Officially an Expat!

It’s hard to believe that I have been living in Madrid for two weeks! To be honest, it feels like months because so much has happened! I have friends, an apartment lined up, a Spanish phone number, a Spanish bank account, joined a gym, and trips planned for the foreseeable future.

The first day was rough. Following the directions of my AirBnB host, I lugged all my belongings on two buses to the apartment.  I was proud to navigate the airport, find the buses, obtain the keys from a local bar, and locate the apartment without turning on my cell service.  But for the life of me, I could not open the door to the apartment! After ten minutes of struggling, the next-door neighbor came out to see what was going on.  Without knowing a lick of English, he tried to help but with no success. Thankfully, he got the concierge to help open the door.

Flustered, I went inside and unloaded my things into my temporary home for the next two and a half weeks. It was around one in the afternoon and I was famished. While getting ready, I blew a fuse and the power to the whole apartment went out.  Gratefully, my friend living abroad in Czechia calmed my nerves and talked me through restoring the power.

Later that night, I went to a very rainy parade with twenty some other expats who attended the same academy as me.  It was very comforting to be around folks who have been through the exact situation I was in.  Everyone was super friendly and willing to help. After that night, I knew that everything will be ok.

The next day, I explored the city with a friend I met on Facebook and two girls at her hostel and met up with a former co-worker, who lives in Madrid!  She invited me out to dinner, drinks, and dancing with her friends. It was a blast experiencing the Spanish nightlife!

Since the first weekend, I began my program at TtMadrid with five awesome girls from America.  Very quickly we bonded and supported each other though the first crucial weeks of living abroad.  We have completed teaching four of the six observed classes.  After the sixth class, we will obtain another certificate, our resumes will be sent out, and we can start attending Spanish classes – which is greatly needed!

These past two weeks have been exhilarating and exhausting.  I am ready to fast forward to settling in, having a steady income, and exploring!

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Here we go!

The last two weeks in the United States were a whirlwind.  I spent as much time as possible with everyone important to me.  Unfortunately, I was unable to squeeze in everyone.  Before going home to Cleveland for ten days, I sold my car, an Acura ILX named Khalessi.  It was a weird feeling being both car-less and unemployed.  But in my mind, I kept thinking on to bigger and better things.  The next day, I was on my way home for my last visit before the big move.  While I was home, I spent time with my family and friends, looked for flats in Madrid with my two future roommates, worked on my resume, hit up the gym, and knocked out a handful of other items on my to do list.  The time flew by.  Leaving my parents was not easy but I know that they are supportive and just want me to be happy.

On January 1st, I traveled back to DC for the last three days. I unpacked and began the difficult task of packing for a year into two suitcases and a bookbag.  The second to last night, a friend of mine took me into the city one more time to hit up some of my favorite spots, including this little French café with amazing crepes and Georgetown Waterfront.  We even grabbed drinks at a Spanish tapas restaurant to get me ready for the big move.  It was a perfect way to spend my last night in the city.

The next and final day, I put all my belongings that didn’t make the cut into storage, including my beloved bike.  Thankfully, I was able to get one final ride in on the 3rd floor of the Cube Smart.  Afterwards, my friend drove me to my sister’s place.  On the way over, I was telling him a story of when I went to New York City with a friend several years ago.  As she was from the area, she left to go see friends and family and there I was alone in a big city for a few hours before heading back to DC.  I remember feeling lost and even scared.  I was thankful that I had another friend in the city that came to the restaurant I was at and walked with me to where the bus was picking me up.  Who would ever think that same girl afraid to walk alone in NYC three years earlier would be flying solo to a big city in a foreign county to start a new life. 

The next morning, I was on my way to the airport.  I was very grateful that my sister and nephew came with me and even waited to see me through security.  Needless to say, there have been many tears shed over the final two weeks, even as I write now on the plane.

I can definitely say that I have grown over the 5 years I lived in DC.  Every single person I met has helped shape me into the person I am today.  I am very sad to leave but I am beyond excited for the adventures ahead.

From here on out, no more tears, only smiles.

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And so it begins...

It wasn’t until my trip to London this January that I realized how amazing international travel is.  I fell in love with seeing new places, meeting people from all over the world, and eating native food.  After living the fast pace lifestyle in the Washington, DC area for 5 years, I was ready for a change.  Once I came home from my trip, I started looking for opportunities to make a living while traveling the world.  That is when my sister suggested I consider teaching English abroad.  As a finance and IT professional of 7 years, never did I think my career would switch such directions to something I only dreamed of as a child.  I remember staring at my computer screen at 11:55 PM one March evening debating if I should purchase the online TEFL class with a $400 discount expiring in only minutes.  Using the advice my mother always told me, I made a pro and con list. With only two downsides, being far away from family and it being scary, I took the leap of faith and registered for the class.  About a month later, I traveled across the globe to Thailand with two friends on an unforgettable trip.  The views, food, and the people I met sealed the deal on my decision.

As soon as I returned from Thailand, my online class started, and the next chapter of my life began to unravel. During the months of May through October, I was working crazy hours on a demanding project at work, spending 10-12 hours a week on class work, teaching two night classes a week, jumping through hoops to gather all the documentation for my visa, preparing for my move, all while trying to maintain my composure at work.  I was like a swan, calm on the surface but padding like hell underneath.  I was extremely overwhelmed and hit a low that I could not get out of.  It wasn’t until I submitted my visa application that I finally was able to take a sigh of relief.  At that point, I knew that this was out of my control and if I got my visa, it was meant to be.  Four weeks to that day, my visa arrived in the mail. When I was opening that package, I felt a range of emotions.  That was the only thing that would hold me back and there it was in my hands. That following Monday, I gave my manager my notice.  The last three weeks of work was very bittersweet.  The company is truly a unique place and the best part is the people.  I will cherish the memories and the friendships I made and hope to stay in touch.

After months of preparation and an emotional roller coaster, I can say I am ready for this adventure and cannot wait to see where life takes me.  Join me on this journey of a lifetime.