Travel Talk with Nicole: Teaching in Madrid as an Auxiliar de Conversación
It’s that time again: another interview with a fabulous traveler! Nicole of Lost in Wanderland has lived in the two Spanish cities I’ve called home, teaching English as an auxiliar de conversación for a second year in Madrid after previously studying abroad in Sevilla. I asked her a few questions about her experiences in Spain, her new web project, and her upcoming travel plans.
My name is Nicole, and I’m a 20 something born and raised Miamian. I currently live in Madrid, where I teach English to a bunch of rowdy primary schoolers whom I love dearly. When I’m not correcting my students’ pronunciation of the letter r, I love going out for tapas, hiking, and exploring both Spain and Europe.
What prompted you to start blogging about your experience in Spain?
I first decided to start blogging when I went abroad to Sevilla as a senior in college (old lady alert). I kept a Tumblr blog (that I still use!) because I wanted to focus mostly on pictures…and because I wasn’t terribly serious about it. I moved to a more legit platform right before moving back to Spain to teach English. I figured out a lot of things in Spain through trial and (rather outrageous) error, and I wanted others to use my blog as a resource and a sort of “what not to do” advice center. Over time, I’ve also used it as a platform for talking about how my experience abroad has shaped me and some epiphanies I’ve had.
It’s honestly hard for me to pick one over the other because they’re so vastly different from each other. I’ve always enjoyed big cities and having a wide variety of cuisine and attractions at my doorstep, and on that front Madrid is the clear winner. At the same time, Sevilla is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and it has so much charm in its tiny, winding streets and extraordinary Feria dresses. For me personally, Sevilla is the better of the two if you’re looking for a more short-term stay in Spain (say, study abroad), whereas Madrid, being a much larger city, is more for a long-term stay.
That’s how I feel about the two! I see you’ve been an auxiliar de conversación through CIEE. Would you recommend the program over other English-teaching programs in Spain?
I chose to go through CIEE for my first year as an auxiliar. My biggest deciding factor was the support they give you in helping you figure out your residency paperwork when you arrive in Spain, which can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. However, for my second year I chose not to renew with them and went through the Ministry of Education instead. The major difference between the two programs is that CIEE requires a rather hefty fee, whereas the Ministry program is completely free.
When choosing a program, you need to consider what your needs and goals are. Some programs offer support with paperwork and arrival, others offer language courses to help improve your Spanish skills while you’re here. However, if you’re looking to just come over, work a bit and have fun at the same time, go with the Ministry. The application can be confusing (and even a nightmare at some points), but it’s completely free, and they offer sufficient information to help you get by.
Yes!! WhoWhatWander is a collaborative blog for women who like travel. Most of the women involved are currently living overseas, such as myself, but many simply enjoy traveling in their leisure time. The point is to try to look at travel from a female perspective and thus many posts will focus on issues that directly affect female travelers. For me personally, I have always loved traveling, and I’ve been doing it since I was very young thanks to my dad’s job. However, in recent years I’ve traveled to a few places where being a woman made it a bit difficult, and sometimes I will even face criticism from people I know for wanting to travel and not “settle down” just yet. WhoWhatWander offers women a community of likeminded women that is incredibly empowering.
Sounds like a fantastic project! What are the best places you’ve traveled while based in Sevilla or Madrid? What’s next on your bucketlist?
This is probably the most difficult question on this interview ha! Speaking domestically, my two favorite places have been Santiago de Compostela and La Rioja, which is probably not at all what you’d expect. I’ve been to Santiago on various occasions now, and each time I fall more and more in love with the city. It’s got a ridiculous charm, delicious food, and the cathedral is just breathtaking. I’ve never lived there, but I can easily navigate myself around the city…I’m that obsessed!
Outside of Spain, there’s no competition: Prague is amazing, and if you haven’t been, you need to do so ASAP. Make sure you eat at Cafe Louvre when you go too, and get some of their lemonade 🙂
Up next on my bucketlist…well, let’s just say I went a bit crazy booking flights. Over the next month I’ll be going to Fallas in Valencia to catch another major Spanish festival, before bouncing around to Porto, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam, three cities I’ve had on my bucketlist since first arriving in Sevilla. It’s taken me three years to plan those out, but hey, couldn’t be more excited to see them finally come together!
Thanks, Nicole! Enjoy your upcoming travels! You can read more about Nicole on her blog, Lost in Wanderland.
Want to be a part of my traveler interview series? Let me know!