Before I left for Spain, I was very excited, but also very nervous. I didn't know where I was going to live, what my job would be like, or what would happen if I got sick abroad. Here's some reassuring advice I wish someone told me before I left for Spain.
1. You WILL find an apartment.
My biggest anxiety going into this trip was finding an apartment. I really didn’t know where to start, and that was scary. However, at CIEE orientation that gave us many resources, tips and even little neighborhood tours to assist us with finding the perfect apartment.
Here’s my best piece of advice. Use the website idealista, and be looking for an apartment as soon as you aren’t jet lagged anymore. Also, you should send out lots of messages to landlords. I sent out about 20 messages, and I heard back from 4 landlords. Then, from those 4, only 2 invited me to see their apartment. I’ve heard that they are more likely to respond when you use Spanish, so try your best with whatever language skills you’ve got.
Also, when touring an apartment, if something seems weird, trust your gut, because it usually is right. Don’t just choose a place just because it’s available and they are offering. Make sure everything in the lease is legal, and under no circumstance sign a lease that allows the landlord access to your apartment at anytime. This is not allowed!
It’s much easier to keep looking for apartments, then to move halfway through the year because of landlord or other problems. Take a deep breath, use idealista, and trust your gut. You will find a great apartment in the city!
2. Going to the doctor isn’t scary!
My goal for this trip was never to need to go to the doctor/hospital in Spain, but that unfortunately changed when last week I had a nasty sinus infection. I was a little intimidated to make an appointment and see a doctor in Spanish. However, I found a way that you can see an English speaking doctor, and make the appointment easily.
To make my appointment, I used a site called TripMedic. This site was great for me, I made a doctors appointment for the next day, and it was very easy to use. There is a 50€ fee for using Trip Medic seeing the doctor, but you can get reimbursed later by your insurance.
Here’s what to do: Enter your city as Madrid. Then, choose “general consultation” for your reasoning and make sure you select “English speaking” for your doctor. Then, you will able to scroll through some options of doctors available. I chose Dr. Ruben Borras, and I would highly recommend him. He spoke perfect English and gave me the medicine I needed to get better!
3. You really can do this job if you aren’t trained a as teacher.
I am not trained as a teacher in any way. I enjoy being around kids, but I have no idea about lesson planning, teaching strategies, or classroom management. I was anxious to go into a job where I really had no clue what I was really doing, and that I thought I wasn’t qualified for.
However, you CAN do this job if you can speak in front of others, are flexible, and have patience. The majority of what I do at s primary school is help with pronunciation. I spend a lot of time reading and repeating words, checking spelling, and talking to the kids. It’s pretty fun, and not as scary as I was expecting.
Another point of reassurance is that we are just language assistants. This means another teacher will always be in the room with you and will be helping you. Also, you don’t have to worry about lesson planning, that’s up to the teacher. They might assign you a certain lesson or activity to lead, but they will do so in advance. The best thing to do is simply ask your teachers, “what would you like me to do for you today?” It will get you far!
4. The commute is nothing to worry about.
When I first put my school into google maps, I was a little concerned. My school was about 25 miles outside of Madrid, and an hour commute each way! I wasn’t expecting this, and it was kind of a shock. However, I love my commute now! I ride for 40 minutes on a super comfy coach bus, and then walk for about 20 minutes to school. While it’s true that it’s an hour both ways, I have found ways to be productive on the bus such as blogging, practicing Spanish, reading or watching Netflix. It’s a nice, relaxing part of my day that I kind of look forward to now.
Don’t be worried if your school seems far away from Madrid. The average commute for a CIEE participant is about a 40-60 minutes one way. The busses are great and you will learn to make the most of it!
I hope this advice eases your anxieties about coming to Madrid to teach abroad. While it seems scary now, it’s totally worth it!