Turn the clock back 5 years and imagine a young, bright-eyed, 23-year- old, college grad, who had just moved her life to Chicago to start her career path in her very first corporate job…only to be fired 3 days in from said corporate job. What do you do after packing your car up and moving to a new city with only $350 in your bank account? Well, you could wallow in self-deprecating pity, look for yet another thrilling corporate job, OR do what I did that hot August in 2011 and let your dire situation give life to a dream, pursuing an opportunity to teach English in Spain.
Ever since studying abroad my senior year of college in the great region of Wales, I had the itch. I wanted to see more, DO more, and be more integrated and vulnerable. After my return from Wales I added it to the bucket list: “Live one year abroad.” I didn’t know exactly where I could do this, if it was monetarily feasible, or if I had the balls. So the search began. I was living in my uncle’s basement at the time, which was more of a dingy cellar than anything else. There was no AC and no internet; so I trekked day after day to the public library to do my research. I knew one thing was sure. I needed more money and more time to get paperwork in order. I began a receptionist job as soon as I could, knowing that I’d have no problem or guilt leaving after just a year.
I reached out to my college work abroad advisor to see if she had any advice. She raved about a program teaching English in Spain. I had given up on other teach abroad programs I’d found online simply because of the program fees and tuition. This government funded program however, was absolutely free and provided you with a decent living wage… But my first thought was, “Me? In Spain? Speaking Spanish?!?! I CAN’T!” In retrospect it seems silly that that was the aspect that made me lose sleep at night. I was so scared to go to a country and not be able to communicate.
After a lot of thought, and the purchase of Rosetta Stone Spanish Immersion…I decided to give it a go! Fast forward about 9 months, I’m on a transatlantic flight about to touch down in Madrid, Spain and I’m thinking, “WHAT??? Is this a desert?! I didn’t sign up for this!” I hadn’t even google imaged “Madrid.” Thinking about that now, it honestly seems insane, but I was trusting in the spirit of adventure, the good nature of strangers, and being at peace with the unknown. I remember feeling a strange calm come over me suddenly as I boarded the Madrid bound flight. I think at some level I knew I was going to find my home.
Over the following months, I began to learn Spanish. I pushed myself into uncomfortable social situations that made my skin crawl, but made me a stronger communicator and social being. I started to realize I was interested in teaching and that I have a talent and a passion for it. I saw the beauty in perfect strangers becoming your family and life-line. I saw the Spanish way of living with a passion for experience and enjoyment of life to its fullest. I traveled to countries I had only seen in movies. I ate…and I ate…and I ate. And at the end of one year I said, “More please!”
I ended up living in Spain for three years, teaching English in different schools, meeting countless new people, falling in love with a Spaniard, and creating for myself a completely new world view. Spanish is now a vital part of my daily life, as I am back in the States teaching Spanish to American children. My life, 5 years ago, looked very different. I never would have guessed I’d be doing what I’m doing today. But plans don’t always work out the way you thought. You never know where the unknown path will lead you. It can be hard and lonely at times but if you never try, you’ll never know. For me, one thing is sure…I’m gonna keep trying.