So, as I am sure you are all sick of listening to my story over and over again, I thought I would introduce some fresh Andalucian faces to the scene. I have asked a few of the other CIEE participants to share their experiences, as well. Today, my friend Cathy Davison, from the CIEE Two Week Immersion Program was kind enough to give us some insight into her life in Almeria. Check out her blog, Pescado de Gato, for some pretty amazing photography!
Cathy in Almeria
Where are you from?
Where/what did you study?
I studied Spanish and International Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). However, I graduated in 2004 and have been working in IT as a software tester for the past four years.
Why did you decide to come to Spain?
I studied abroad in Sevilla in the summer of 2002 and have wanted to come back to Spain ever since. This happened to be a great year to come back because I was bored with IT and knew I wanted to do something different, although I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Rather than waste time/money on a graduate school program while trying to figure it out, I decided to make money (well, a little) while relearning Spanish.
Where are you teaching/living?
I am living in Almería, the capital of the province of the same name, and teaching in El Ejido. I commute by bus, and although El Ejido is only about 40km away, it normally takes an hour each way since it stops in all the little towns along the way.
Tell me a little bit about your pueblo or ciudad.
Almería is the sunniest city in Europe so the climate is lovely, and it’s located right on the Mediterranean. My two favorite neighborhoods in Almería are Cuatro Calles, where I live, and Zapillo. Cuatro Calles is in the historic center of the city, so it’s near some of the city’s important historical sites and museums (the Alcazaba, Catedral, and Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía). It’s also the main nightlife area for the city, which means I can be having tapas and drinks with my friends within 2 minutes of leaving my apartment. Zapillo is the neighborhood on the beach, and has a lot of restaurants and cafes with great views running along the Paseo Marítimo. Probably my favorite thing about Almería is that a tapa of your choosing comes with every drink for approximately €2.50 (and the tapas are all delicious!).
What is your favorite thing about being an auxiliar?
That it allows me to legally live and work in Spain.
Any advice for future auxiliars?
Here are three things I wish I’d done to prepare myself for coming here:
1. Practice your Spanish! This seems like a no-brainer but I thought it would be super easy just to pick up the language when I got here. Of course I did eventually but taking a summer school conversation course would have shortened my learning curve considerably.
2. Unless you come from a big city, you’re probably used to driving everywhere. Well in Spain you’ll be walking most of the places you want to go, and I honestly think it’s worth it to do a little training for that. My first month I was tired all of the time, which was from a combination of walking in the heat and thinking so hard to be able to communicate in Spanish. If you live in a city you can start walking to the places you want to go, and if that’s not an option just take some walks around your neighborhood.
3. Read blogs from people who have done the auxiliar program so you have a good idea of what to expect. I don’t think anything can totally prepare you for the culture shock, but you’ll definitely pick up some helpful tips. For example, if I hadn’t read Young Adventuress
, I never would have known to bring enough deodorant for the whole year because the kind they sell here is terrible. Random but good to know!
Overall, I think the best advice is to be open minded and flexible…mimic the locals and just relax!