Victoria Shover, Teach and Learn Leader 2014.
Your bags are backed for España and your mindset has long been adjusted to the wanderlust setting. With the belief that true happiness stems from realistic expectations, this blog post will apply three famous travel quotes to real life experiences to see the beauty of the roses and all it’s thorns. And hopefully with this inside scoop, upon your arrival and stay you will find Spain just as tough and crazy and beautiful as you (realistically) anticipated.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
Let this book that Augie references represent the documents and legalities that one should read before entering Spain. Such recommendations include:
El País – One of the most popular daily newspapers published in Madrid. In general, social culture in Madrid is very open and free flowing, except about personal information. Whereas in the states you might meet someone in a class, get coffee the next day and divulge your trials and tribulations, Madrileños prefer to comment on the weather, how late the bus is, current politics and especially “la Crisis” (Spain’s economic troubles). It’s difficult to find someone who isn’t open to chat and makes practicing your Spanish very easy! Best be up to date on what’s going on to participate. http://ccaa.elpais.com/ccaa/madrid.html
This goes hand in hand with reading your own national and local news as your future students love to ask you about common stereotypes like gun ownership, President Obama and how the unemployment rate. Knowing the laws of your state is handy in these situations.
Big Brother – Referring to the American government here. Regardless of your political beliefs, it’s a good idea to register with the Department of State to log your travel plans and information. In the case of a national emergency, natural or otherwise, you’ll receive instant updates and your loved ones will be able to more easily locate you. Don’t get paranoid about the government being able to locate you, trust me, they already know exactly where you are. https://step.state.gov/step/
“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi
Part of your wanderlusting may be the idea of assimilating into Spanish culture -you’ll never speak English, scoff at tourists and have more Spanish friends than you know what to do with. However, while it is important to love and embrace the incredible Spanish way of living (tapas, social life, art & architecture, really good looking policemen…) it’s just as important to remember from whence you came. While abroad you may be the first American a Spaniard has encountered and you are the one the rest of us are relying on to help build transatlantic relationships.
Also in the name of observation, while it may be tempting to use Spain as a launch board for traveling all over Europe, take the time to explore this beautiful and diverse country. There are 17 different autonomous regions (and FOUR recognized languages)! You’ll take note through your acute observations that Spaniards are most often loyal to their city, then their region and lastly to Spain as a nation. There’s a lot of background history that influences these tendencies and read up about the Franco Dictatorship if you haven’t yet. Super important to know.
This is a good page to learn more about the different regions and cultures within Spain: http://www.spain.info/en/consultas/ciudades-y-pueblos/comunidades-autonomas.html
“Everything I was I carry with me, everything I will be lies waiting on the road ahead.” – Ma Jian
50 lbs is the average suitcase weight allowed. Unpack, downsize, pack, repeat. The best travel advice I ever got: Before you leave lay out all your clothes and all your money on your bed. Then take half the clothes and double the money.
Also, congratulations! By deciding to pursue your Master’s with the Teach & Learn Program – Instituto Franklin – Universidad de Alcalá, you are truly challenging yourself by living on a budget, away from loved ones all while stressed from homework and lesson planning for the internship. However, along the way is a year’s worth of experience teaching English abroad, a new respect for organized educational systems and a group of really interesting people. My favorite part about the program one month has been learning the level of awesomeness demonstrated by my colleagues. Most have spent a good amount of time traveling the world and gaining valuable work experience, traditional and nontraditional. We all take this program seriously and are passionate about achieving our degrees.
In later blogs, there will be more specific secrets of success on how to face the challenges in and outside the classroom. But for now, stay updated on the news and keep your wanderlusting set of mind. Remembering why you chose this program will help to calm any stormy skies ahead.