Before I decided to participate in the Auxiliares de Conversación Program, I was so curious to see how people lived in Spain. Everyone wants to know how big, dramatic life changes affect the way in which you live. I’m no different! Before heading to Spain, I devoured different blogs from people who participated in the program so I could get an idea of what I would be in for. Perhaps that’s why you’re here as well! I went back and forth, thinking, “I have a great life in Montana! I have a job that I enjoy that pays well for a recent graduate in Montana. I’m working in a field in which I went to school… But is it enough?” And for me, the answer was NO. I had a small group of friends in Missoula, MT, whom I cared about and enjoyed spending time with, but I was missing something! I had traveled abroad quite a bit, but I was always so jealous of my friends living abroad. Then, after working for a bit more than a year after I graduated college (to save up a good bit of money), I decided to jump into a totally new life in Spain! Of course there have been times where I’ve wondered if I’ve made the right decision, but overall, I’m glad I am experiencing Spain, enjoying a new culture, traveling around Europe, and of course improving my Spanish! So, here’s a quick glimpse of my life in Montana compared to my life in Spain!
In Missoula, I lived in a one bedroom, 595 sq ft apartment in Missoula, MT. It was a very nice! It had a washer and dryer, dishwasher, heat/air conditioning, and even a little balcony! It was kind of perfect for me actually. There was a small gym on site. There was a hot tub open year round and a pool open during summer. It was actually pretty pricey for Montana, however. I paid just under $700/month + $30/month for internet + $20/month for electricity. Everything else was included in my rent price. Obviously, rent would have been a lot cheaper if I had a roommate, but after college I wanted to assert some independence by living on my own. So! Without further ado, here is my cute little apartment in Missoula:
Cute little hallway!
The A/C Unit was amazing! Futon was great for company 🙂
My kitchen was small, but perfect for me! Had an oven/microwave/dishwasher/garbage disposal
My bathroom was also little, but it had a shower/tub! With my little caddie rack over the toilet, all my makeup fit!
I actually loved my little bedroom! It was so cozy and warm!
There was a quick glimpse into my apartment life in Missoula! While it was a bit pricey, it was also very nice. And living alone is always more expensive than living with roommates. After I graduated, however, I was making decent money (for a new graduate and a Montana resident) so it was easily affordable for me. I also lived only 2.5 miles from work, which was perfect for bike riding!
It’s important to note that my Montana experience may not be what you consider “typical” for Montanans. As I mentioned, I lived in Missoula which is a very liberal town for Montana. No, I didn’t ride my horse to work. Yes, we have indoor toilets, electricity, and internet (duh)… Seriously, guys, these are questions I have actually been asked by people who have never been to Montana. To an extent, I get it. It’s a big area with relatively few people… But please, don’t assume I’m some weird hick because I’m from Montana! It’s actually one of the most beautiful states you’ll ever see (seriously, Google “Glacier National Park” if you don’t believe me). So here’s a quick glance as to what my life in Montana was like:
I was raised in Kalispell. A small town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
I often enjoyed hiking up the mountains in Missoula; where I lived for college and work. Also in the heart of the Rocky Mountains!
This was a common site during winter – the sun rises much later and sets much earlier! So I often got to work before the sun was up. It made some pretty spectacular sunrise views, though!
In the summer, I often spent time at my family’s house on Flathead Lake. And it’s no wonder why! The lake view is amazing and the water here is incredibly clear! (Note: This picture was taken in spring which is why the water level is a bit low)
The view from our dock on Flathead Lake on Labor Day!
Another fun thing to do in Missoula in the summer was to float the river! Everyone gets tubes or rafts or kayaks and leisurely spends hours at a time relaxing as the river carries them downstream. It’s absolutely a blast with a good group of friends!
And of course, Missoula is widely known for their craft beers! After a nice float down the river, it’s super common to meet up with your friends to grab dinner and a beer (or two)!
Missoula also had a pretty fun nightlife scene! Here’s a pic of me on my birthday in 2015 with a few friends and coworkers! Downtown with friends is always a blast!
Well I hope that was entertaining for you! Another insider’s view into what like was like (for me) living in Montana! Lots of sunshine, hiking, and playing in bodies of water in the summer and lots of skiing and hot cocoa in the winter! Montana is certainly a wonderful place to venture if you enjoy the outdoors. The summers are the absolute best, in my humble opinion…! Now time to take a little peek into my life in Spain…
In Madrid, I lived in a small 3 bedroom apartment. As I explained in my First Impressions of Madrid post, I found my apartment through a company called Pack to Spain. The owner, Alejandro, has since modified his offerings, but it was great when I needed to move here back in September of 2016! He actually found an apartment for me, set me up with my transportation card, got me a cell phone plan, and opened up a bank account for me all for only about €200! It was an amazing deal considering I would have been spending that much money (or more) on hostels or AirBnBs. Not to mention it saved me the hassle of trying to use my less-than-perfect Spanish contacting landlords. I would highly recommend checking out the service if you’re planning on moving to Madrid. It saved me tons of time, money, headaches, and worrying.
Now, onto the actual apartment! It was a relatively small apartment for being three bedrooms, but the location was perfect for me. My school commute was a bus ride from the Moncloa Bus Station and it was only a 5 minute walk from my apartment! So that was great. There was no terrace/balcony, but I was in an interior building anyway, so no loss there. The landlord rented the apartment to my roommate, Amy, for a total of €800/month. The initial plan was for each of us to take a big bedroom and pay €400/month (+utilities) and have a spare bedroom for guests and friends. The way it worked out, however, was a bit more challenging. Amy’s friend initially asked to stay with us for a few weeks in September so that she could look for a place with her other friend. Well, apartment hunting in Madrid sucks. Especially in September! All of the students are coming back looking for places so it’s very difficult to find an apartment on your own. Needless to say, her three week stay with us turned into us acquiring another roommate… At least that dropped my rent from €400 down to €275 (+utilities split three ways instead of two). Although three girls and one bathroom was a bit of a pain at times. Anyway, check it out!
Our living room was pretty tiny, but it worked ok for us. We weren’t usually all trying to watch TV or anything. Usually we sat at the kitchen table to chat, drink wine, eat dinner, etc. Because we were all on different schedules, it didn’t matter too much that it was a small room. We had friends over, but not to a point where our living room was ever packed with people. I definitely missed having a nice couch though! One little futon was a bit sad to count as our only “furniture” in there!
From our living room, you could access our tiny, L-shaped kitchen. I thought my kitchen was small back in Montana, but I was wrong! This Spanish kitchen was so tiny! Right when you walked in, you turned left for the stove, and there was no oven under it at all! Just more storage. And then if you turned right, you found our hot water tank that we hung a garbage bag off of. Further in, there was the fridge and dishwasher, except the dishwasher was broken the entire year and flooded if you tried to use it. To make up for our lack of oven, we had a small toaster oven that worked alright for heating up things like small pizzas or toasting bread (we also didn’t have a toaster). Near the sink, we had a washing machine, but dryers are very uncommon in Spain. Since the weather stays mostly warm year round, everyone just hang dries everything. This is better for the environment for sure, but it kind of sucked always having starchy jeans! And you better make sure you washed your sheets on a day it didn’t rain!
Back outside the kitchen, through the living room, you’ll find our one bathroom. Our bathroom was pretty new and the shower was really nice! The one thing that sucked was that our hot water tank was pretty small. If it was full and heated, you could get a great shower in, but the person after you? Not so much. This usually resulted in showering in shifts. Luckily, my roommates didn’t shower as often as I did and since I got off of work earlier, I could shower and give the tank some time to heat back up. We also had a little bidet in the bathroom (which my roommate always called a “bayonet” for some reason, hahaha). We used it mostly for washing our feet (or my roommate for cleaning out her guinea pigs’ cage). The one thing you might notice is that there was virtually no counter space for us. We had that little IKEA rack, but it was a pain to use. My roommate, being here first and longer than me, took the top shelves of everything in the bathroom. It made it a bit of a pain to get ready when I had to crouch to find what I needed. Ultimately, to save us time and space, I moved all my makeup to my bedroom and got ready there.
Here is the view directly out of the bathroom. The living room is on the right and there is a small, creepy closet on the left, and all of our bedrooms were jammed together.
First, here is the small bedroom that was initially intended to be our spare bedroom. It had all of the same things as my bedroom, except a smaller bed in a smaller space. The bed itself was actually quite comfortable and it was a plenty fine room! We ended up charging our third roommate €250/month for this room (which is an amazing rent deal in the center of Madrid).
Here is Amy’s room, the “master” room of the apartment. She paid €275/month for her room. It was basically the same dimensions as mine, but she had a little entry way in her room as well as her whole large wall full of closet space, meaning she didn’t need an IKEA wardrobe like my room or the small room. She had tons of storage, which was good for her because she’d been there already for 3 years and was planning on staying longer. Since she was planning on staying longer, she also decided to invest in guinea pig pets. I was a bit on the fence about them when she first told me. Initially she wanted a cat, which I was down for, but she was worried their life span was so long that when/if she wanted to move back to the States, that might be an issue. So she opted for guinea pigs! They lived in her room, so I didn’t mind them too much. The only thing that frustrated me was that the bedding from their cage got EVERYWHERE and she didn’t clean as often as I thought she should have. I asked her multiple times to pick up lint rollers or a small vacuum to help pick it up, but she always kind of halfheartedly agreed and then didn’t do anything about it. Ugh.
And finally, my room! Like Amy, I also paid €275/month for this room. My room was also very large. I didn’t keep too much stuff in it because I really didn’t bring too terribly much stuff. I ended up putting nails in my wall to hang my backpacks up. I bought two IKEA end tables with drawers for some extra storage and it’s where I ended up putting all my makeup. I also had to buy a small mirror for my room to get ready, as well as a long mirror for getting dressed (which is inside my big closet door on the right there). It’s funny because I first had an awful IKEA duvet cover, but I went to Zara Home to get a nicer, softer one. I ended up finding this beautiful lilac purple one and decided to pair it with a light gray blanket as well. After I got it all set up, I realized that it looked very similar to my Montanan bed! I either really like the soft, lilac purple paired with gray or else I was a little homesick when I went shopping – probably a bit of both.
Now you can see just how different my two apartments were! I certainly paid a lot less for my apartment in Madrid, but the compromise there was living with roommates. I honestly missed living alone. Having roommates has its benefits (like cheaper rent and people to be social with), but I think I really just prefer to do my own thing without worrying about others. I felt like I was a little more anal with keeping things clean and put away which meant that I did a lot more of that than they did and sometimes that got me a bit frustrated. That’s what’s difficult when you live with people – you are constantly having to think of them (even when you just want to do your own thing). It’s also a bit crazy just randomly picking someone to live with. Even in my college days, I always lived with friends. Luckily, Amy and I got along well enough, even if there were some bumps in the road and our third roommate ended up being pretty great too.
Again, let me state that there are no two experiences that will be exactly alike while living abroad! For me, living in Spain has been really fun. Madrid has been an awesome city, (if a bit overpopulated for me), and I’m able to travel to different parts of the country, like Barcelona and Segovia, or travel around different parts of Europe like France and Germany – all for relatively cheap! Living in Europe is very cool. There is a ton of culture here because their history goes so much further back than ours does in the United States. It’s important to remember though, that while I’m country hopping in Europe, it’s basically like state hopping back home. These countries are cheap to travel to, but so are different states when you are in the U.S. (even if we lack the amazing RyanAir deals and flights for less than $20 – seriously, America, get on that!). It’s crazy that you can be so close to another person and yet they live in another country that speaks a completely different language. I will say that traveling to different countries, outside of Spain, has made me appreciate just how much Spanish I actually do know (compared to German or French or any other European language that is). My Spanish may not be perfect, but I can get by with it! The traveling aspect of life over here was exactly what I wanted to experience. It turns out, however, that I really do love teaching English to my kids! My school in Madrid is amazing and the students are adorable. My life in Spain hasn’t been exactly what I thought it would be and it’s lonely at times, but still, I can’t complain.
I think maybe I expected to just “click” with my roommate(s) easily, but it’s been a lot of work. Both of them have been here for more than 3 years already so they have friends (or a boyfriend) they’ve known for a long while already and people that know them very well. I, on the other hand, have known everyone here for barely four months. It makes it difficult to share connections with everyone and bond. This was, in a way, exactly what I came to find out about myself. Who am I around people I don’t know? How will I react to living in a foreign country? How easy is it for me to make friends with strangers? I’m still getting all the answers to these questions, but I honestly think maybe I was just restless in Montana. I’m definitely glad that I broke out of my comfort zone to do this. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss home. I miss my friends and my family and my job and my life. I sort of feel like my “real life” is on pause here. Don’t get me wrong – I am soooo glad that I did this. If I hadn’t moved to Spain, I would always wonder, “What if?” Now, I know. Or I’m still figuring it out anyway. Maybe that’s what everyone here is doing. We are all over here getting a new life experience trying to “figure it all out” because life isn’t easy. It feels like a working vacation, really. I do enjoy it, so before I continue getting too sappy and personal, let me share some of my wonderful pictures and experiences with you.
This bear is the symbol for Madrid! It represents something like growth and prosperity for the ever-growing city. You can find this bear statue, El Oso y Madroño, in Sol, the town’s center. In addition, Sol is also the center of Spain! You can find a little plaque in front of the government building marking the 0 KM point – the exact center of the country!
You can visit Madrid’s Royal Palace, he official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. You can buy guided tours or tour a selected portion of the palace yourself! This palace literally has thousands of rooms, but your tour with only include a dozen or so of these. Still, it’s a beautifully lavish place to visit!
I never get tired of visiting the sunset locations in this city. This is the Templo de Debode: literally an ancient Egyptian tomb that was gifted to Spain in 1968. It’s pretty awesome and tons of people gather here to view the sunset in this location. It’s always a beautiful view. The biggest difference between life in Europe and life back home is that there is a ton of culture and history here. That’s not to say there isn’t history back home, but it’s very different in Europe. There are tons of museums and historic landmarks to see here, which is where I’ve spent a ton of my time in Europe! It’s been pretty awesome.
As you can see, the traveling and the pictures are amazing in Madrid. I’ve enjoyed so many things about this beautiful city, even if every second hasn’t been perfect. I think it’s important to remember that if you choose to move to Spain to participate in the Auxiliares de Conversación program, that this is still real life. Most of the posts I include tend to be happy and upbeat, but there have also been really lonely days for me. There have been times when I wanted nothing more than to just go back home. As fun as it is here, it’s hard to be away from friends and family for an extended period of time. Still, I am glad I came here, because as I mentioned before, I don’t want to live a life filled with regrets.
Have you ever moved abroad? What were your experiences like? Did you find that living abroad was better or worse or exactly what you expected? Let me know in the comments below!