It’s my first time living in Spain. I’ve lived abroad on several different occasions in the likes of America, Vietnam, and Canada. I’ve also been to Spain on many different occasions, both beach and city breaks, along with family holidays. I thought it would be easy, as I’ve done this a million times before. But I’ve found this journey so far to not be as simple as I thought. Perseverance and patience have been the two secret ingredients in settling down abroad.
The Beginning of The Journey
Now, don’t let that turn you away, but rather invite and entice you into the reality of what it is to move to Spain, and more specifically to the capital city: Madrid.
I’ll start my journey upon my first day in Madrid. I took a taxi from the airport to my Airbnb. Cabify, if you’re unsure of the equivalent of Uber taxis. The sunset sparked the sky off with bright pinks, purples, and oranges. I was so ready to settle down into my new city.
I arrived at my Airbnb with two girls who I previously spoke to on Facebook and I spent my first couple days with them Barcelona. We were excited to take the plunge into a new city, a new country, and, most excitingly, a new culture. For a girl whose favourite food is tapas (prior to being a vegetarian, curse my morality!), I knew there would be no better place to next call home.
First Days in Madrid
My first week in Madrid was generally focusing on getting all of the fun paperwork completed. The focus of my first couple weeks in Madrid was to become more settled within my workplace, get all of the required documents completed, and to find accommodation. I was to take back my social and recreational life shortly after all of this fell into place.
Within my first couple of weeks, I had moments of doubt and being overwhelmed with this experience. This leads me to perseverance and patience, the two secret ingredients to settling down abroad – no matter where in the world you are.
Give Yourself Time to Settle
As I’ve said before, I’ve moved around and lived abroad on several occasions, yet it was this occasion that had its biggest impact on me. In my second week here, a few problems caused me to question a lot of this move. I got so caught up in the newness of this experience that I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to sit down and come to terms with the fact that I was living in Madrid. Not only my dream country but also the capital city of my dream country.
My first bit of advice would be to give yourself time to settle. You’re in a new place with new people, a new culture, and a totally new dominant language. When you’re overwhelmed and feel like giving up, go out and do something.
Persevere, Persist, Give it Time
Perseverance: persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Something as simple as going for a painfully pathetic run one evening cleared my mind and helped me become more grounded in this experience. I had to change my perspective and ignore the things that negatively impacted me. I had to remind myself that, after six months in this country, all these things that are currently massively affecting me, will just be small blips in the road. Persevere.
And, if anything, time is of essence and patience is key. Now, I can only talk from my own experience and I’m trying to reassure you that you’re not the only one who is finding this overwhelming. However, things will come together in the end. If it hasn’t, then it isn’t the end. Deep. But enough of my Tracy Beaker sob story of settling into Madrid. I just wanted to highlight that even though my home country is so close to Spain, being overwhelmed is completely okay.
One More Step: Arriving at School
But onto the reason, we’re all here. School. Being a secondary teacher prior to this role, I had a good understanding of what to expect and what is to be expected of me. Arriving at my first day of school, I felt instantly welcomed. My Meddeas and department supervisors were extremely helpful and made me feel very comfortable in school.
The first day was just coming to grips with school life, the geography of the school, and expectations. I was extremely excited to see how students were to behave. I’ve taught in one of the most challenging schools in the UK whilst also teaching in Vietnam. There, the students treated the teachers like gods. I wanted to find out where Spanish students sit on this scale.
My school is absolutely huge, with students starting from 8 months old all the way up to 18 years old. There’s a nursery area of the school, a kindergarten, a primary, secondary, and college. Break time is absolutely crazy with the amount of students bopping around the corridors. With so many students, you’d think class management would be strict and with tight control to ensure a smooth running. However, the teacher-student relationships at this school are beyond what I have seen in my previous teaching experiences. Students greatly respect their teachers and the respect is returned, resulting in extremely positive and trusting student-teacher/Language Assistant relationships.
Patience Rewards: Can I Stay Longer?
Only two weeks into the school, I feel extremely settled and I’m already considering asking if it is possible to do an entire year here, at least. The staff is absolutely fantastic. I initially found it difficult as I don’t speak any Spanish and it was difficult to get to know the teachers on a more personable level. But as time has gone on, small gestures and conversations have greatly opened the relationship to the point I come into work looking forward to spending the day with my staff team.
I’ve also started to do speaking practice with small groups of teachers where I am finding out about them on a deeper level. If you have the opportunity to do so, definitely take this up. It’s a great way to know your colleagues!
So, if you have just started this adventure and you are feeling overwhelmed, breathe. I am sending you reassurance. Culture shock is extremely common. Remember: perseverance and patience. Give yourself time to settle. Things will get better and, with a bit of time, these first tough weeks will turn to a fun story to laugh about with your new Spanish friends!