So, I have been taking classes in the morning in order to further improve my language skills here. One thing that I like about Salamanca is the amount of international students that are here. In my class we are two Americans, one French girl, one Italian girl, two Koreans, and another Chinese student all in the same class and all in their 20’s. We are all brought together by our desire to improve our language skills and I really do like the class. However, my favorite time in that class is where we all get a chance to talk about current events and social, or political, differences inside of each country. It really gives us a chance to see a country from a different perspective.
The most fascinating discussion that we have had is one pertaining to economy. As many people know that the economy in Spain is really in a dire situation. The only news is bad news and it seems to only get worse. This sparked a conversation about finding jobs and the personal economic situations pertaining to each individual and their countries. As I heard each individual explain their specific story about trying to find work it made me start to think about what exactly were to happen if my government decided to go to war against anyone of these specific countries which being from where I am from is not that big of a stretch.
In my country, for the past 10 years there has been this constant talk about China. How China, “owns” the United States and how every US citizen should fear that China will, or has, become the next big super power and that they are a constant threat to American business security.
While sitting in class and listening to my fellow classmate, a chinese male who is the same age as me, talk about the same exact thing that everyone else had just expressed, His desire to find work, start a family, hangout with friends, it really got me thinking about what on earth are they talking about when they say these people are a threat to me? They simply are not. Everyone wants the same things, money, security, family, and to have fun. The sad part is that, if a war were to break out between the two countries, there are a number of people just like us that would not meet in a classroom but instead through the scopes of their rifles.
Borders mean nothing, to think otherwise is ignorant.
When I first told people my plans to go move to another country I was always surprised by the reactions that people gave me. I can recall the reaction of “ YOU ARE CRAZY! ” from my father and the hysteria of my mother upon hearing the news that I really am not going to Spain for only a year like I had told them, but instead, I would be going abroad indefinitely. After telling people my plans they would always ask me this next question, “How long are you going to be there for?” followed next by surprise when I told them my answer of a shoulder shrug and that “I really have no idea”. In reality, I really didn’t want to look into it deeper than that because the thought of me selling my car, buying a one-way ticket, and traveling 4,000 miles away from home across an ocean that my great grandparents risked their lives in to get me to where I am today, really did scare me a lot.
I was also surprised with the restrictions people seemed to place on this little plan of mine. I think that the thought that someone moves away from the US seems like a really odd concept to many Americans. Throughout primary and secondary schooling we are always taught about how hard the immigrants in the 19th and 20th century had to fight in order to have a better life and that often the United States was their goal.One thing that I think about quite often is about the bigger picture, what am I doing with my life. SOLUTION: from the many people I have spoken with, many article I have read and other information gathered on the topic there is no plan for someones life. Things just happen, and then because of that another thing happens based on the choices that you make. This linear path that people seem to associate with adulthood and old age is usually pieced together in hindsight while ignoring other facts and events that may not support this linear path.
I don’t regret coming here at all. I am not nearly as obsessed as I was before about leaving the U.S. and finding work abroad. However, this could be because I already do live and work abroad. I do miss home a lot and having to live in another country and see that your friends’ and family’s lives still go on when you are not there is pretty difficult. However, everyday it gets easier, everyday you meet new people, and every day you get used to the little differences, such as everything being closed from 2- 4 or not having a car and needing to walk/ take a bus everywhere.
An American Living Abroad.
Apologies to anyone who had been following me before. I have been inactive from writing for the past month due to personal reasons but now I am back and ready to help anyone forge a new life for themselves abroad.
Big thanks to the kind person who went out of their way to email me about my blog. It reminds me that people do actually read this thing. Now, it has been awhile since I posted so forgive me if I am rambling.
Since I last posted, I have arrived in Spain and am now in Salamanca where I have since been reminded about the “mañana” attitude. There seems to be a lot of problems with time management for many of the people I have come into contact with. I am currently on say 45 of not having hot water coming out of one of my showers, not having television (spanish television isn´t my favorite anyways), and not having the key to my mailbox. Luckily for myself I have figured out how to wiggle my mail out of the box, all while looking like a criminal to anyone who happens to pass by while I do this.
Secondly, I GOT A JOB, many exact. I was very worried before about whether or not I would find one but now I am more worried about finding time for myself.
Thats pretty much all the news as of right now I’ll be posting a few more posts today with different titles and themes so I will end this update post here.
On Tuesday I finished handing my paperwork for my student visa in Spain, I will be studying in Salamanca, Spain for the upcoming year at their international school. A lot of people at my university in the US have asked me how I am affording all of this, since I am not rich. Courses in Spain that are conducted by institutes, academies, and universities in Spain are surprisingly cheap in comparison to programs conducted by American schools. I have compiled a list of various programs in Spain here and will be following this article with the steps involved in obtaining a student visa.
Short Courses: 2 weeks- 2 months
There are a number of schools in Spain and Spanish courses for foreigners is a huge business. In Salamanca alone there are 12 different schools. If you just walk down Gran Via and Plaza Mayor or a few other major streets you will definitely see a language school with a sign that says “Curso de Español para Extranjeros”. Most credible schools will have a web page with a variety of courses including their prices and duration.
Many schools only offer 1-3 month intensive courses in Spanish. These courses are great if that is all the time you have and really economical compared to courses sponsored by American Schools, but keep in mind they wont be accredited by North American universities.
If you are looking for a short course look at The Instituto Cervantes website for accredited centers. Here they list all of the centers that have language courses that this Spanish Language learning Authority deems worthy.
Long Courses (6 months- Academic Year)
- If you are looking for more than just a month in Spain there are a number of Spanish Universities that have international courses in Spain. Three of which I have placed here since those are the ones I am familiar with. I am sure there are more and the list will continue to grow:
University of Salamanca
University of Granada
University of Barcelona
For any amount of time you wish to spend dedicated to learning Spanish there are going to be courses that will help you do that. This list will be on going and if you know of more programs that are not listed I would be glad to add them.
So, after a week and a half of traveling I can finally settle down and start working on more posts. The next few posts are just going to be a quick summary of what I have been doing the past week.
Getting to Spain and The Terrible Flight
I left Graz on Tuesday, July 16th for Madrid with a 5 hour lay over in Ibiza, Spain. When we arrived in Ibiza we noticed that all of the Iberia flights were late. It’s normal for airlines to sometimes be late but to Iberia this is apparently unacceptable. Due to the economic crisis almost all Spanish businesses have taken the “Do more with less” approach to business since they turned the plane around in 30 minutes, loaded us on the flight like cattle and yelled at anyone who took their time. Since we were late they pushed the speed of the plane up, which caused my girlfriend and I to get very nauseous and by the end of the flight she was holding the paper bag and waiting for the inevitable.
During those 5 hours in Ibiza, Iberia airlines managed to lose both mine and my girlfriend’s luggage. After one hour of waiting by baggage claim, which I know can seem like a long time to wait but in Spain it is not outside of the realm of possibility, we looked for some sort of desk or assistance. After looking for about ten minutes we finally found the customer assistance desk which consisted of 3 workers with additional space for 10 more, but due to the crisis they have been laid off and now have only 3 people there to assist 20 people.
So, we get to the desk and ask the balding man holding on to the last bit of his blond dyed hair what is going on and After asking him where the luggage is he quickly informs us that he just simply does not know. Let me repeat that, The airline doesn’t know where our luggage is.
After telling him that we have nothing to shower with nor a change of clothes he gives us two courtesy shower kits, mine was complete with shampoo, conditioner, a two blade razor that was perfect for cutting up my face right before I had to take my pictures for my Foreigner Identification Card, and a wonderful white T-Shirt with a huge Iberia logo. In my girlfriends’s bag they gave her a comb, slippers, a toothbrush, and another Iberia t-shirt. But just forgot to put any shampoo or conditioner in it. So we had to go out and buy that anyways. Thanks Iberia!
After taking our phone number we were sent on our way to go find the bus station.
Update: They found our bags and sent them to my girlfriends house in VillaFranca de los Barros in Extremadura. The mailman couldn’t find the house and almost went back to Madrid without delivering them if it were not for my girlfriends mom seeing the guy in the street.
Every year thousands ,although I wish it were more, of American students choose study abroad. Many go with various expectations. However, I find that many students get the wrong Idea going into it and often they are left disappointed upon departure back to their home. So let me clear some things up for any student or parent’s of students that are studying abroad in the upcoming years.
“When I get back I am going to be so fluent in my chosen language that I will speak like a native.”
While yes there are cases where students go abroad after years of studying and become very comfortable and fluid in the language. Many students who go abroad have only studied the language for 2-3 years and it would be outrageous to think that in 3 months, or even a years time, that you would be able to learn and have enough practice with the language to be able to speak like a native.
Fluency, is a word that should be taken out of the language learners mentality. It gives the false impression that you have reached this level where you no longer have to work on the language and can conduct yourself in all topics, No. Language learning is an ongoing process that never stops and the learner needs to continuously work on adding new words and remembering old ones. It becomes a lot easier as time goes on and yes there becomes a point where the language feels natural to you, but is there a point where you can say, “Today I am fluent, but yesterday I was not?” No.
Parents and friends: Don’t expect them to be able to go abroad for 3 months and then come back and be language gods.
Students: Just enjoy yourself and accept that language learning is an ongoing thing, that there are going to be awkward moments when you have NO idea what they are saying, and just strive to be a better speaker than you were the day before. Don’t be discouraged by little mistakes, even natives make mistakes when speaking.
Germany is possibly one of the easiest countries in the EU for Americans to find work. Unlike the previous post, Spain, the German government has a relatively easy and straight forward approach to working in their country. If you find a job, then you can work there. Granted, only if you have a bachelors degree already.
Finding a Job on your own.
For Americans there are two ways of getting a work permit, before you arrive in the country at the various consulate offices throughout the U.S. or after you have arrived already.
Steps to finding a job in Germany.
Step 1: Find a job: The following databases can be used to finding employment within the European Union.
Step 2: Upon Arrival to Germany: stop in at the local Ausländeram (Alien’s Office) and turn in the following papers:
- two fully completed application forms and required declaration in duplicate
- two passport photographs
- valid national passport and two copies of the data page (Please note these important regulations concerning your travel document/passport:
(a) its validity has to extend the duration of the visa you are applying for by at least 3 months
(b) it has to contain at least two blank pages;
(c) it must have been issued within the previous 10 years. If it has been issued before that, your passport can not be accepted. That even even applies in cases where the validity has been extended by the authorities of your home country.
- employment contract or letter of intent from your future employer inGermany and two copies thereof
- your driver’s license and/or utility bill in your name as proof of residence in the consular district where you plan to apply
- Visa fee.
Due to the relative ease of earning working papers in Germany for Americans there seem to be a lack of programs sponsored by the government or independent groups that don’t require a fee. However, there is one organization that provides scholarships and funding for study:
German Academic Exchange Service
DAAD offers stipends for German study and exchanges in Germany for North American students and post-graduates.
The job market in Germany for Americans is the most open out of all the EU countries. If you are looking for a way to work in the EU this is a great opportunity, however, keep in mind that Germany is very proud of their language and while they are accepting to foreigners coming in they are not accepting to foreigners not learning their language. Upon applying for a residence visa the officer will assess your language skills and if he sees that you have a limited knowledge of the German language you will be required to take classes through an Integration Course. More information here.