My entire life was Massachusetts. I was born there, I went to school there, and after high school, I went to the University of Massachusetts. My first taste of living abroad came in 2008, when I studied abroad in Australia.
Being on the other side of the world was an eye-opening experience. I went sky diving, scuba diving, got to pet a kangaroo, and managed not to get too homesick. But, I didn’t exactly go it alone. I went with a best friend and met many other people, many who were from Massachusetts. (noticing a trend?)
After university, I moved in with 3 best friends from high school, just outside of Boston. I stayed in the city for the next 5 years, working and having a blast with friends from university and high school. It was familiar and it was comfortable.
When I was 27, I started to feel antsy. I had been living in the same place for a while. I was working in a job I enjoyed, but I felt like there was something…. missing. My comfort zone was incredibly well established, and I rarely if ever, stepped outside of it. It was hard to put my finger on, but I knew I needed to get away. Before I took a leap and moved, I decided to take my first ever solo trip.
I went to Costa Rica alone. I had never really done anything alone. I cried on the flight there, I was terrified. But, it turned out to be amazing. I met awesome people, and then, on the flight home, I cried again, but for other reasons.
This tiny week-long solo adventure taught me an important lesson: I was able to do things on my own. I could travel, I could explore, this made me more confident, and gave me a boost of independence.
The next step
The day after I arrived home, wet-eyed, and now, even more antsy. I called in sick and started thinking: NOW WHAT?
Something had to give. I had to get away. I started looking into how I could possibly live abroad. That’s when I discovered the world of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). I found out a TEFL certificate would allow me to use my native English abilities to teach and live abroad.
I had never really taught before, and was a bit scared. But, after reading blog after blog, and seeing breathtaking pictures, I knew a little case of the butterflies wouldn’t hold me back.
I took a vacation day and started doing some serious research.
Where would I live? I always wanted to speak another language. I always envied people who could. I had the best background in Spanish after taking it in high school and for a semester in college. I could string together a couple key phrases and knew some vocab.
I loved Europe after spending a month there traveling after graduation. So, Spain seemed like a pretty perfect fit.
I started to look up TEFL academies, and started making some calls. I ended up choosing International TEFL Academy. For a few reasons:
- It was inexpensive.
- I could complete my certificate online.
- The certificate would be recognized by every organization I looked in to.
So, I bought my course.
Dragging my feet
Ten weeks later, I completed the course and still had made no commitments to moving. One fall day, I was in the car with my older sister and I was talking about living abroad. She turned to me and said:
“Are you actually going to move, or are you just going to keep talking about it?”
Okay, harsh. But, the point was made.
So, I started to get serious about my search. I found a Spanish school that would sponsor my student visa, and I started my visa paperwork. I made an appointment at the consulate and started gathering all the necessary documents.
What I tell you next may deter you from moving abroad, but I promise you, it’s still worth it. The paperwork process is terrible. When I say terrible, I mean, conflicting internet sources, confusing instructions, paperwork you need stamped by a special stamp only one person has, doctors’ appointments, notified letters, and running around all over the place. It’s really time consuming and really stressful. But, I got everything in.
Next step: waiting.
Now it’s real.
I waited 3 weeks, and got my visa. Once I had that visa in my passport, it was real. Now, I had to quit my job, notify my landlord, and buy my plane ticket.
Cue gut-wrenching panic.
Well, after a few awkward conversations, significant tears, and some backpedaling, I was a step closer to moving abroad.
Welcome to Madrid.
After goodbye parties and a tearful trip to the airport, I was off. On February 4, 2016, I landed in Madrid, only to find my bag had not. But, that didn’t matter much. My new adventure had started and I was ready to start my life abroad.