6 Things I Wish I Packed to Teach English in Madrid
Packing for your life abroad can be one of the most daunting and difficult parts of the process. Most of us are packing our entire lives into just 2 or 3 suitcases (and that’s terrifying!). While I was beginning to pack away my things, I had the mindset “less is more” and “I can just buy them once I get there”. Don’t think this way! Moving to Spain, in itself, can be costly, with the visa fees, CIEE program fees, the flight, and a lot that adds up along the way (especially if you arrive for the first orientation, which is two months before receiving your first paycheck). Paying for one extra bag might actually be cheaper than buying things you need there. Odds are you'll be needing another bag to bring extra things back home after the nine or ten months anyway. I’ve been living in Madrid for over a month now and there have been many things I wish I had brought. So here are the things I have wanted the most:
1. Comfy Shoes
Madrid is a very walkable city. You’ll easily be walking for hours a day, especially during the first week of orientation. You might also find yourself standing for hours at a time at your schools, walking 20 minutes to the metro, and then standing on the metro for an hour and a half (the metros can get packed). I don’t think there has been a day so far in Madrid where I haven’t walked over 12,000 steps. Of course you can find shoes easily in Madrid, but you’ll probably be wanting some comfortable shoes before you have the time to go shopping.
2. Pictures (or something homey)
Even if you don’t think you’ll get home sick, the first few weeks in Madrid can be overwhelming and exhausting, socially and physically. I recommend having some things to remind you of home, whether that be your friends, family, pets, or a place. When I was packing up my things, I made the decision to leave my pictures in the US, as I was afraid of damaging or losing them and thought “I can just print some there”. There are definitely places to print pictures here, such as at a Papeleria, but I recommend having something with you from home, such as a meaningful bracelet or a gift from a friend.
3. A travel coffee cup
It's not typical for people to bring a drink with them on the metro… even water! I think I have yet to see someone drinking water on the metro (which doesn't stop me!). I have seen a few people in the early mornings with coffee, but it is definitely not as common as it is in the US, making it more difficult to find a travel mug while here. Your commute to school could be up to an hour and a half (sometimes even more), which could mean waking up at 6am. If you’re a coffee drinker, like I am, I strongly suggest bringing a travel mug.
4. A portable charger
With long commutes, tutoring after school, and social events, you might be out of the house all day. Your phone might also be your way of navigating Madrid and you don’t want to get stuck without it. I still don’t have a portable charger and I’ve been getting by with bringing my regular charger everywhere, but it’d definitely be easier with a portable one.
5. An E-reader
I brought two books with me to Madrid and now am eager for another. There are plenty of bookstores (even an English one), but the prices can add up quickly. There are also libraries where you can get a library card (all you need is your passport), but there will mostly be Spanish books. It can also be difficult to pull out a book on the metro. An E-reader takes up less space and is convenient for travel. With the amount of time you’ll be traveling throughout Madrid, you’ll be wishing you had something more than your phone to entertain you. With that said, however, there are places to buy E-readers, but I have found it’s cheaper to order one from amazon (which may require sending it to a dropbox).
6. Warmer Clothes (more clothes in general!)
“I can just buy them once I get there” is what I was thinking while packing. There are affordable ways to buy clothes in Madrid, but the costs add up quickly when you’re living on 1000 euros a month. Plus remember it can get cold in Madrid throughout the winter.
What do you miss the most while being abroad? Most people say peanut butter, flu medicine, or pancakes. The thing I miss the most while being overseas are my dogs! This blog post is how I try to see the positives while missing my furry friends back in the states, and making some new ones here in Spain!