Taking the leap to a new life abroad

Taking the leap to a new life abroad

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.

The itch

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.



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Cara Chatellier

Cara Chatellier is a freelance digital marketing strategist & content writer, working completely remotely. She is currently living in Madrid where she's learning Spanish, and enjoying all the vino tinto Spain has to offer. She loves podcasts, exploring new cities, baked goods, and laughing.

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