How I Decided To Move To Spain

So I’m making the move to Spain in a month. How did it all begin, you ask?

Where It All Began

It all started with a conversation with my sister Tara 3 years ago, about a friend of hers who moved to Thailand to teach English for a year. Wow, what an amazing opportunity. I wasn’t really interested in Thailand and don’t know anything about it. After working in Mexico for a couple of months for a spring break company, I gained a real appreciation of the Hispanic people, language, and culture and I decided to check out what other countries did this “teach English” thing.

< Searching for the right program >Turns out, there are a couple of companies that do it all for you. For about $5000 they will get you a job, find you a place to live, and get the visa for you. I wasn’t interested in paying $5000, so I did some more research. Since I already had a background of a little Spanish (more like Spanglish), I put all my efforts into Spain.

That first week in April 2012, I found that the Spanish government runs their own program that is free to apply online called Language and Culture Assistants in Spain, where they hire native English and French speakers to teach at the schools or language academies throughout Spain. I was so excited and started to apply only to learn I missed the application deadline by 1 week. I contacted the Spanish consulate and asked if I could still apply or get on a wait list but they said no, it was first come first serve and my application number would be so high I’d never get placed. So I checked in every day for 10 months until the application period for the following year opened up and applied on day 1.

< Deep in thought >I applied to Madrid as my first choice and got placed in Madrid that following May, 2013! However, after a heart to heart with my boyfriend James and some advice from my parents, I decided to turn it down until I visited the country first and thought some more about how my age (29) would be a disadvantage. But I couldn’t get the opportunity off my mind, and kept thinking “what if”. This was something I had to do.

The Placement

< Costa del Sol >

Fast forward another year…March 2014. 1 week before the application period closed. Just for the heck of it, I applied again for my James and myself. The Spanish consulate wasn’t kidding that first year…my application number was high. Like 4200+ high. That means they had to place over 4200 people before they got to me. No wonder I didn’t hear from them in May. It shocked me to receive the email in early July though, and to land a job in Andalucía, the beautiful southern coast on the Mediterranean, in high demand among auxiliares! That wasn’t on my top 3 choices but someone must have backed out and I got to fill the spot. James, though, ended up in Castilla León, about 6 hours north of my small northern Andalucían town…he declined.

So then came the hard part…do I accept without him or turn it down again, after a third year of trying? Here’s where I started to get crafty. I emailed the Spanish consulate, who at first weren’t very helpful. But then they gave me a contact in Spain to try, and a day later they somehow placed him in my province. Wow! I don’t know how it happened, but problem solved. So now, we’re off to Spain!

< Lufthansa to Spain! >

Decisions, Decisions

Don’t get me wrong…it was a lot more intense decision-making than that couple of paragraphs. While my head was in the clouds, there were lots of eye-opening comments from others like: will you be safe; can you drink the water; will you have to stay if you don’t like it; are hostels safe; where will you live; you don’t speak the language in the foreign rural area you’re moving to; you don’t know anyone there, what if you get in trouble; what about health insurance and cell phones; you’ve never even been to Spain or Europe, how do you know you’ll like it? But if you want something badly enough, you will make it happen despite all the obstacles. So the question is: how badly did I want this?

The answer: bad. Is it worth it? Definitely.

< Life in Olvera, Spain >

Have you taught English abroad? Have you heard of programs like this? I’d love to meet fellow ESL-abroad teachers and hear your stories! Leave me a link to your story in the comments!

P.S. You might also like Upon Arrival In Spain and Why Is The Cultural Ambassadors Program A Good Idea?

2 thoughts on “How I Decided To Move To Spain

  1. Who did you have write the letter of recommendation for you?

    This sounds like an amazing opportunity…would you have still done it if you did not have a boyfriend tagalong? I’m guessing it helps to have someone there with you especially with the language barrier.

    Their website suggests you should have basic conversational fluency in Spanish, but is it not really expected? I did 3 years in high school and two semesters in college, but that was 10 years ago and like you it’s probably pretty Spanglish like… 🙂

    1. I had one of my former teachers write my letter of recommendation for me. I honestly don’t even know if they read 4200+ letters of recommendation in a foreign language 😉
      It definitely is an AMAZING opportunity. I had all intentions of going whether my boyfriend came or not. When I started going through the visa process, he realized I was serious and changed his mind to come, but I was going either way. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that no one should pass up for any reason! It did help to have someone there that I knew and that I could talk to, but the Spanish people are so warm and welcoming that I would have been fine by myself. The hardest part would have been calling the local internet company to set up my wifi haha.
      As far as basic fluency, you will be fine! I didn’t even take Spanish in college and I managed. Your first year, there’s a 99% chance you’ll get placed in a small town where only teachers in your school speak English, so it helps you to get around your town if you can say some basic phrases. Also, if you’re in the U.S. everything we learn is Mexican Spanish and you’ll be shocked at how different Spain Spanish is, but just having a Spanish basis makes it easier. The best way to learn is to completely immerse yourself in the language with no other option than to speak Spanish to get what you want, which is what happened to me. I had to go to a doctor in Spanish, go food shopping in Spanish, read bus schedules in Spanish, go to the pharmacy in Spanish, go to a tailor in Spanish…but the people there are much more accepting of foreigners than people in the U.S. are and they try to speak slowly and help (plus in small towns, your students are ALWAYS around and will help be your translator!) Also, once you do something once in Spanish, you will know how to do it in the future. Even in my tiny little town of 8,000 people, there was a group of about 100 English-speaking expats so I was able to find housing and get internet and firewood and everything with their help. I even found a local Spanish class full of British expats and taught by a local Spanish man – it was perfect! There are plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish and you will be fine as long as you have a basic understanding of Spanish verb conjugations. Definitely apply before the deadline in April!!!!!! You don’t have to accept but it’s a great opportunity and good to have in your back pocket just in case! I applied again for next year 🙂

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