Teach and Learn Survival Guide (part 6)


Semana Santa has come and gone, and here we are again for our final rendition of the Instituto Franklin’s Survival Guide. Some of you have reached out to me on Facebook to ask me about getting adjusted to life here in jolly old Madrid, and I could not be more flattered. By all means reach out to me for anything you might need, because there’s so much that I haven’t included in these publications simply because there isn’t time, and I have this blessed thesis to finish. My fingers can only type so much.

I actually tried to sit down and write this post weeks ago, but for the first time found it difficult to start writing. In the other posts I was bursting at the seams with insight and information and was so pumped to reach out to all of you, but now I’m feeling as though we need to sit and reflect on what this course has been and what it’s done for me and my fellow MA candidates. I will include some tips and information at the end, but for now let’s take a quick journey over these past months.

I arrived much earlier than everyone else did and settled into my apartment on July first of last year. I knew a few people from having worked with a massive group of Spaniards in New Orleans and from having been on vacation in Madrid years prior. I thought that I could just drive right into Madrid and that its arms would be wide open for me to settle into its ebb and flow, assimilating myself right into this ancient city I had come to love.

But it wasn’t like that, not even in the slightest. Madrid is fast and furious and I found myself having to dig myself a groove into its mountainside or be swept off the mountain completely. Once I did then I was fine, but it took me five months to learn to love Madrid and accept where I was. I’ll admit that I reached out to my family more than once in complete hysterics wondering what on Earth I had signed up for. How could a city that I loved so much be so hard to get into? I spoke the language fluently and was making huge strides and efforts to meet people. Wasn’t that enough? Our course started and I was making all A’s, but I just didn’t care. I wanted out and I wanted to go home. Madrid felt like a party I was only invited to as a plus one, always kept on the outskirts but somehow still being let in the door. You know when you get a diplomatic invite to someone’s wedding but you speak to neither the bride nor the groom so you sit in the back with your tempranillo and try to make friends with the bartender? That.

There’s a famous quote in Spain by writer Mariano Jose de Larra that says:

Escribir en Madrid es llorar, es buscar voz sin encontrarla, como en una pesadilla abrumadora y violenta.

Writing in Madrid is to cry, to look for your voice without finding it, like in a overwhelming and violent nightmare.

Alright, it’s a little morbid, and that writer didn’t exactly have a happy story either, but it’s a famous quote and you should know it. (Fun fact, you learn about this dude in your class with Carlos, who had better give me some props for showing that I learned something.) I heard this quote and just had an oh my gosh moment. That was it! Here was this sad young man who existed far before my great-grandparents were even conceived and he just summed up my entire feeling about Madrid. That’s the power of literature, y’all. Anyways, I digress: I just felt like for the first time in my life I had failed and that I was never going to be happy even though I moved here to further my already-established career, which is a positive thing to do for oneself–it’s not like I moved here to backpack across the Alps and blow all of my savings. I felt guilty for not having good news to send back home, and getting my wallet and phone stolen didn’t help either. I travelled, drank a lot of wine, and listened to a lot of Solange to try and push through but it seemed like I was lost in an overwhelming and violent nightmare in this busy city.

Much like good things, bad things come to an end, and something clicked. Madrid lightened up. Madrid let me settle into my mountainside groove. All of my paperwork cleared. I got my TIE (finally). Those A’s I was making all of a sudden tasted a lot sweeter. I began to walk quickly and proudly through Chueca with my legs pounding, head and chest held high like everyone on the runway around me. I went shopping and turned into a citizen of where I was. I even joined the gym and started going to church again, and I noticed that all of my fellow MA candidates had gone through this shift from stress to bliss too. We started becoming actual friends too, all of us. Truth be told I pitched this blog to Carlos because I wanted you all to know that this program is a difficult thing to do. Moving to a new country and managing yourself along with an onslaught of new responsibilities and demands that you may not feel prepared for is very difficult. Throw in being in charge of students and it can seem like you are in a whirlwind that won’t stop spinning.

“Jonathan, dude, that’s all well and good but this is a downer and I just want to know how to find housing in La Latina.”

Okay, I know, but you need to know this too! And anyone who knows me, even my students, knows that I’m very thorough and no-nonsense, and you need to know that this is a big step that will be very taxing at first, but give yourself time to breathe, cut out your own groove, and grow with the city. Let yourself be changed by this experience and grow into a new and improved version of yourself. You are going to make it, and you are going to be great. Don’t I say it every week?

Now that my testimony is laid out for you to see, here are your final tips for your Instituto Franklin Survival Guide:

  1. Apply for your TIE through Instituto Franklin instead of doing it yourself.
    The TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) is your ID card that you have to have for literally everything. Without it you have to use your passport and that’s just a mess. It’s just easier on you and everybody to apply for the card through UAH. Turn in your paperwork to the office staff on time and you will get everything worked out. You have three months upon arrival to apply for your appointment, which the school will do for you. About two months after applying you’ll get your appointment confirmation with your date and time. Just go with all documents to the ID office and you will be fine. You will have instructions laid out for you in orientation. Be patient and remember that the Spanish bureaucracy is in no hurry. You’ll get it done if you do your part.
  2. Do not make any travel plans until you have finished orientation.
    Orientation isn’t just an overview of the program, but also the visa process and renewal of documents for those of you who have already been in Spain for a time. If you do not have your TIE you will have to get a document called a regreso so that you can show that you are an authorized resident of Spain with their TIE still in transit. Once you have the card you will be registered in the Spanish overall system and your life will be easier. With this card you can come and go from Spain as you please with no issue. Do not anticipate travel plans until you have been fully informed of what paperwork you need to get done before you even think about shipping off to Venice for the long weekend. You’ll also need the calendar to make your trip dates work. Just be patient because you’re going to have lots of breaks and make lots of friends with whom to travel.

Well, dear readers, that’s about all I have to give for this blog. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I am still available for anything you might need, so hit me up via email or Facebook if you want some more information on literally anything. I don’t think I’m allowed to make a post about my favorite bars, but I’ve got some good recommendations for just about everything in this city.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this bottle of wine and I are about to finish this thesis. One more month until the deadline!

Mil gracias y con mucho cariño.


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