After I finished a year abroad as an au pair in Austria, I knew I wanted to keep traveling, and I knew my next destination had to be Spain. I had studied there briefly in college and had a decent grasp of the language. It seemed the best option for Americans was to be an English language assistant there. What I did not know was how exactly to go about it. There was so much contradicting information online and I didn’t know which option to pick. Luckily, through one of my Austrian friends, I got in touch with a girl who had done the language assistant program through CIEE and she gave me the scoop.
Here are the reasons I chose to work in Spain through CIEE:
Visa Support- One thing I learned from my time in Austria is that, while many people think being American gives us a privilege in all other parts of the world, getting a visa approved can be a nightmare. (Or as we call it in Spain, a pesadilla ;)). As I signed up for the program a bit late and didn’t know when I would have all my documents in order, I was a little late in making my visa appointment in New York. When I logged onto the system, they didn’t have appointments available until a week before I was supposed to leave! That was cutting it much too close. I was panicking. I was worried my dreams would be crushed and I wouldn’t be able to go. I reached out to CIEE and they spoke with the embassy and a couple weeks later, the embassy opened up a bunch of earlier appointments. It was a miracle. CIEE also gave me a list of exactly what documents were needed for which embassies, how to obtain them, and which types would be approved.
Organization- When I was first thinking of doing the language assistant program, I considered going directly through the ministry. The site was a maze and a bunch of the links I was clicking on were bringing me to 404 error pages. It was a mess. Spain is lively and exciting and incredible, but one thing it is not is organized. You’ll end up making appointments months in advance for government things only for you to arrive and find out you didn’t need one. They’ll change things up and not notify you. You’ll be denied somewhere because no one told you to bring a certain document. CIEE had organized everything for me so I knew exactly where I had to be and when, what I needed and who I needed to talk to. They’re a personal liaison.
Community- One thing I was nervous about when moving abroad was meeting new friends in a city where I didn’t know anyone. Through CIEE, I met some of my best friends. Two of my best friends here in Madrid are from my orientation group, the people I spent four days straight with at the very beginning. My other closest friends are my roommate from my immersion homestay and her current roommate. I can’t imagine what life would be like here without having them to travel with, attend new events with, make jokes with that only Americans would find funny, talk to about our students, or cry to when I’m having a crisis.
Hand-holding- I consider myself to be quite independent, but everyone could use a little hand-holding now and again. When you’re abroad, thousands of miles from your mom and you get the flu, you want someone you can call and tell you which doctors are available that work with your insurance and speak English. You also may want someone to tell you how to find an apartment and what the best neighborhoods are to live in, or how to obtain a metro card, or where the best shopping and restaurants are. CIEE hooked us up with all of this at orientation and they still remain available for help whenever we need it.
In the beginning, I had no idea how I would be as a teacher. I was worried that Spanish kids would be little monsters who would whisper mean jokes about me to each other in their own language, or make hideous drawings of me, or heckle me from the back during presentations. I soon learned though, that they’re some of the most affectionate, warm, hilarious little goobers I’ve ever met. I’m so grateful that I am getting to experience life here in Spain and I’m glad that I chose CIEE to help me through it!