Oh hey there friends! It’s been a while. I’ve been back in Spain for almost three months already which is quite the crazy thought. As most of you know, my first 10 months in Madrid just weren’t enough for me so I decided to renew my contract with my teaching program, BEDA, for another school year and I can assertively say that this was absolutely the right choice for me. So here’s a little update on what’s been going on on this side of the world!
MY RETURN TO MADRID
After a relaxing summer at home spending time with friends and family, working, and indulging in everything American that I had missed over the previous year, I boarded my flight back to Madrid on the 4th of September. Saying goodbye will never be easy, but the difference between this year and last year was like night and day. Last year I was feeling every emotion in the book: excited, sad, scared, anxious. You name it, I felt it. This year, though sad to be leaving home again, I couldn’t have felt more relaxed. I was flying back to somewhere familiar instead of into the complete unknown. After landing, I was able to navigate Madrid’s confusing airport like a pro unlike the year before when I felt so overwhelmed and lost. I was surrounded by people speaking Spanish again and instead of becoming so nervous that I could’ve vomited, it actually felt completely natural. Taking note of all of these differences between this year and last year put my mind at ease and reassured me that this was going to be a good year.
My first couple of days back in the city were a little strange. Since I decided not to renew my contract with my old apartment and the majority of my friends decided not to return for another year, it was weird walking around the city without having a real home to go back to or my old friends to meet up with. Those things aside, I was ecstatic to be back in Madrid and excited to see what this new year had in store for me.
The whole month of September was easily one of the craziest months of my life. I had booked my first five days in the same hostel that I stayed in last year while I searched for an apartment. Well, somehow those five days extended into a full month. The apartment hunt proved to be much more difficult this year. Last year I found my place after looking at three apartments in two days. This year, I had to look at nine places over the course of a week to find the one I liked. I was all set to move in on September 16th but it ended up falling through because the landlord was really strict and refused to let me move in without having a work contract (even though I had every other possible form of documentation that proved I could pay my rent every month). After a few moments of panic, I took a deep breath and continued on with my apartment hunt. I ended up contacting the woman who was renting out the apartment that I liked second best to see if the room was still available. It was! Woohoo for not being homeless anymore!
The only problem was that I couldn’t move in until October 1st- hence the whole living in a hostel for a month thing. Judging by people’s reactions when I told them how long I had been living in the hostel and sleeping in the same room as 11 other girls, it sounds like it would be a nightmare but I actually really enjoyed it! Yes, towards the end it was frustrating living out of a suitcase and not having any space to call my own, but I got to meet a bunch of different people from around the world and there was rarely a dull moment. It was actually a little sad leaving, but I was definitely ready to have my own room.
As I mentioned before, my apartment now was my second choice but that doesn’t mean that I’m not really happy with it! It’s a great apartment in my ideal location. The only reason I didn’t choose this place originally was because I loved the two roommates that I would have had in the other apartment. They were two Spanish girls who were the same age as me and we hit it off so well the day I met them that they texted me that night saying how much they wanted me to live with them. I hate that landlord for screwing it all up. But it might be a blessing in disguise because that apartment was reallyyy small and if the landlord was that strict from the start, I can’t imagine how the rest of the year would have panned out. So like I said, what matters is that I’m happy with the apartment I’m in now! Though my room is still small, it’s still about double the size of what that other one would have been. And I have the best of both worlds with the two roommates I have now. I live with an awesome girl from Long Island, Meagan, who is also here teaching English, and then we live with a Spanish woman, Vanessa, which is good because we still get to speak Spanish in the home. So all in all, I’m pretty content 🙂
This year at work has been amazing so far. I’m at the same school as last year which is honestly probably the only reason I renewed with my program instead of switching to a different one. BEDA is a great program and I’ve been very happy with my experience in it, but the other more popular program through the Spanish government pays more, makes you work less, and guarantees you a three-day weekend. So although it’s hard not to be jealous of my friends in the government program whenever I hear what their schedules are, I just tell myself that if I wasn’t in BEDA I wouldn’t have my incredible school, and that in itself is worth the extra work and smaller paychecks.
With this being my second year at my school, the atmosphere has been awesome. I went into this year already knowing my students, the other teachers, and what is expected of me. Already knowing my kids has been my favorite part. Last year it took me forever to just learn their names because I had about 400 students and each one I only saw for 50 minutes every other week. This year I already knew their names and personalities so in general they give me much more respect and are more excited to talk to me than they were last year. In fact, the group of 15-year-old boys that were BEYOND disrespectful to me last year have actually been the sweetest kids to me this year and they’re much more cooperative (oh the wonders of sending the bad kids to the principal and calling home to Mom and Dad). The downside of getting to know my kids so well, though, is that leaving them in June will be so difficult. One of my students told me the other day, “next year you’re going to teach my sister!” and I had to tell her that I won’t be here next year–to which her response was a sad puppy face– which completely broke my heart!
In addition to the students I had last year, I also have seven new classes of students. Instead of teaching other professors after school (which were included in my hours last year), they decided to give me 5th grade classes instead. I got so used to teaching my older kids that teaching the younger ones has been interesting. They’re definitely crazier but I’ve enjoyed working with them because it’s not like my 10th graders are bombarding me with hugs whenever I see them haha so it’s been nice getting such a variety in the different age groups.
Returning for a second year has also been great because I already had private lessons lined up in the evenings, so I didn’t have to go looking for them. Tuesday evenings I give lessons to a mother of two of my students for an hour and a half. Wednesdays I continue lessons with the group of kids I had last year. For an hour I give lessons to four girls in 4th grade then for another hour I give lessons to four boys who are in the same class as the girls at their school. Thursdays I continue with the same private lesson that I had last year. I give an hour lesson to my student in 7th grade and then another hour to her brother in 2nd grade. So even though it’d be nice to have my evenings free, these private lessons end up paying for my rent and groceries for the entire month so there’s no way I can say no to that!
This year has been a lot different when it comes to traveling. At this point in time last year, I had already traveled to five different places. This year I haven’t even stepped outside the center of Madrid except for a couple shopping excursions in the suburbs. I traveled so much last year that it’s been great using this time to just enjoy living in Madrid.
But travel plans are on the horizon! Three weeks from today I’ll be departing on my winter break extravaganza! I guess I should use this time to break the bad news: I won’t be going home for Christmas after all. I know that I said I would go home this year no matter what because two Christmas’ away from home would be too hard, but when I returned to Spain in September I could instantly feel how much more comfortable I was here. Also, since the whole month of September was an absolute mess and it took me so long to get settled, I realized Christmas was quickly approaching and I wasn’t at all ready to go home again just yet. And I just couldn’t justify spending all that money on a flight home for such a short amount of time when the whole point of working so hard to save money was to put it towards traveling.
So instead, I’m using those two and a half weeks as another opportunity to cross off more cities from my bucket list! I’ll be traveling with my friend Lindsey again this year, as well as with her friend Angela. Starting on December 19th, we’ll be flying out to Geneva, Switzerland. After that, we’ll fly to Brussels, Belgium. On Christmas day, we’ll wake up in Brussels and hop on a train to the quaint Belgian town called Bruges. A few days later we’ll be taking a train to Amsterdam where we’ll be taking part in their epic New Year’s Eve celebrations. In the afternoon on New Year’s Day we’ll be flying to our final destination: Copenhagen, Denmark. Then on January 5th we’ll return to Madrid which will give us a couple days to relax and enjoy Los Reyes (Spain’s Christmas) before work starts again. I am SO excited for this trip. I didn’t think anything could top the trip Lindsey and I took last year over the holidays, but I’m happy to say I think this trip will give that one a run for its money 😉
Besides my winter break trip, I don’t have any others booked at the moment, but that will definitely change! There is still so much more to see in Spain and in Europe that I have to take full advantage of this year.
So that’s pretty much the end of the updates from the past few months! Hope I didn’t bore you too much, but I know some of you have been asking for a blog update. I’m happy to report that the start of this year has been great and that I completely stand by my decision to come back for a second year 110%. The first 10 months went by way too fast for my liking and I knew that I just wasn’t done with living in Spain and Europe. Staying another year has allowed me to grow a deeper connection with my job and this country and I know (or hope) that I’ll leave this year feeling as though I won’t have any unfinished business. I miss and love all of you at home and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I spent my second expat Thanksgiving with a couple of friends, patatas bravas, and a bottle of vino tinto. Tomorrow we’re going to have a more traditional Thanksgiving meal- pumpkin pie and all! As always, I am so thankful for my friends & family and for this incredible adventure that I have had the opportunity to experience. Now cue that Christmas music because the most wonderful time of the year is finally here again!! 🙂