Posted by: Katie | June 14, 2012

Siesta y Fiesta

Jen explains about her trip to Spain as well as the lessons she has learned during her travels. She also offerss suggestions on sights to see for those that have never been there or any of the European countries. Be sure to visit her website:

1. Was this trip a study abroad trip or just to see some sights?

I came to Spain for the first time to volunteer as an English teacher in elementary schools. When I returned back home after the volunteer trip, I had missed the culture and country so much that I decided to make the move here to teach English full time.

2. What preparation did you go through before traveling overseas?

To receive a visa to live in Europe was a long process. Normally you may only stay as a tourist for 3 months, so in order to stay longer I had to have medical checks, FBI background sign offs, and go through the Spanish consulate in the United States to receive a visa. Other than that, I did a lot of research on the area I would be living in, and I studied Spanish as much as possible. Also, I won’t lie, I felt like I needed to “European-up” my wardrobe a bit, and did a little shopping before coming over!

3. How much time did you spend in Spain and what were your favorite locations to see?

I have been back-and-forth for 2 years now, beginning in April 2010. My first full year here with my visa began in the beginning of the school year, in August 2011. Big cities like Madrid and Sevilla are beautiful and have so much culture. But, my favorite places in Spain have been the smaller pueblos and villages where there are beautiful landscapes. The coast in Pais Vasco (The Basque Country) is so green that it takes your breath away. The countryside of Castilla y Leon is gorgeous. And the crisp clear water in the beaches of Mallorca are wonderful. The wonderful thing about Spain is that it has ever type of landscape you would ever want to see.

4. What other countries did you visit and what things did you see? Any tourist-y spots?

I have been to France, the UK, Italy and Portugal. Seeing some of the things you have only seen in the movies or on TV was really exciting. Climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night and overlooking Paris was something I am so glad I did. In London, finally being in a country that spoke my language was refreshing, but I still felt like a tourist going to Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. My favorite out of the country experience was in Rome. I found the rich Italian culture to be beautiful and was ready to go back to Italy the day I came back to Spain.

5. How would you describe life in Spain for those that have never visited?

Life in Spain is much more relaxed than life in the United States. Lunch is eaten at 2:30pm, and from that time until usually about 5pm all businesses and shops are closed for ‘siesta’. This is a time to enjoy the mid-day with your family, sitting and having a nice meal. Then it is back to work! The schedule of the day really sets an example of the way of life here, because there is no rush with anything. It is not uncommon to find people, of all ages, walking around the city streets at 11:00pm on a school night enjoying each other’s company or having a coffee.

6. Did you learn any lessons while traveling?

Everyday I learn something new here. The best thrill of living here is challenging myself every day. With my students, with the language barrier, with the culture, with the fact that I stand out completely from any other person here, etc.  And with all those challenges I have learned lessons about life. About not giving up when the going gets tough, or about just how much I can do when I put my mind to it.

 7. Do you plan to keep up on your language skills/knowledge in case you want to go back?

Are there plans to go back? When I eventually leave Spain (I have signed on to spend another year here teaching in the city of Salamanca, Spain!), I will take with me many skills that I have practiced over the past two years, especially the language. But more than that I will take wonderful memories and knowledge of a new place and culture that I never had.



  1. Hello. Great job. I did not imagine this. This is a fantastic story. Thanks!

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