Living abroad may not be as hip and glamorous as influencers make it look, but it will definitely teach you one (or two) things about yourself. Here’s what a year in Spain has taught me.
If this is your first time stumbling on my blog, you may have the slightest inkling that I am currently an expat in the southern region of Spain, Andalucía. I am going on two years working and living in this small Mediterranean country, and two years working in the same program, Auxiliares de Conversación. My first year was spent living and teaching in the more central region of Spain, Castilla La Mancha, where it’s dry, yellow and famous for olive plantations and Manchego cheese.
Last year, during the end of January, auxiliars had the option to choose if they wanted to renew for a second year and continue living in Spain. I remember thinking that I had only been in this country for three months, and the government was already asking if I wanted to renew and stay for a second year?!
I jumped back and forth about renewing or returning home. It’s hard to be away from your friends and your family, adapting to a culture that isn’t your own, learning how to be a social person who can carry conversations, and always putting yourself out there.
The first few months that I had arrived, my brain felt fried everyday trying to translate Spanish, understand the language, communicate, and just soaking it all in. It was exhausting.
In the end, I decided to apply to renew and later on, accepted my position now. One reason that continuously crossed my mind was that one year to fully understand a culture, the language, and the people is not enough time.
My first year was merely a shallow swim in the ocean or “getting my toes wet” with what this country had to offer. I came not really knowing the language (hello, 4 years of Spanish in high school!) and not knowing much about Spain.
Another factor was that when the travel bug bites you, it bites you hard. I still wanted to be able to travel around Europe and Spain a little more, exploring different cities, countries, and meeting new people. It’s such an advantage to live in Europe and be able to buy cheap flights!
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How that decision happened
Alright, now I’ll be honest. One main reason for staying a second year was that
I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I saw all of my friends in their full-time jobs, buying their cars, moving out of their parent’s homes, and now getting engaged!
A part of me envied their stable lives, their high paying salaries, and their direction to becoming a financially independent full-functioning participant in society. Another part of me, which still exists today, is completely terrified of that trajectory. I told myself that I was set out to create an unconventional lifestyle for myself, and I knew I didn’t want to agree to the 9-5 desk job just yet!
I’m happy with my decision to renew for the program, and if you’re thinking about renewing, I completely support the idea of a second year abroad! Like I said before, you’re able to really immerse yourself in the culture during your second year, understand more of the country and the people, and really improve on your Spanish language skills.
And, the icing on the cake is that you’ve got another year to decide what you want to do “for the rest of your life”, travel more of Europe, and have those adventures and experiences that my friends always told me they were jealous of. Year two, you’re coming in stronger, smarter, and a much more “seasoned” expat!
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The future looks bright!
My goal for this second year has been to really try and create a life here, not just a two year stint abroad. I’m pushing to create stronger relationships, participate in community activities, and try really hard to blend in and become a local. So far, it’s somewhat working, but like they say: You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take America out of the girl!