Staying in Spain?

I can’t believe it’s time for another year of auxiliares applications! Time flies, doesn’t it? This time a year ago, I was freaking out about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, who I wanted to teach and just what I wanted. I love traveling (who doesn’t?) and I had this great notion that I would discover myself as I tried on this new career change. I’ve been in Spain about three and a half months now. I’ve gone on winter holiday to France and Germany. I spent Christmas ice skating in the Eiffel Tower and New Years watching fireworks over the harbor in Hamburg. I’ve visited Barcelona and explored Sagrada Familia. I’ve taken a day trip to Segovia. I’ve been all over Madrid! And now it’s time to decide what I want to do next year.

Honestly, I’m torn.

On one hand, I love teaching. I love my students and my schedule. I genuinely look forward to going to work every day. I like helping with lessons and seeing the kids learn English and being a part of that. I like that there is a lot to do in Madrid. I love my bedroom that I’ve spent so much time making to feel like my own. I love the commute I have to work, just a short walk to the bus station and one bus ride to my school. While all that is great, I still don’t feel happy. I still feel like I am missing something.

While I love that there is a lot to do in Madrid, it’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest. I’m from a small town in Montana. Going from a town of 62,000 people (which is big in Montana) to a city of over 3 million is overwhelming. One of the reasons I think I love my job so much is that it’s in a small town surrounded by mountains and animals and it reminds me of home.

(Oh god, am I getting homesick? Maybe a little.)

To be honest, I’m just not in love with the big city life. There’s no privacy, there’s always noise, you have to be conscientious of pick-pockets, people are always yelling and partying until 6am… and I’m in a relatively quiet neighborhood for Madrid! Still, I hardly go 20 minutes without hearing sirens in the background (seriously, I can hear them right now which made me type that). It’s just exhausting. I’m intimidated to go out by myself because there are always people who want to talk to you or harass you (nothing bad unless you get pick-pocketed, but cat-calls or whistles or “hola guapa!”s).

I think I’m just realizing that maybe Madrid isn’t for me. I have made a few friends, but I haven’t really “clicked” with anyone. The feeling of being lonely can be really strong at times. To me, the problem is that there are too many people here doing too many different things and everyone is always running around like a chicken with their head cut off. Most of the auxiliares I’ve met this year are 3rd or 4th year renewals who already have so many friends. It’s true, there are thousands of auxiliares here in Madrid – whether through the ministry program, BEDA, UCETAM, CIEE, or one of the other ways to teach English in Spain. The majority of auxiliares get placed here and everyone is always trying to do something – make new friends, party, go out for drinks, travel with new people… To me, it’s a bit tiring.

I’ve never been the type to thrive in big groups of strangers. I don’t like going clubbing very often (maybe like once or twice a year). I’m not a heavy drinker. I do best with smaller groups of friends who like to enjoy nature and have fun together. Maybe I would be more inclined to enjoy Madrid if I felt that I had a solid group of friends here, but as I mentioned, everyone is always running around trying to please everyone else. They’re going in too many directions for me to keep up with.

I need a change.

So what are my options? Well option one would be to move back to the United States in July, after I’m done teaching in Madrid. Still, I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet. I don’t feel like my Spanish has improved to the point where I would like it and another year would do wonders for that. I’m also not sure what I would do. Should I go back to Montana? Find another job? Go back to school for my MBA? Try my luck in a different city? Frankly, I just have no idea.

Option two would be to renew at my school in Madrid. Here, I could move out of the city and into my town, Villanueva de la Cañada. The rent is cheaper, the air is cleaner, and I could get a bike and enjoy nature a bit more! I would probably end up with some Spanish roommates so my Spanish would definitely improve. I’d be further out of Madrid so I wouldn’t have the hustle and bustle of people constantly around – a huge appeal. The renewal process is also a lot easier if you choose to stay in the same region at your same school. But the downsides of that are that I’ll still be in Madrid. There won’t be any auxiliares living in my town, so if I do want to meet up with people it’s the same hectic city life that I wouldn’t mind getting out of.

So that brings me to my third choice – switch regions. The great part about this is that I’ll be a second year renewal candidate which means my application will get preference over everyone else (besides the other second year renewals). What region would I choose? I’m thinking the Canary Islands!

I’ve always wanted to live next to a beach. To wake up to the sound of the ocean. To learn how to surf! I know I’m romanticizing the idea of island life a bit, but I think it could be a cool thing. The Canary Islands were initially not taking in Americans from the government program (it was only available to the British Council auxiliares), but this year was the first year they’ve allowed Americans in! I’ve joined the Facebook Group for auxilares in the Canary Islands and I’ve been asking them their experiences thus far and everyone seems to love it! They’ve been saying exactly what I was hoping for – that life is less hectic, smaller groups of people, more adventurous activities, and less people around in general. One guy even said you can surf all year round (with a wet suit)! The weather stays pretty nice all year, which is kind of neat!

If I were living on a beautiful island, I also feel like I wouldn’t have as much pressure to travel. In Madrid, I feel like everyone is like, “Great you’re there, but where are you going next?” – more of that big city hustle. On the beach, I think life would be more relaxed. Sure, people are going to travel, but I don’t think the pressure of “getting out” would be there. The Canary Islands are out. I could hop around to other islands or visit Morocco or even fly back to mainland Spain for relatively cheap prices – but I wouldn’t necessarily feel pressured to do so.

It’s definitely interesting being here for only three months before we are pressured to decide what we want to do for the next year. Still, in my heart, I know that Madrid is not my city. I know that I want a change. I am not sure where exactly I will be heading next year; whether it be the Canary Islands or Villanueva de la Cañada or even back home. I know that I will apply to renew and hope for the best. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well. I know that it will. Wherever I end up is exactly where I’m meant to be.

Canary Islands

Have you ever lived on an island or next to the beach? How did you like it? As I figure out what I’m doing next year, the possibilities excite me! I can’t wait see what my future holds! If you’ve lived on an island or especially in the Canaries, let me know about your experiences in the comments!

6 Replies to “Staying in Spain?”

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Wow I came across your blog and it literally feels like you took my thoughts right out of my head as an auxiliar here in Madrid! I’m truly enjoying my school and the kids I work with and there’s always so much to do here in Madrid, but something is missing. I don’t feel truly HAPPY. I’m lacking a solid set of friends and spend a lot of time alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love being independent, but it’s gotten to the point where I feel lonely in a city of 3 million people… making me question if there is something wrong with me! I’m hoping I begin to “click” with more people and begin to truly appreciate my experience here, but it’s hard!

    1. I hope you found your niche, Nicole! I ultimately ended up heading back to the states. It was a hard decision, but I hated feeling lonely. Things got really bad with my roommates towards the end, unfortunately, giving me anxiety before returning to my apartment. I got on well with my coworkers, which helped, but the feeling of being alone was so hard. Know you’re not alone! Try meeting up with people on Facebook or something? That can definitely help. I wish I had done more intercambios or signed up for Spanish classes or something. You could even try Tinder or something! A lot of the people who started dating in Madrid found more friends and seemed to enjoy it. I hope it’s getting better for you!!

      1. Hey Genevieve,
        I truly enjoyed reading your blog! it has really helped throughout the whole process of applying for the program. Im actually applying with a couple other friends from the states & have decided on picking madrid as our first choice. I heard its hard to find a piso in madrid, so how soon would you recommend to leave to madrid in order to find a good apartment?
        Also i saw the cataluna was listed as an option, do you know anybody that got placed in barcelona ?
        thank you !

        1. Cataluña was a new province when I initially applied, years ago… So no, I didn’t know anyone who got placed there. From some of the FB groups, people were hoping NOT to get Barcelona because of how expensive the city is and that they were only paying the 700 euro a month. A lot of veterans from the program were saying it would be next to impossible to live there on such a small income, but I don’t know anyone who personally lived there, so I couldn’t say for certain!

          As for Madrid apartment hunting, I used a service called Pack to Spain and it doesn’t seem like they’re up and running anymore lol. It was convenient because I paid a small fee and he placed me in my apartment so I didn’t show up early at all. A lot of the other people I talked to seemed to get there in early/mid August (assuming their visa was ready) to find a place before it got too crazy. I didn’t arrive until mid-September. I would hop into a FB group and see if you could connect with some people heading there this summer and make some plans or figure something out!

          1. Thanks for the reply!

            i did look up the service that you used, but as you said they are no longer operating. we were planning on heading out early september, but now that you said people go earlier….that might be necessary. Especially since we are only planning to get an apartment with just the three of us.

            Again, thank you for taking time to response!

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