Another year, another batch of hopeful auxiliares de conversación/North American Language and Culture Assistants anxiously awaiting their placements. I’ve been there, and, as a renewal, I’m there again. I understand the anxiety, the stress, the excitement as you wait for the Spanish government to, well, pretty much determine your future. But before you go insane waiting to find out where you’ll be living in five months, here are twelve ways to pass the time until you get that sacred adjudicado email from the Ministerio de Educación.
- Brush up on your Spanish
Whether you’re going to Spain fluent in Spanish or barely remembering how to say, “Thank you,” it’s a great idea to brush up on your Spanish before heading over. And a simple way to do that right from home is through media. Download podcasts in Spanish! My personal favorite is the free Notes in Spanish, which will help your comprehension as well as introduce you to fascinating cultural facts about Spain. Also check out PeliculasYonkis and SeriesYonkis for free (illegal) streaming movies and TV shows dubbed or subtitled in Spanish. Or simply turn on your local Spanish station, such as Telemundo or Univisión, which won’t help with the Castellano accent but will still improve your listening skills.
- Meet Spanish penpals
Why not start making friends in Spain before you arrive? Check out sites like Conversation Exchange to meet native speakers to practice Spanish via email, Skype, or instant messenger. Maybe you’ll even end up living in the same city as them or will get a chance to visit them during your time abroad!
- Start planning all your fabulous trips around Europe
Pull out a map and start dreaming of all the amazing places you’ll be able to visit easily and inexpensively while living in Spain. Pick up a guide book and start reading about the innumerable fantastic cities Europe has to offer. Fantasize away, and when you arrive in Spain, you’ll have a great bucket list to start ticking off.
- Keep up-to-date on Spanish current events
Spain may be thousands of miles away now, but start becoming better politically and culturally informed now! Read Spanish newspapers online, like El País or El Mundo. If you’re not comfortable with your reading skills yet, El País also offers an English version of their newspaper.
- Commiserate with other future auxiliares
At least you’re not alone in your placement anxiety. Tons of other auxiliares are in the same boat as you, actively discussing their prospects on Facebook groups and forums. We all seem to be getting worked up into a frenzy on there, but it’s also somewhat therapeutic, right?
- Discover your favorite auxiliar/expat blogs
Reading about past and current auxiliares’ experiences is a great way to get psyched about the year ahead of you, so start reading what others have to say about their time in Spain. Check out my “Favorite Travel Blogs” list to the right for my personal favorite auxiliar/expat blogs. Keep them in one easy-to-read place with Google Reader.
- Become a Spanish history buff
Spain is magnificent, but it’s even more magnificent when you understand the long, momentous, fascinating history it’s endured. Pick up a book on Spanish history at your local library or simply start browsing Wikipedia. No matter where you’re placed or where you travel, there will be tons of history there, and knowing a place’s past will make it all the more exciting to see.
- Practice Spanish with fellow enthusiasts at home
Before heading off to Spain in the fall, meet up with other Spanish speakers in your area to practice your conversation skills. Your university may offer conversational groups, or check out Meetup.com.
- Start speaking like a local
You may be able to recite conjugation tables backwards and forwards, but you won’t sound like a real Spanish speaker until you get to know the country’s slang. Learn some of Spain’s favorite colloquial phrases on pages like this one or this one to arrive in Spain armed with a superguay lexicon.
- Launch your blog
One of the best ways to keep in touch with friends and family back home and record memories from your time abroad is to blog about your Spanish adventures. Your journey may not have begun yet, but your record of it can! WordPress, Blogspot, and Tumblr are a few free, popular blogging platforms. Be sure to comment here with a link to your blog so I can check it out!
- Follow Spain/auxiliar-related Twitter accounts
Twitter has an abundance of awesome Spain and auxiliar-related feeds. For news, follow @el_pais or @elmundo. Find the Twitter accounts of your favorite bloggers. For some great auxiliar humor, follow @guiribullshit or @spainproblems.
- Obsessively check your email and Profex
It may not be doing any good, but, come on, I know you’re doing it anyway.
- Enjoy the rest of your time at home
Your mind may be stubbornly stuck in your imagined Spanish life of the future, but don’t forget to appreciate every moment before you leave for your auxiliar adventure. Spend time with your loved ones, because, as excited as you are about Spain, I promise you’ll miss them when you’re gone. Eat all your favorite local foods. If you’re finishing college, savor every moment of the last few weeks, because they only come once a lifetime. It’s way easier said than done, but live in the moment!
How are you managing to pass the time while anxiously awaiting your placement? Where are you hoping to get placed?