Sunday, September 29, 2013

"How-To's" for Moving to Spain: Advice from the First Year

As a new auxiliar, and new arrival to Spain myself, there were many things I was unsure of when I first arrived in Madrid almost a month ago (seriously...a month already?!).  Being a chronic worrier I made sure to research as much as I could on what I would need to do, and how I would have to do it.  Luckily for me (and if you're doing the same program too), the Auxiliares de Conversación program is a very popular one and many past Auxiliars have out of the kindness of their hearts written a multitude of blog posts on how to deal with the different aspects of taking this leap of faith.
Don't forget to relax! source
Here are the blogs and blog posts that I used researching the program, learning more about life in Spain, and that I have used to help figure out how to jump through all the hoops you have to in order be settled.  Along with these resources I've added my own personal experience on the process.


Andalucía Bound-The 411 on Bringing your Phone to Spain

This is an excellent post that explains how you can bring your American smart phone (if it's GSM capable and once it's unlocked) to Spain and then breaks down some of the most popular cell phone companies in Spain.  I also researched two other phone companies that my Spanish friends talked about: Pepephone and Tuenti Móvil.  Unfortunately when I looked for some of the plans she talked about I couldn't find them or they were more expensive then they had been.  My luck right?

The problem with getting a phone is that most normal contracts need you to be staying in Spain for at least 18 months, aka they have permanencia.  You can either have traditional pay-as-you-go or find a contract that is sin permanencia.  In the end I chose Tuenti with their plan that is: 11€ per month (with taxes), 1 GB of data, 75 minutes of calls (establishment of calls included), and texts are 8 cents.  After the 75 minutes is used it costs (with taxes) around 18 cents to connect and 4 cents per minutes after that.  It was one of the cheapest plans I could find and like most plans in Spain, receiving anything is free.  Plus most Spaniards just use the app Whats App.

My problem is that my normal smart phone from home didn't have a SIM so I took an old one someone gave me, unlocked it, and realized that not only was it not an Android but that it wasn't even wifi capable. UGH! So after hating myself for a day I sucked it up and purchased an unlocked phone online, which (hopefully) will be arriving soon.


Vado a Spain-How to Find an Apartment in Any City in Spain
Oh No She Madridn't-How to Find an Apartment in Madrid

Our cute piso
For finding an apartment in Madrid I was very lucky.  I am living right near Sol with my boyfriend, the perfect location because I need to take the trains south to Getafe and he will start an internship just north.

I arrived September 4th around 10:00 am and before dinner that night we had found a piso in the location and budget we had wanted.  We had searched on multiple websites and found idealista to have the most selection of one-bedroom apartments.  Along with the appointments we had set up in advance from the site we called a few places we saw advertising open units on the street, generally this has seemed to be the most efficient way of finding an apartment.

Always make sure to see the apartment before you agree to live there or pay anything.  That is the only way whether or not you know you're getting the place you are planning on.  Don't be afraid to ask questions, look around, and take pictures before you make a decision.  But remember, Madrid is a big city and apartments go quickly.  Try not to take too long to decide if you like a place.  When we were touring our current apartment we saw that there were three other couples waiting to tour or wanting to make an appointment to tour the unit.  If we had waited then we wouldn't have our apartment.


Oh No She Madridn't-How to Get a Metro/Bus Pass (an Abono) [in Madrid]

The abono is a pass that covers the different forms of public transportation in the city where you'll be living.  For most auxiliars it is the cheapest way to commute to your schools multiple times per week.  The format for abonos has changed this past year, before the abono lasted for the actual calendar month, now they last for 30 days exactly. There are three types of abonos, but only two an auxiliar should worry about: abono joven if you are under 23 and abono normal if you are 23 and over.

New Abonos, source
When buying your abono for the first time the most important thing you need to know is which zone in Madrid you need.  The zone you pick should be the furthest zone out that you plan to travel to regularly, because the further the zone the higher the cost of the abono.  For example, Getafe is in zone B1 so I would purchase an abono for this zone.  Know that when you purchase an abono for one zone it also covers all the zones within it.  This means with an abono for zone B1 you are covered for the month in both B1 and A.  No need to get more than one zone.

Applying for your abono the first time is quite easy.  The best place is to do it online on the transporte website or make an appointment through the website at one of the offices..  You'll need a copy of your passport (or TIE if you have it), a carnet sized photo, and an address/phone number for the form (the form you can find online to fill out). The first time it will cost around 4 euro because you get the plastic card, but for the next months you just go to the kiosks for metro tickets to refill your card.

How to Empadronarse (In Madrid)

Spanish Sabores-How to Empardronarse in Madrid

This is, what seems to be, a new requirement for getting one's NIE and TIE in Spain.  While it may seem a little daunting and complicated, it was actually one of the easiest things I had to do for the whole residency process.  Once you are living in an apartment, you get the padrón to legally register that you are living in a certain city.  The easiest way to get the padrón is to have a signed contract with your name in it.

With that you make in appointment online in the district you are living within and bring the filled out padrón form, your passport, and your contract.  If you don't have a contract with your name, then you either need to A) Bring someone who is in the contract/or has a padrón in your apartment B) Bring your landlord to vouch for you or C) Have the police come to your apartment to vouch that you live there. [Much easier to make sure you get a contract when you get your apartment in the first place.]

I have a signed contract with my name in it so I just took that with me to my appointment (along with my passport and the filled out form).  My appointment was at 2:00 pm, during the lunch break so I would have less people, and it was the easiest and quickest thing I have done so far.  I live near Sol so I made the appointment at the office on Calle Atocha, I arrived a little and told the front desk I had an appointment.  They gave me a number and I waited for maybe five minutes before they were ready to see me.  During the actual appointment they took all my information, corrected any information I had filled out incorrectly in the form, and then asked questions (confirming my address and why I needed the document).  It took no more than five minutes and I had my padrón and that was that.

Make sure to to get this done before your TIE appointment!  It's free and painless, and will save you a headache later!

TIE in Madrid (Update 12/18)

The TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Entranjera) is the Foreign Identification Card that foreigner's need to legally live in Spain if they are not from the European Union. Before you can even apply for this card you need to apply for your NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero, Foreigner's Identificiation Number).Thanks to the auxiliares program I didn't need to file for my NIE on my own because the program took my information at the first orientation and applied for me.  

Back in October when the program had my NIE ready, I picked up my number and the date of my appointment from the auxiliares office and began preparing what I needed to get the physical card.  My TIE cita/appointment was back on the 21st of November at the Foreigner's Office in Aluche and despite all the horror stories I've read about, I had absolutely no problems.  Waiting in the line outside to submit my paperwork was the only semi-negative part I had.

To make your experience as painless as possible make sure you have all the documents you need taken care of beforehand, and like always make sure you have a copy of EVERYTHING.  For more information on what you need to bring, check out this website for what documents you need to bring to your TIE appointment.  If everything is all set at your appointment then they should tell you to return in 25 days to pick up the actual card (you'll need your actual passport and the sheet of paper they give at the end of your appointment).  I finally picked mine up the 18th of December sin problemas!  Talk about a relief!

GREAT Websites for Auxilares/Moving to Spain Information:

Spanish Sabores-Required Reading for Future English Teachers in Spain
Young Adventuress-Auxiliares de Conversación
Y Mucho Más
Sunshine and Siestas
Andalucía Bound
Oh No She Madridn't

I hope all this information helped, or will help, anybody else going through the of claiming residency and living in Madrid.

Feel free to comment on your experience with any of these process or ask any more questions you may have!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Auxiliares-First Orientation Experience

And again it's been forever since I've posted anything, but it's been non-stop trying to get everything settled for when I begin working next Tuesday!  Here's one of the many things I've had to get done this past week: attend my first jornada.  (For those not doing the ministry program, enjoy my lovely Madrid pictures I thought I would add for interest to the non-auxiliars bored by this nonsense).

To participate in the program Auxiliares de Conversación you are told you need to go their jornadas (more or less program meetings), the first of which being the Orientation for all those working in the program for the year.
Kilometer Zero, Puerta del Sol
I have seen different people state that the repercussions of not attending as ranging from a stern email, being called into the office for a 'meeting,' of if too many jornadas have been missed even the refusal of renewal status.  Seeing as I still didn't have a NIE/TIE (identity number and card need to legally be in Spain) appointment anyway, and I hoped to meet fellow auxiliars, I figured it was only a few hours to give up in my day and decided to go.

I went to orientation for the province of Madrid, and to find out your orientation dates for Madrid you have to look over the Madrid Auxiliares Website where you can find the dates of the Jornadas Orientación de Septiembre depending on your year in the Madrid program, what level school you'll be working at, and the name of your school.  The orientation is held at: CRIF "LAS ACACIAS" C/ General Ricardos #179, which I found easiest to find getting off of the metro stop Oporto (either line 5 or 6).

Orientation began around 9:00 am after Auxiliares were told to sign in and shuffle on to one of the three rooms we were assigned.  Unlike other experiences I've heard of, the woman that talked to my orientation group spoke excellent English so there was no challenge in understanding any directions.  
The Rosaleda, Parque Retiro

Her first presentation was on the school system of Madrid; the bilingual program, grade levels, various classes, and emphasis on the importance of our roles as native speakers.  Next she went over the Madrid Language Assistant's Handbook, if you missed it no worries it's on the website in English and Spanish.  It mainly was more about our role in the classroom and what is expected of us (be on time, dress appropriately, all days off need to be in writing and arranged through our schools, etc.).

After she finished it was already around 11:15 and we had people from the US Embassy come in the room to talk about programs they have in Spain, what services they can provide for us, and how to keep safe living abroad.  It was mainly common sense information about knowing where you are and what's around you, but I can't help but say I did feel a little better knowing exactly where the embassy is located and its contact information in case of an emergency.  What should have lasted 30 minutes (according to our schedules) last closer to an hour so our "break" was non-existent, seriously wish I had brought a snack with me!

At this point an auxiliar from the program last year talked about her first year in a secondary school in Madrid last year, giving tips and advice based on her experience.  I really liked this part because she gave us some great ideas and talked a little bit about how she found the school system here similar and different to ours at home.

Finally at the end of the day came the part most of us seemed to be waiting for.  Talking about the NIE/TIE and documents we needed for our appointments.  Our speaker explained that they would be collecting the documents we had brought with us (copy of our Passport information page, copy of our student visa, and a copy of our entry stamp into the Schengen Zone stapled together with our name, school's name, and phone number written on the front in capital letters) and that they would make our NIE appointments for us with this information.  According to her, we will be contacted when our information is all set and will be able to pick up our NIE information and TIE appointment dates from their office.  *fingers crossed it will be almost as smooth as it sounds...

She didn't give an exact list of what we will need for the TIE appointment but mentioned we would need:
  • Spanish sized photos (I believe 3, in color with a white background)
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Our carta de nombramiento
  • Tasa form 790 for 15.15€ that you take to (apparently) any bank in Spain to pay
  • And that we need to empadronarse (register ourselves living in the city, no worries I have a post coming on how easy it is to do in Madrid!)
I also think we need the application from for the TIE, EX-17, but I don't remember if it was mentioned by her.  Be sure to have a copy of everything you will turn in so that you always have a copy of your paperwork, whether they take the original or the copy.  Eventually there should be a post on the Madrid Auxiliares website on what you will officially need for the TIE, but with all the paperwork needed to stay legally in Spin I think it's never too early to start researching!

After we turned in all of our copies we brought we were free to leave and go on our way.  It wasn't the most fun part of my experience in Spain so far, but it definitely wasn't the most painful either.

If you're in the Auxiliares program have you had your orientation already?  What did you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Getting Settled

Saying good-bye to my baby :(
I can't believe it's been over a week since my last post.  I guess this is in part not knowing what to write, along with not having time with the non-stop schedule my boyfriend and I have had.  It's been a week since I've arrived to Spain and even with multiple extended visits over the past couple of years, it's not any easier transitioning to 'living' in Spain.

When talking about someone moving abroad you'll often here some of these things: "How lucky!  How interesting!  You'll have so much fun!  I'm so jealous!" etc.  But people don't seem to know, or remember, how stressful it is moving your life thousands of miles away to a place whose culture can seem incredibly foreign to you.  The transition period is idealized as simple and painless, no effort necessary, just go on with your adventures.
Missing my Honey BBQ, but Spain does have honey mustard

By all means I'm definitely lucky here.  My boyfriend and our friends are all natives; I have a team of people willing to help me with apartment hunts, shopping trips, banking details, and legal information like residency.  But constantly being surrounded by native Spaniards also takes a lot of effort as I settle into my life for the year.

As much as I love Spain and my friends here, I always forget how exhausting and stressful the first few days are.  With my boyfriend, our friends, and his family I'm constantly surrounded by native Spanish speakers, while this is a great thing and I am proud of how much I am able to understand and speak already, I'm constantly tired from the effort of speaking and listening.  I know that the more I practice, the easier it will become with time, but it's definitely a huge part of the whole adjustment period that I like to forget about.

Can't find anything like this back home!
And while I am settling into my life abroad relatively easily (I am very comfortable with my boyfriend, his family, and our friends) I still feel like this is only a vacation.  I can't help but think that I'll be home in a month or two, not about to begin work in a whole new school culture in the next couple of weeks.

Maybe because it's just too daunting to fully comprehend that big of a change...but poco a poco, no?
Visiting Puente Viesgo
The point is, that while I'm incredibly grateful for this new adventure, it will definitely take time to feel fully settled.  It sure does help feeling at home that as we speak I'm watching Aladdin (in Spanish I might add) and cuddling up to my boyfriend's adorable Boxer, and if that doesn't scream "home away from home" I don't know what does.

Right now I may not understand everything, and there may be times to come where I miss home and the things I've become used to over the years, but I'm okay with that.

After all, what kind of adventure is it if you're not a little apprehensive?  I'm very lucky to have this opportunity, and even more lucky that I have such amazing people helping me along the way.  So for any of you on your next great adventure, Venus the family Boxer and I send you the best wishes.

Bravery comes in may forms and taking any step forward with your life, even if it may be scary or lonely at first, it's worth the risk of what you might be able to accomplish.  Hopefully, I'll have more internet and time, over the next few weeks to post more of how I'm adjusting (like finding our adorable apartment).  Until than, hasta luego.

Are you having any big changes in your life?  How are you settling in?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye is the Hardest

Well today is the day.  In just a few hours I'll be on my one-way flight to Madrid and beginning my year abroad.  (AHH THE NERVES!!)  I'm down to last minute errands and double checking my bags and packing lists to make sure I have everything I need, or at least what I can remember...

I honestly don't even know what to write now with so much on mind...did I remember to pack everything?  Do I have all my paperwork?  What if something goes wrong?  What if my luggage gets lost?  And most importantly how do I say goodbye to everyone I know and love here?
Unlike many people doing this teaching program who know it's only for a couple years at the most before they return to the USA, I don't have that security.  I on the other hand, am going over to Madrid knowing that if things work out for my boyfriend and I there, I may not be returning home to Rhode Island.  While this could only be a 'see you later,' it very well could be a 'good-bye.'  And that my friends, is hard for me to process.

I'm a sentimental person, I get very attached to people, places, and things.  I can't help being emotional!  But being so attached definitely makes it much harder for me to make this move, even knowing so many wonderful people abroad in Spain who are waiting for me.
This past week I didn't work but instead took the opportunity to spend what little time I had left with all the people I love.  And it's been really hard saying my last goodbyes to not only the people, but the places I have to come to love here.
I don't know I'll survive without Legolas...
Instead of trying to process all of these emotions right now, I'm trying to think of all the things I've enjoyed doing this summer that remind me of why I love where I'm from so much.  So here's a reflection back on all the great memories I had saying good-bye this summer:

Fourth of July
Aging...I mean my birthday...
Seeing one of my favorite bands live!
Traditional RI food <3
Visiting Boston with my aunt and cousin
Seeing one of my oldest friends
Saying goodbye to my childhood
Learning about where my grandmother grew up

And spending time with my friends
So thank you to all of my friends and family for all of your support and love, you've made it very difficult to say good-bye.  I wish anyone else in the same situation the best of luck on your journeys and on your own good-byes, may you have just as amazing people making good-byes difficult for you!