7 In Barcelona/ Catalunya/ Expat Diaries/ Spain

My Biggest Announcement of the Year

announcementNow that spring break travels are over and everything is starting to calm down a bit here in Madrid, I thought it was finally about time to announce a little news. This news has been quite a few months in the making, so I didn’t want to mention anything until it was official. And as of yesterday, it is:

I’m moving to Barcelona!

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And I promise that no one is more surprised by this announcement than I am. Anyone who knows me or has read even a little of my blog probably understands how much I love Madrid. I fell in love with the city during my very first day here over three years ago. In so many ways, it has become the very best second home I ever could have asked for in Europe. So why, you might wonder, have I decided to abandon my wonderful life here? Why give it all up to start over again, stepping out alone into the unknown of a new and unfamiliar city? Well, I think the answer might just be in the question.

At this point, I’ve started to accept that I’m not quite normal. It’s safe to say that something may actually be very wrong with me. Only joking, of course. Well sort of. The fact is, I just can’t seem to accept the idea of settling down anywhere any time soon. The more I travel and the more I see of the world, the more I just can’t imagine living in one place for too long. While I could easily stay in Madrid another year and be beyond happy, that one nagging part of me will always wonder… what if you tried out another city? There’s a whole world out there, full of places I could potentially love as much or more than Madrid.

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Lately, I’ve found myself feeling a little antsy. I’ve become just a little too comfortable in Madrid, and my feet have started itching again- only this time it’s different. It’s not just a few days or weeks of travel I’m craving right now. I’ve started daydreaming a little more every day and my curiosity has started to get the best of me. There are so many different and beautiful places in the world. How could I ever choose just one? And why should I have to? 

Yet at the same time, I know that leaving Madrid will break my heart a little. I will miss this city more than words can say. I struggled a lot with my decision, going back and forth with pros and cons constantly. But I think I can pinpoint the one very ordinary moment in which my decision was ultimately made. About a month and a half ago, my best friend here in Madrid came over for dinner and he asked me a very simple question:

“How would you feel if you knew you were moving to Barcelona?”

“Excited,” I replied, without even needing to think.

“And how would you feel if you knew you were staying in Madrid another year?”

“Content.”

And that’s when I knew it. My time in Madrid was coming to an end. Life is too short to settle for content.

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Park Guell, Barcelona

The truth is, I want a new start. I want to carry a map again. I want to meet new people. I want to wake up on a Saturday morning in my own city and feel like I have an entire new and unfamiliar world at my feet waiting to be explored. I want to taste new foods and gawk at impressive architecture. I want to hear a new language drifting through the streets and experience life in a different region of this incredible country. More than anything, I want to be excited again by a big change.

So the more I thought about the future, the more all signs began pointing to Barcelona.


 

Why Barcelona

It might be time to leave Madrid for me now, but it’s definitely not yet time to leave Spain. I’m really not sure that day will come any time soon. Besides the obvious fact that it’s the place to be if I want to continue working on my Spanish, I’m far too in love with this country to leave it now. The lifestyle, the weather, and the diversity in Spain is simply unparalleled. Every region is incredibly unique, and I think I could be happy living in any of them. The problem with this, of course, is economic opportunity. While all of Spain’s regions certainly have their own charms, most of the jobs are in Madrid, Barcelona, and Basque Country. No, it’s not a very charming aspect to think about as a traveler, but when you’re living here, the job market might just been the most charming factor of all.

So in the end, I didn’t have too many places to choose from. But don’t get me wrong- Barcelona’s been calling my name for plenty of other reasons lately as well.

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After spending some time living in Madrid, I think it’s natural to wonder what it might be like to live in Barcelona one day too. While Barcelona might be Spain’s second major city, it couldn’t be more different from Madrid. Comparing the two is comparing apples and oranges– they’re nothing alike and I want a taste of both.

What would it be like to live on the shores of the Mediterranean, learn a bit of Catalan, find a new regular café, eat real pan con tomate every day if I want to (and let’s be honest, I’ll want to), and explore another unique autonomous community of Spain that I haven’t had much of a chance to see yet?

These are the questions that began popping into my head back in January. And as soon as they did, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that relocating was the best move for me at this point. So the next step? A few weeks of frantically googling “how to teach English in Barcelona” and sending lots and lots of emails. Now, a few more months down the road, the daydream has become a reality.

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This would be a pretty nice backyard, don’t you think?

So what’s the plan?

Another surprise! Ok no, that time I was being sarcastic. The plan is to continue teaching English of course. In the long run, I’m hoping to find work in another field, but until I can start the process of changing my legal status to resident (one more year!) there’s just not much else I can do in Spain as an American. Now that I’ve finished my two years on the language assistant “student visa” offered by the government, it’s time to get a real student visa to extend my time here.

After a lot of research, I’ve decided to take a developing teacher course in Barcelona to get the visa. This requires 20 hours of class per week which will allow me to get an authorization to work in Spain up to 20 hours per week as well, which is pretty much full time for an English teacher here.

I’ve found what I think will be a great course for me at Oxford TEFL Barcelona. The Oxford TEFL developing teacher course with Spanish combines ten hours a week of Spanish class with ten hours of teaching development classes. The part I’m looking forward to the most about all of it is the opportunity to take a Spanish class again. Since I moved to Spain to teach English, I’ve always regretted that my week days revolved around English as it’s the center of my job. Now, I get the chance to improve my Spanish even more while living in Spain. I get to take a Spanish class every single day and I couldn’t be more excited for it!

The Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

The Timetable

So what are the next few months going to look like for me? I’m very happy to say that I will be returning to the United States for the summer at the end of June. I wasn’t sure I’d get the chance this year- but thank you, Spanish bureaucracy, for requiring my trip home for that 10 minute visa appointment in Houston. I say this with only a bit of frustration though, because I’m secretly quite glad to have the inconvenience. I’m really looking forward to spending some much needed time at home with my family over the summer.

If everything goes as planned with the visa, I’ll be returning to Spain in early/mid September to find a flat to rent, get settled, and start the job search before my course begins on October 3rd. It’s sure to be a whirlwind of a few months, but that’s usually how it goes with me anyway.

Until then, I have to get through the very hardest part: Saying goodbye to Madrid. My time here has absolutely changed my life in every way imaginable and I don’t even want to think about this part of the process yet. Now that I know my time in Madrid is so very limited however, it’s time to start making the most of every second I have left here this spring.

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So happy spring, everyone! I hope the season brings as many new beginnings and lovely changes into your life as it has most certainly brought into mine.

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  • Sara Remke
    March 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Hi, Rachel!
    I am so excited for you on your upcoming plans! I was only asking your mom and dad about your plans just the other day when we got together on Easter. Good luck with getting everything done over the next few months and ENJOY the time you have left in Madrid!
    Can’t wait to see you when you are home over the summer!
    Love,
    Aunt Sara

    • Rachel
      April 1, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Hi, Aunt Sara! Thanks so much! I’m very excited for everything to come and I can’t wait to see you all this summer either. It has been such a long time and I’m really looking forward to some time at home. Hope you all are doing well!

  • Lauren @ atipsygypsylife.com
    April 2, 2016 at 1:08 am

    How exciting! Oxford seminars is great, I landed a job in Pamplona after completing my course. Didn’t take it, but thought you should know. They even have partnerships in Catalonia 👌🏽

    • Rachel
      April 3, 2016 at 10:57 am

      That’s great to hear, Lauren! I’m really not sure what to expect yet, but it’s so good to get an opinion from someone who has been through it before. I’m hoping it won’t be too hard to find a good job in Barcelona!

  • John
    April 29, 2016 at 12:32 am

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. My wife, Linda, and I love Spain and hope to move there some day very soon. Linda actually grew up on the island of Formentera and her brother has spent nearly 15 years living in Barcelona as an adult. He’s a dual citizen now.

    I’ve never taken the time to read many blogs before but I’ll be taking the time to check in on yours now and again — you’re an excellent writer. If you have any recommendations on where to study Spanish I’d love to hear them. Based upon my limited research, I was thinking of studying Spanish at the university in Salamanca?

    • Rachel
      May 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words, John! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my blog. I really hope you guys get a chance to move to Spain soon. Living here has been an incredible experience so far and I just can’t imagine moving back home any time soon.

      I think anywhere you decide to study Spanish in Spain would be a great choice. Each region of the country is so unique and has so much to offer. I know the university in Salamanca is supposed to be one of the best! I’ve only been to Salamanca once a long time ago and it’s a great town, but it also has a “college town” feel because of the university. So for that reason, I think studying in a bigger city like Madrid or Barcelona would offer a better overall lifestyle since there’s so much to do, whereas in Salamanca there’s really just the university. But it just depends on what kind of lifestyle you want. Hope that helps!

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