So…I moved to Spain
An update to friends, family, and Internet strangers on what I have been up to the past month
My life has changed a lot in the past month. Four weeks ago I was living in Newport, Kentucky where I was working from home as a consultant for an analytics consulting firm. Two weeks ago I quit my job, sold most of my belongings, and boxed up the rest to store at my parents. And last week I packed two suitcases, a backpack, and my guitar to fly on a one way ticket to Spain. Today, I am sitting in a terraza of a café in Triana, a charming neighborhood across the river from the center of Seville, as I get settled in before I start teaching English at a secondary school next month.
Why am I even writing in the first place?:
I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, which has led me to always have a certain reverence for great writers and authors. I suppose as humans we wish to emulate those we hold in high regard, so there has always been a part of me that has wanted to try writing. I have long assumed I would be a horrible writer with nothing interesting to write about. I suppose it is yet to be determined if either of those assumptions are true, but moving to a different country seems as good an opportunity as any to give it a go. I figured I would start by writing a little about what I will be doing in Spain.
What exactly am I doing?
I am participating in a program managed by Spain’s Ministry of Education called “North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program” (NALCAP) which places native English speakers in bilingual public schools throughout the country. Public schools in Spain have the ability to opt into being bilingual schools meaning students will take a portion of their classes in English and the others in Spanish. Spain trails the rest of Western and Central Europe in English proficiency so this is a part of the government’s attempts to remedy this. Another aspect of this initiatve is to bring in native English speakers. Participating English language assistants, or auxiliares de conversacíon, as they are referred to in Spain, are assigned to one of these bilingual public schools where they are paired with a teacher (or teachers) to be an extra English speaker in the classroom. Since auxiliares are not licensed as teachers, they are always in a classroom with an actual teacher and are not expected to plan whole lessons, however they may be asked to prepare short presentations about a certain language or cultural topic. Or at least that is in theory how it is supposed to work based on what I have gathered from the NALCAP website and the dozens of blogs I have read. I do not start until October 1st so I will just have to wait to see what exactly my role and responsibilities are.
Where will I be living?:
The Spanish Ministry of Education allows applicants to rank three of the 17 Spanish regions (known in Spain as comunidades autónomas) as the ones they would prefer to be placed in. This is not a guarantee, but the majority of applicants do end up getting at least one of their top three choices. My number one choice was Andalusia since my goal was to be able to return to Seville, Andalusia’s capital and largest city. Seville was the city I spent a semester abroad in back in college and I fell madly in love with the city. Ever since that semester in the spring of 2018, it has been a goal of mine to live there. I also knew that if I did not get assigned to Seville, I would also be more than happy to be in one of the many other charming Andalusian cities such as Granada, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Málaga. However, I was also well aware of the risk of being placed in a small, isolated pueblo since Andalusia is one of the largest and most rural comunidades autónomas.
With that risk in the forefront of my mind, my heart initially sank when I received an email saying that I would be placed at a secondary school (Spain’s version of a high school) in a pueblo I had never heard of: Pilas. A quick Google search for “Pilas” told me that it was a small town of 13,000 people and it is famous for its manufacturing of sofas. While I have nothing against an artisan Andalusian sofa, I was initially a little disappointed. Despite being fully aware of the probability of being placed in a remote pueblo instead of a city, whenever I pictured my coming year in Spain, I could not help but picture myself exploring the bars, cafes, and maze-like cobblestone streets of a vibrant city. Luckily, however, my disappointment did not last long. I clicked over to Google Maps to see just how far away I would be from the nearest city. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest from sheer excitement. As it turns out, Pilas is just 15 miles outside of Seville. I immediately scoured the web looking for public transportation options between Pilas and Sevilla, and sure enough, there is a bus line running directly between the two. I WOULD BE ABLE TO LIVE IN SEVILLE! I was ecstatic; against the odds, I would be returning to my favorite city in the world.
How long will I be here:?
Well, that is the million dollar question. When I have answered that question over the past couple of weeks, my answer has depended almost entirely on who is asking. If my mom asks, the answer is “oh don’t worry, Mom, it will only be a year or two.” If I am being honest though, the real answer is “I have no freaking clue. Maybe a year? Maybe…forever???” As an auxiliar, my contract runs from October through the end of May. At the end of the year, I will have the opportunity to renew for another year either at the same school, at a different school in Andalusia, or at a different school in a different comunidad autónoma. So, I will at least be here for the year, but after that, it is anyone’s guess. I imagine I would like to be here at least a couple years, but if the past year or two has taught me anything it is that the future is wildly unpredictable and it is often futile to plan out more than a couple seconds in advance. While I may not know how long I will be in Spain, I do know that I want to make the most of my time here and do everything I can to treasure every second of it.
So what’s next?:
As I continue to acclimate myself in Seville and start teaching at the start of October, I hope to continue writing about my time here and my travels throughout Spain and beyond. (Spoiler: next up is a 2 day trip down to Cádiz, located on the Atlantic coast and Western Europe’s oldest city). Writing like this is completely new to me so I am not sure what to expect, but I am excited for all of the possibilities. Thanks for reading!