where to go. We also worked on paperwork and turning in final documents so that I could get paid.
I’m still working on getting into a routine and finding out exactly what their expectations are of me when I’m in classes. I’ve had so much fun getting to know the kids, reading stories, playing games, practicing English conversation and much more. The work is simple but it’s been extremely rewarding and I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months as an auxiliar will be like!