Spain – one month update

A little over a month ago, I was racing around LA trying to finish a huge to-do list before the flight that would take me first to Zurich, and then on to Madrid. It is crazy to think it’s been a month, and I’m going to be super cliched and say it feels both much longer, and much shorter than that.

Before I came, I got a serious case of cold feet. I started doubting everything, and felt pretty crazy to leave a life I liked/had put in so much work into building. I tried to have realistic expectations, knowing when I first arrived I’d be homesick, that the language barrier would be a problem. I was prepared for it to take some time for me to feel settled.

But amazingly, it took almost no time at all. After a delayed flight and a road trip from Madrid to Logroño with a VERY tired Kristen behind the wheel, I arrived in Logroño at 1:30AM. I parked my car and dragged my suitcase to my apartment (because cars aren’t actually allowed on my street), and stepped into my new home for the first time.

my street

my street

And guys, it was GOOD. My room was basic but pretty. The apartment was bigger than I was expecting, and my roommates were so nice and just as excited as I was to be here. And the city? It was still lit up and beautiful at 1:30 in the morning, and I instantly felt so sure I had made the right decision coming here–a feeling that has never once wavered.

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Gareth came to visit about 5 days after I got here, and we did some pretty cool things, which will be a separate post. Something worth talking about, though, is that we are now in (nearly) the same time zone! That one small detail has changed everything. I can call him when I wake up on my way to work, we can talk at lunch, and before bed. In LA there was a cut off from 2:00pm until maybe 11:00 or midnight where we just couldn’t talk, and that is like half the day! It sucked! Also we are going to see each other basically every two weeks from now until January 8th. What will we even DO with such regularity? Probably get very sick of each other!

My first week here was San Mateo, which is one of the two biggest festivals in La Rioja, the region that Logroño is in. It was really fun, and a great introduction to the city. There was also a marching band that went by my window hourly for the entire week, which started out as cool and then got dramatically less so as time went on. Now that San Mateo is over, there is a guy who plays gorgeous classical music every night, and it fills the apartment and is SO LOVELY.

I can’t begin to explain how much I love Logroño, and how lucky I feel to have been placed here. Originally, I wanted Madrid so badly I didn’t even tell anyone I had applied to move to Spain, but to Madrid. That was all I could picture. And now, I wouldn’t trade Logroño for anything. It’s small and cheap (my rent is 180 euros a month, for real), it’s not touristy at all, it’s beautiful, it has amazing food/wine, it’s close to all the major northern cities, and the people are so so so nice. There’s a belief that the people in the north are cold, and I don’t know if I’m just not far enough north, or if the stereotype is just completely wrong, but the people here are insanely nice. They never get annoyed with my terrible Spanish. Every family I’ve met for private lessons has told me if I ever need anything, to come to them–and they actually mean it. If I need a ride somewhere, help figuring out how to buy a bus pass, recommendations on the best bodegas, etc–they are so happy to help. I think my Spanish is improving so much because I have no worries about speaking it, even though it’s bad. There is zero judgment, so I feel fine to say or ask whatever I need, sometimes again and again haha, until they understand me.

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I’m taking Spanish lessons four times a week, for five hours total. And my Spanish really is already improving. This month there is a pop up book fair in the park next to my apartment (can I say again how much I love Logroño), and I bought The Little Prince and have been (slowly) reading it. My Spanish is still terrible but for the first time in my life I have hope that I might not be incapable of learning, that maybe by the time I’m done here, I’ll actually be good–or at least somewhere close to good.

For work, I have two jobs, both teaching English. One is at an elementary school, and one is doing private lessons after school’s out. I love the private lessons. They are exhausting, but the kid/s really pay attention and learn, and all my private students are super nice/cute/funny and I love hanging out with them. Plus I get to practice my Spanish with their parents, the super nice people mentioned above. I interviewed at multiple academies and quickly realized finding work in either an academy or through privates lessons would be super easy in Logroño. So I went for the higher paying option, and though it’s only been three weeks, I get the impression it’s a bit more secure than I originally thought. No one has canceled yet.

My school is a bit tougher. I’m supposed to be a language and culture assistant, and because I’m not meant to be teaching alone, no experience or training is required/provided. However, my school (breaks the rules and) puts me in my own classroom with the younger kids, which is REALLY hard, especially on the first day. The kids don’t know who I am. They don’t know enough/any English–and I don’t know enough Spanish–to accomplish ANYTHING, so mostly they run wild while I try not to let them hurt each other. It’s not great but week two has definitely been better than week one, so hopefully as I learn more/they get to know me better, it will keep improving. The teacher for grades 4-6 stays with me like she’s supposed to, and I love those classes because the kids understand me. Plus the entire school treats me like a celebrity–when I walk down the hall every student runs up and says hello and tries to talk to me. It’s pretty cute.

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I do miss things from home. Mostly people. Katie. And Mexican food. There’s one Mexican food place in Logroño and guacamole is twice as expensive as a burrito… you can imagine the size of the burrito. I miss my pilates studio and the beach. But I still plan on going back to California eventually, and until then, Logroño is a perfect place to be.

Until next time, or as literally every single person in Logroño says, ‘sta luego!

2 thoughts on “Spain – one month update

  1. Amy says:

    It sounds like you’re having an amazing experience, I’m so happy for you. It sounds much nicer there than Madrid (but I’m not Madrid’s biggest fan anyway!). The teaching sounds pretty fascinating, I’ll be interested to read more about your experiences, especially in the schools. I bet it was a shock to be left alone with the kids straight away when you weren’t even supposed to be. Great that you and Gareth can be more together too! Sounds like you are adjusting so well 🙂

  2. layneivy5 says:

    Keep working hard towards learning the Spanish language! One day you’ll wake up and have a full conversation in Spanish with perfect grammar and you’ll FREAK with excitement (It’s happened to me on many occasions). Also, if the “being along in the classroom” becomes too hectic you can definitely remind them of your responsibilities and they should adjust. It wouldn’t be the first time a school tries to take advantage of a new language assistant…
    Suerte!

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