I can already hear a collective groan of “FINALLY.” I’ve been in Spain for over three weeks and have been terrible at keeping in touch with everyone. I know, I know, I know. So here’s that blog you’ve all been waiting for (right?). Or maybe just my mom. Nonetheless, here’s the start of it all – my 10 months in Madrid.
First things first, I think I should backtrack and clue everyone in to what I’m doing, why I’m here, and even how my life has been since graduating (for some of you this is old news). My last year of college I was having doubts about grad school. I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to commit to, and after many chats with grad students (shout out to my PSC people!), I figured my best course of action was to hold off on grad school and get some real world experience. I spent a good part of early second semester (this past January/February) finding programs to apply to. In the end, I focused on Teach for America (TFA) and CIEE’s Teach in Spain program (hmm wonder what I ended up choosing…). After years of helping my friends with homework and being THAT kid in class, I think I finally realized that teaching was my path all along. Psychology will always have a place in my heart, and I can already tell my degree in it will be useful in my future teaching career.
So after a grueling application process with TFA, one in which I started feeling like I didn’t quite fit into their program, I switched gears and focused on applying to CIEE’s teach abroad program. Applying to teach in Spain was a no-brainer for me considering I minored in Spanish and have always wanted to be fluent. At this point though, it still felt like such a distant and abstract thing in my mind. As if I were applying “just for fun,” and it wouldn’t really happen. With my application completed, it was just a waiting game. And I didn’t actually have to wait that long. I got an email while sleeping on a strange bunk bed in a condo in South Padre Island during Spring Break that I had been accepted! I immediately called my parents and breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t be unemployed following graduation.
QUICK INTERRUPTION: Basically CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) works with the Spanish government to employ native English speakers as Language & Culture Assistants or auxiliares de conversación. The government places auxiliares in primary and secondary schools within the community of Madrid. Keep in mind this means outside the city center too. Many schools (I’m not sure if all) are bilingual schools, which means that students learn some of their subjects in Spanish (e.g. math, Spanish language) but others in English (e.g. history, science). Auxiliares are basically English language teaching assistants. We don’t lead classrooms but instead provide support in terms of authentic cultural input and native pronunciation. Okay that was not a quick interruption, but feel free to ask me any other questions you have!
Anyway, senior year came and went, I graduated in a somewhat anticlimactic ceremony, and lost my title of student (which I still haven’t come to terms with but hey I can always face debt and be a student again). I stayed in Columbia for two more months to keep working at my job at a psychology clinic and to stick around a little longer with friends. From the middle of July onward was tough. I said goodbye to some amazing people in Columbia and had no idea when I would see again. Then less then a week later the process began to move again – this time my parents to California. I had to say goodbye to my hometown of 13+ years and some of my best friends. In my classic way of coping, I was completely unemotional. My powers of denial even impressed me. It didn’t hit me until I had to take that last look out the window to the backyard that I processed what was happening.
August was basically spent unpacking boxes, being baffled that a box full of decorations was labeled “kitchen items” because it had a blender in it, running errands with my mom, dealing with an extremely anxious dog, and living without a car and wifi while still trying to get my online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course finished on time (cue eye-roll at my first world problem). I was pretty much in denial by the end of August that I was actually going to Spain, and since packing is one of my top 10 most hated things, I obviously waited until my last days in the U.S. to pack.
So after telling you all of this, you’re still not satisfied because “she hasn’t told us a single thing yet about being in Spain!” But I gotta keep your interest somehow, so stay tuned!