Contemplation: Or, What’s Keeping My Thoughts Occupied…

Hey, folks–sorry for another bout of radio silence: I’ve been here, there, and everywhere, trying to get various things settled and sorted (like a grown-up), and sometimes my blogging gets caught by the wayside…But, hey–I’m hanging in there!!…

Well, one of the major things that happened this week is that the application for the NALCA application opened up again…In case you didn’t know, the NALCA (North American Language and Cultural Assitants) program is what has given me an excuse to live here legally in Spain, working as an auxiliar de conversación (English Teaching Assistant) at an E.O.I. (Official Language School)…Now, with this program, you have the opportunity to renew your position as an auxiliar for another year or two (or three [four…]), either in the same city/region or another city/region, and since I definitely want a lot more time to enjoy la vida española, I’m definitely going to put in for renewal!!…

But that’s where things get murky…

My Experience So Far

About half of the length of my contract is over now, and I can honestly say that my auxiliar life has been more-or-less pleasant thus far: I’m not asked to do tasks I’m not qualified for (unlike many others in my position), I’ve bonded with quite a few of my colleagues, and most of my students are amiable, motivated, and responsive to my efforts…

However, I’m not SUPER-happy with where I’m at: Zaragoza is a nice place, no doubt, but even though it’s Spain’s 5th-largest city, it feels like an overgrown pueblo at times–it’s not as cosmopolitan or international as the other big cities here (case in point: there’s only ONE Indian restaurant, with no Thai or Vietnamese joints)…

And, don’t get me wrong–the vast majority of the people are super-nice here, but I haven’t really met that many eclectic/eccentric people like myself (then again, I haven’t been out that much [something hard to do with 700E/month])…

What’s more, I would like to live in a region where the auxiliars get paid PROMPTLY every month…O.K., so the situation’s not as bad a Murcia (think 3-4 months at a time without a single check), but still…

With all this in mind, I’m definitely looking to switch to another city…

What I Want

O.K., so for this coming year, I want a larger city that actually feels like a big city, with all that comes with it: I want to go somewhere where I can marvel at flashing lights, enjoy an occasional night out in the theatre district or at a concert from an internationally-known artist, and get to know a much more diverse array of food, culture, and people from all corners of the globe, all while feeding off of the energy that comes with the hustle and bustle of a metropolis…

I think you know what I’m getting at: I WANNA MOVE TO MADRID!!

madrid-spain-4

Now, some of you might be thinking: Madrid is too huge of a city–you’ll be overwhelmed; it’s too expensive; it’ll be hard to adjust, etc., etc., etc….But the thing is, I LOVE big cities, and I technically have had experience living in a major world capital–you know, that whole “studying abroad in London for a month“, thing…O.K., obviously studying abroad and actually being an expat are quite different in nature, but even though I was pretty coddled living in the Worrell House, there were some challenging aspects that I think prepared me for future big city life:

1) London is EXPENSIVE AS H***–I thought I could get by the first week on like, $200 (oh, how naive I was…)…My experience living there, plus, living in the “real world” for about 5 months here in Zaragoza, have taught me how to organize my spending–plus, auxiliars in Madrid get a pay bump of 1000E/month, so I can definitely get around!!

2) Disorientation is totally real–Now, London is huge, and naturally, I found navigating the city/The Tube by myself to be an absolutely terrifying notion…But, after a couple of weeks, I actually started recognizing streets and monuments, and figured out how to orientate myself homewards…I know my first weeks in Madrid would be equally anxiety-inducing, but I’ll handle it!!…

3) It’s hard to make friends in the city–While I did live in a house with other students from my university, it did take me a little bit to feel a certain *click* with other people…Thankfully, I became friends with a wonderful girl named Micaela (shout out to you, dear!!), and while I did battle some intense feelings of loneliness and isolation during my first weeks in ZGZ, ultimately, God answered me and introduced me to new people, so I know I’ll be able to make friends eventually!!…

ON TOP OF THAT, people in Madrid get paid punctually

So, with that said, it should be pretty clear where my next stop in life is, right???…

Well…

That OTHER Auxiliar Program

While I’m definitely reapplying for NALCA, I’m also planning on submitting an application with Meddeas (Multilingual Education Development And Support), which is another auxiliar program (separate from the government) that works with private schools throughout the country…

There are tree reasons I would give this program a shot (assuming I get accepted):

1) Completing an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course is a required part of the program–Since I’m looking to live in other countries besides Spain, this may just be my window of opportunity!!…

2) I’d make more $$$ overall–With Meddeas, I would be making 850E/month (450E/month if I lived with a host family, but I’m not going that route), which is a definite plus!!…

3) My placement options are not limited–Unfortunately, as a U.S. citizen, NALCA does not allow me access to certain parts of the country…However, because Meddeas has positions all over the country, I could potentially be placed in a comunidad I previously had no chance of getting accepted to…

However, as with everything, Meddeas does have it’s drawbacks:

1) There are only about 300 spots with this program, as compared with the 3,000-4,000 that NALCA offers, so the competition is steeper…

2) If you get far enough into the selection process, you are required to go to either Madrid or Barcelona for an interview if you want a shot at actually getting chosen–so much more of a nuisance than a Skype interview would be!!

3) Insurance is not automatically covered–I would have to buy my plan separately.

4) They keep half the first paycheck…

5) While my salary with Meddeas would be more than what I’m making now, if my only placement options available were Madrid or Barcelona, I would barely be scraping by with that…

So, yeah–you choose your battles, I suppose!!…Still, it’s that TEFL opportunity that keeps Meddeas at the back of my mind, and if I were offered a spot in the program, I would want to go to Valencia, Spain’s 3rd-largest city)…

Valencia_beautiful_exotic_beach_destination_Spain

While I have not yet been to Valencia capital, but it seems to have a lot of things I love: a large, vibrant population (800,000-strong); wonderful architecture; tons of festivals; a mild climate all-year-long; paella (it IS the birthplace of the dish); lots of museums and theatres; and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea…Plus, the start-up costs and overall cost of living would be a LOT less than if I was in Madrid, which might make international travel more accessible…

It’s like they always say: “I don’t know where I’m going, yet, but I’m headed in the right direction.”…

Can anyone else sympathize with how I’m feeling???…Has anyone been in/lived in Valencia???…

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8 thoughts on “Contemplation: Or, What’s Keeping My Thoughts Occupied…

  1. restlessjo says:

    You want it ALL girl! 🙂 And why not? Barcelona is amazing but would your allowance stretch? Part-time bar work? I’ve never seen Madrid or Valencia but from a temperature point of view, I’d go Valencia ( 🙂 🙂 )
    I like that last shot, which I presume is in Zaragoza? Looks kinda nice to me 🙂

  2. Briona says:

    Hi there,

    If you’re interested in working in Madrid, have you considered BEDA (http://www.ecmadrid.org/en/language-assistant)? It’s another auxiliares programme that places most applicants in and around Madrid. A former participant wrote about what’s involved a couple of years back: http://ladyinspain.com/beda-faq/. The reason for suggesting this one is that they actually pay a living wage, which is more than Meddeas does.

    As someone who lives in Madrid, I’d say you’d struggle to live on €850. Rent in a shared apartment will set you back anywhere between €300 and €450 pm plus bills. You’d probably need a metro/bus pass to get to your school(s). Since you’re under 23, a monthly pass for Zone A will cost you €35 pm (more if you need to travel to other zones). And then you need to factor in food, socialising and whatever else you spend your money on.

    I apologise for p*ssing on your parade, but I wouldn’t touch Meddeas with a bargepole. You’d basically be doing the Ministry programme but for a lot less money, and then they have the cheek to withhold half your first paycheck (illegal much?!). Also, since what they offer is a ‘grant’, if for whatever reason you left the programme early, you would be required to repay the entire grant!

    Furthermore, their offer of a TEFL certificate is not worth the paper its written since an increasing number of academies around the world refuse to accept online TEFL certificates. This is because they don’t include an observed and assessed teaching practicum. So, before ‘investing’ in any kind of course, I’d advise doing some research into requirements in your chosen countries otherwise you may end up with a bum deal.

    Briona

    • The Pumpkin's Head (Betty J. Ogburn) says:

      …Thanks for the advice, Briona!!…

      As I mentioned before, if I did get accepted to Meddeas, I wouldn’t want to do it in Madrid or Barcelona–I would aim for Valencia or Granada, which would be a lot more affordable for me…

      And as for the TEFL thing, at least an online version would give me some practice before completing a “real” course…

  3. Courtney @ Adelante says:

    No Thai food? No wonder you feel that way about Zaragoza! (I felt the same way when I studied abroad in Cádiz… it was way too small for me, and I often felt suffocated.) Which is why in my opinion, Madrid = heaven. It’s everything I wanted from Spain, and then some.

    One of the best parts about Madrid is that even though it’s *technically* one of the largest cities in Europe, it really doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large. All of the different neighborhoods make it feel a lot smaller and much more personal.

    … and of course, getting paid on time is a HUGE plus.

    The Auxiliares program gives 2nd year renewals priority, so if Madrid is your first pick, you’ll most likely get accepted there. Have a back-up option, but don’t stress too much. It’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to! Buena suerte chica 🙂

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