1. Teaching English – I have always wanted to teach, but I
did not want to go through all the red tape needed in the United
States just to decide if I really like teaching. Teaching English
as a foreign language (TEFL) is a great option. After a month
long intensive course, a person is qualified to teach.
2. Learning Spanish – Spanish is the second most spoken language
in the United States. In college, I asked my father what he
would study if he was me. The quote burned into my psyche is,
“If I had a choice of what to study, it would be computers or
Spanish.” I did the computer gig for five years so decided that
I would follow up on the Spanish now. My hope is that I will
have the option to one day go back to the United States and
get a job using Spanish.
3. Traveling Europe – I could have chosen a location like Costa
Rica or Guatemala, but I have always wanted see what is like
to live in a European country and to travel through Europe.
Since Spain is the only part of Europe that I could teach English
and learn Spanish, the choice was easy.
Now that is narrowed down to a Spain, how did I choose Madrid?
I was initially thinking Barcelona since it is the closest major
city to the rest of Europe that I knew of. After researching,
Barcelonans speak Catalonia in addition to Spanish. That is
all I need…two languages that I do not know! Through my research
I found a school with an impressive website – Canterbury English.
The school was located in Madrid. It was perfect for me for
several reasons: association with the Garcia Lorca Spanish School,
one month intensive TEFL program, guaranteed employment after
completing the class, library with internet and copy machine,
and the Canterbury Social Club. After sending a few emails to
the director of studies, I was convinced that Canterbury was
it for me.
I applied and was amazingly accepted the next day for the Spanish
course starting October 24th and the TEFL class starting the
following month. I had three weeks to pack what I was not selling
in Dallas where I lived, take some personal belongings to my
parents’ home in Arkansas, take my car to brother in North Carolina,
get traveler’s checks, book a plane ticket, book a hostel, and
try to find a permanent place to live.
Everything was done! I was on the plane and ready for my grand
adventure. I did not sleep much on the flight over – maybe 1
hour or so. I felt myself getting a little bit of a sore throat
which is normal for me when I do not get any sleep. When I arrived
to the Barajas Airport, one of my bags was lost. Welcome to
Madrid with open arms! I had to fill out the paperwork with
an employee from Iberia Airlines who did not speak much English.
I realized that this could be quite a difficult experience until
I learned enough Spanish to somewhat communicate. Through my
first weekend, my sore throat evolved into that Madrid cold
that is so tough to get rid of. I absolutely felt like someone
had beaten me with a sledgehammer. My sleeping schedule was
really off from the jetlag. My walking shoes were in my lost
bag so I was wearing my dress shoes. After wearing my dress
shoes for a couple of days, my feet began to hurt. They hurt
on and off for the next 2 weeks. That is not good because all
you do is walk in Madrid. I had to limit my walking. My legs
and my butt also hurt because I was not used to all the walking.
I was not eating either because I was so intimidated to go into
a restaurant and ask for food since I did not know any Spanish.
I did not know numbers, names of food, anything. And this will
for sure happen; you will definitely step in dog poop. Dogs
have nowhere to go but on the sidewalk. If you are not looking
for it, you have really good chances to step right in it.
So now are you feeling sorry for me yet, or are you thinking
that I am wimp? I told you all this for two reasons: some of
these things are going to happen to you, and you are not the
only person that will go through the adjustment to a new country.
I am a very optimistic person so let me leave you on a positive
note. I knew that there would be an adjustment to arriving in
Spain, but I had my mind made up that I was not leaving until
I was dead or knew Spanish and taught enough English to decide
if I wanted to pursue it as a career. Most importantly, I kept
a positive attitude through the whole saga.
My bag with my walking shoes and other clothes did finally
arrive! My hostel Cat’s Hostel was awesome! They were recommended
on www.hostelworld.com as the best hostel in Madrid - internet,
clean, decent location, bar inside, and more than helpful staff.
My legs have gotten very used to walking everywhere. It is definitely
keeping me in good shape. I got over the jetlag in about a week.
After two weeks and fourteen packages of Halls cough drops,
I kicked the cold. I know enough Spanish now to get what I need,
order food, and do most simple things. I have gotten to meet
some extremely cool people in my Spanish and TEFL classes. We
will meet out for drinks or a social activity. Canterbury has
a great welcoming committee for people new to Madrid. I have
not stepped in dog poop since the first time. I think that I
have developed a sixth sense. I can not step in if I tried now.
(Next week I will probably regret saying that!)
The following tips should be helpful for newbies to Madrid.
I chose the academy that I was going to attend by their website.
If you cannot go and see the location itself, the website and
email correspondence is the best measure. Pretty simple – if
they take pride in their website, they take pride in their school.
I suggest arriving at least, at least, one week before starting
classes to just get acclimated to the new environment, get over
jetlag, learn your way around the city, and find a permanent
place to live.
Get a cell phone immediately. The Gran Via area has a few cell
phone stores where they speak English if needed.
Use an apartment locator service to assist you in finding a
flat especially if you do not know Spanish very well. It is
well worth the normal 50 euros that they charge.
If searching for an apartment/flat without a locator service,
it is different in Spain. Hundred of apartments turn over every
day. The internet and email are not the most efficient way to
research. The Segundamano is the best source which is the daily
newspaper. Use your cell phone to call. Have your security deposit
and first months rent when you go to see a place. Money talks.
If you need to buy something, Spaniards normally do not care
if you can speak Spanish or not because they are going to make
some money out of the deal. If you get turned down, go down
the street. The same type store is very close.
It takes longer to do things than estimated. In general, Spaniards
have a very relaxed attitude and do not get into a hurry over
much. Additionally, Spaniards really do take siesta, and it
can prevent a person from getting things done at times.
Have an open mind. Your lifestyle is going to change. For example,
the ratio of bars to Madrilenos is one bar for every 143 people
in Madrid. Going out for tapas is part of the culture. It is
not uncommon for people to be out until 8 am the following morning.
Forty percent of Madrilenos smoke, and it is permitted in almost
most public places.
Attitude is the key. Everything can be an adventure if you
make it one. It all depends on how you want to receive it. So
pack your bags and come to Madrid. The experience is waiting
Part 2: The Wrap Up!
In this article, I plan to tell you what I did over the year since
the article that I wrote a few months ago, some experiences that
I have had, and some advice to newcomers from a one year veteran