Hey y’all! I think it’s finally time to give a little update about what’s been going on with me lately. So about 1 1/2 weeks ago I hopped on a plane and flew over to Madrid, Spain. The past 5 months of planning, getting a visa, talking with families, and so much more was finally all coming together! It was such an exciting moment. Before I was about to board my flight, I just sat there in the terminal staring at the tv monitor over the gate reading “Destination: Madrid” and thinking, “Wow, so this is really happening!”. I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but I my excitement outweighed my nerves.
Sooo why did I hop on a plane to Madrid? Well this semester is a unique time in my life. I was accepted into the nursing program at UT for fall 2019. That means that I can’t start those classes until fall and so since I am caught up on all my classes until the fall, I have some time that I can basically do whatever I want (because no class! yay). My parents can testify the second I knew this was the situation, I told them, “I’m going to Spain in the spring”. My dad’s response? “Sure, but how are you going to pay for that?” I told him not to worry because I had it all worked out. And what was my plan? Well I am working as an au pair. I had learned of the job from a friend who began working as an au pair recently. An au pair is someone hired by a family to watch their children, teach them a language (in my case English), and maybe do some household chores (depending on the family). Every au pair experience is different because every family has different desires as to what they get out of this experience. But in my case, I do the things listed above. In exchange for my work for the family, I get room & board and a small weekly salary.
I really love the idea of an au pair. I think it has so many great benefits for both the au pair and the family. For me, it was the perfect way to live abroad because I really love kids. Aside from working, I am also taking a spanish class at a local language school. Last week was my first week in class and I have liked it a lot so far. I am in level 1B (the levels range from 1A-3B) and having taken some spanish before in high school and college, I am happy with my placement in this level. My class has 8 students total which I love so much because the small group size really helps the learning. The whole class is of course in spanish and my teacher talks really fast (as most Spaniards do) so often I have trouble understanding her, but I know with time it will get easier. I think the biggest difference in this spanish class and the ones I took back in Texas is the speaking. In Texas, the classes usually consisted of the teacher talking at us/teaching us information and us taking it in. In this class, we speak a lot which is so important when learning a new language. Speaking is the hardest part (to me) about learning a new language and it definitely pushes you out of your comfort zone to try and form sentences that might not be correct. But how will you ever learn if you don’t try? So in my class we have a lot of discussion and question/answer where we get to practice speaking.
Another big difference in my class here and back in Texas is one word: vosotros. Every time I ever took a Spanish class in Texas whether it be in middle school, high school, or college we were always told not to worry about knowing vosotros or any of the verb conjugations for vosotros because we don’t use that in the Spanish we speak in Texas. Yes, this fact is true but it’s not fun when you’ve been told all your life not to learn vosotros and then you come study in a country ( the only country I believe?? sorry if I ‘m wrong about this) that uses vosotros and suddenly you’re expected to know all the verb conjugations for it. Luckily, vosotros is pretty easy to pick up the conjugations for, but still it’s a little frustrating we were always told in school to ignore it. Okay, rant over.
Another difficult thing is the word variation. In Texas, naturally we learn Latin American Spanish because we are closer to that region. But so many words in Latin American Spanish are different from Spain Spanish. Of course it’s not a problem, but it is a learning and adapting process that I am currently working on.
Moving on from the topic of spanish…public transit!!! Wow do I love public transit. The metro here in Madrid is the easiest to navigate I have ever experienced. New York’s metro was more difficult to navigate and that was in my first language. I have a monthly public transit card that only costs 20 Euros/month. The metro/train/bus/etc can get you basically anywhere in Madrid and the stations are clean & well-kept. I am very impressed. The only time I hate the metro is when I have to stand squished against people during rush hour in the mornings. But the days I find a seat and get to sit and read my book for 30 minutes are good days.
Spain: Fact or Fiction
People eat dinner at 10PM: Fact
I really couldn’t believe people ate dinner this late, but it’s true. It will be midnight and restaurants will be full and it still blows my mind. But honestly I’ve gotten pretty used to it. Typical lunch time here is around 1:30-2:30 and dinner around 9:30-11:30.
Stores close for 2 hours in the afternoons: Fact
I had heard this statement as well that stores close in the afternoons so people can take siestas (naps). Taking siestas isn’t really the reason stores close, but it’s true that lots of places (especially those in downtown) close from about 2:30-4/4:30 every day and reopen for the rest of the night.
Spaniards are super fashionable: Fact
Spaniards have the best fashion!! I love just people watching wherever I am at to see what people are wearing. There are some awesome clothing stores here that I have been spending way too much time and money on recently. But, to my justification there are amazing sales going on right now in all the stores! For the entire month of January there are enormous sales going on throughout all of Spain. So of course I am taking advantage of that and snagging some deals.
Madrid is expensive: Fiction
In my opinion, Spain is really not an expensive place to live. Of course, anywhere that is a tourist trap is going to be expensive but if you can find the local places everything is usually cheap or at least reasonably priced. My best find so far has been a little pastry stand in the metro that sells pastry and coffee for only 1 euro each! It’s my morning routine now to buy a chocolate croissant from that stand on my way to class (I would feel bad for spending money every day, but it’s only 1 Euro so really how much harm is being done?). If anything, it’s an excuse to get rid of my change (;
Most people live in apartments/flats: Fact
My host family lives in an apartment in a suburb of Madrid about 30 minutes south of the city center. In America, it’s very common to have a house and usually people see living an apartment as a precursor to moving to a house (not always, but a lot of the time), but here in Spain almost everyone lives in apartments. I haven’t seen one house yet. Of course, there are houses but at least here in Madrid it is very uncommon.
Finally, I have a few more things to say before I close this out! So far, everyone has been very nice and helpful. My host family is just the sweetest and I feel like I got so lucky to be with such an awesome family! Taking care of the kids can be exhausting and challenging at times (as would be expected), but at the end of the day I love what I am doing and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I am finally starting to settle in here and know my way around. It already feels like home. I’ve wrote in the past that I feel like I have so many places around the world that I can call home and I’m so happy to get to add Madrid to that list of places that I call home.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or anything in particular you want me to write about with regards to living in Spain in the future. Hasta Luego!
Texan On The Go