31 May 2013

Friday Five

I'm going to be 100% honest here: I am the absolute worst at updating blogs. I once fell 7 weeks behind in Sevilla and spent a whole night catching everyone up. Casual. This is an attempt to remedy the situation. Welcome to Friday Five, where each Friday I will attempt to actually post 5 main highlights of the week. Think of it like SNL's Weekend Update. Except probably less focused on celebrities, the news, and things that would usually be considered important. And probably less frequent in the summer, since there won't be as much going on (I promise I'll do it weekly in the fall!).

Let's do this, then.

1. This week marks the last full week that one of my oldest and dearest friends, SC, will be at home. While we first met in the sixth grade through a mutual friend, our friendship really started off when we spent the entire day together on our eighth grade trip to Islands of Adventure. We went to high school together and never had any classes, but we rode together before and after school and were still great friends. We ended up at different colleges, but we always plan on date time when we're home for a break. SC and I both applied to the NALCA program to teach in Spain, but ultimately we've both decided to deviate from that. I, obviously, went with CIEE's program instead, while SC has just recently been offered a job in Texas. Tomorrow is her goodbye party, and I am so incredibly sad to see her go so far, but this girl is destined for big things, trust me.

2. Today also marks my 7th month anniversary with my boyfriend. It might not seem like a lot, but given our circumstances, we're really impressed with ourselves. Long-distance relationships are by no means easy, but we've been extremely lucky to have had a good go of it. We'll be celebrating by having a Skype date. Can't wait till we can have a real date again! :)

PS. no one ever mention this picture is on here, because my boyfriend a) does not like taking pictures and when I finally convinced him he b) blinked. Typical.

3. Today, I wrote a check for $24 and sent off a Criminal Background Check request form to the state of Florida. According to multiple sources (including the FL Dept. of Law Enforcement site), the State does not require fingerprints in order to conduct the check unless there's someone with similar information. Considering I'm probably the only person in the US with my particular name, I'm going to guess I don't need it. I could use those $5 for the Apostille anyway. I'll keep y'all updated on how long it takes me to get it back!

4. As I mentioned a bit earlier, I actually applied to two different Language and Culture Assistant programs: one that's through the Spanish Ministry of Education and the one offered by CIEE. I received word from CIEE's acceptance in March and got my placement about two weeks ago. I was accepted to the Ministry one as well, but placement for that one was a long while away because it's first come, first served, and I had a high application number. Some people who did the program last year even told me not to expect a placement before July or August at the earliest (!). Well, looks like the Ministry is on a roll because I received my placement today...and I also was placed in Madrid. Except I've already accepted with CIEE so oops. Perhaps I'll dedicate a future post as to why I chose CIEE over the Ministry program.

5. Even though I've spent 4 years off in college in another state, I'm still not 100% able to care for myself. Specifically, while I can bake, I'm rather lacking in the cooking department. Luckily, there's Pinterest. When I move to Madrid I intend on finding a flat near my school (which luckily for me is also near the city center), but I'm not sure I'll have a roommate or not. Don't get me wrong, I had a roommate all four years in college, but I kind of like the idea of living on my own. I've yet to do it and I'm going to have to do it eventually most likely. Since I can't rely on a roommate anyway, I've been going crazy on Pinterest with recipes and craft ideas to decorate my "new" flat. These recipes in particular look delicious. Now I'm just hoping I find all the ingredients in Spain...

*Note: these posts will not always include pictures, but I'll try to. It definitely makes it look more entertaining and eye-catching. Plus, I know I'm definitely drooling over those quesadillas.

Happy Friday everyone!

27 May 2013

Passport to Madrid


Bonus points to people who can catch what I'm referencing in my blog title :)

So I promised that this blog would partly be dedicated to helping future auxiliares out on their own journeys. Part of that journey is, unfortunately, the visa process. Something perhaps even more tedious than a History of Magic lesson.

[Side note: I make A LOT of Harry Potter references, so please get off this and educate yourself I apologize in advance if you aren't a fan of the series.]

If you are not a future auxiliar, this post might be kind of boring for you. But maybe you're curious as to how much of a pain this is.

To apply for an EU visa, you have to visit the consulate of the specific country you're going to (in my case, Spain). For the EU in particular, you do not need a visa if you will be in Europe for less than 90 days; you can enter on a tourist visa. However, I will be staying for way over 90 days (too many to count!), so I actually need one.

I got lucky: I just applied for a visa last summer to go abroad last fall, so the process is still relatively fresh in my mind. Granted, I'm going for twice as long this time, so I need a couple of more forms, but in general it's basically the same thing.

For your visa, you have to apply to the consulate that serves your jurisdiction. I'm outrageously lucky that there's a Spanish consulate a mere 20-30 minute drive from my house. The Miami consulate serves everyone with a permanent address in either Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina. The process I'm going to outline applies specifically to the Miami consulate. Other consulates have generally the same process, but it may be slightly different.

The Miami consulate requires:

  1. the visa application form 
  2. two passport pictures
  3. a valid passport 
  4. ID
  5. your program's acceptance letter (in my case, a letter from CIEE stating what I'll be doing in Spain. This letter will also outline program dates, location, payment, etc. So nosy.)
  6. health insurance
  7. a health certificate that essentially says I have no diseases and that I'm not mentally unstable
  8. a background check 
  9. money order to pay for the visa
  10. a copy of everything listed. Miami asked for two last year and only ended up using and needing one, but it's beter to be safe than sorry.
For the most part, this is exactly what I had to do last year. Some of the things I obviously already have (#3, 4, 6, 9). The visa application form can be downloaded for free directly from the consulate's website (http://www.vfsglobal.com/Spain/usa/Miami/index.html)(other side note: auxiliares will need the Long-Stay 90 Day visa, so make sure you pick the right one!). Passport photos can be taken pretty much at any photo center (Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, etc). Item #5 requires a letter directly from Madrid and CIEE, so not much I can do there. However, both #7 and #8 have to be obtained on my own AND have to be translated. They don't ask for much, do they?

For the health certificate, all I have to do is go to my doctor. Since I have to go get CIEE's medical certificate signed anyway, it's no big whoop. Make sure your doctor writes the note on his letterhead and with his/her stamp. You may also request to have him/her write the certificate in Spanish (on letterhead and with a stamp) and save yourself the translation costs. The background check was a little trickier since I've never had to get one and therefore had no idea how to go about getting one. I did some Google searching ("background check in Florida") to see how I could go about getting one. Miami's consulate specifically mentions that they accept a Florida state background check OR an FBI one. Check your consulate requirements to see what's accepted there. Because the check then has to be sent to be apostilled (essentially verified as a true document), it is a much shorter process to get it done at the state level. Plus, while I went to school in another state, I never changed my permanent address from my FL one. Make sure that when you send the form to the FDLE, include a note saying you need the check certified, or you'll end up in the mess I had to fix. [*Note, you apparently may also request your background check in Spanish and save yourself the translation service. I did not do this and chose to go through an official translation and it worked as well.]

I've set my visa appointment for the end of June, and hopefully I'll be able to get it moved to early or mid July to allow more time for all my documents to get here (Miami allows one free appointment change). I am requesting my background check this week, and once I get it I'll have to send it back to Tallahassee to get it signed with the Apostille. However, to shorten the process even more, I am going to make a copy of it, so then I can get it translated AND apostilled at the same time. For translation, well, let's just say I'm lucky I live here, because there are seriously so many places that have official translation services. I stumbled upon one right by my house the other day while out to dinner with some friends.  But if you aren't as lucky, a quick Google search should do the trick! There are quite a lot of places that have offices, but there are also online services available. The background check and the medical certificate are the only things that require official translations; my acceptance letter, because it's coming directly from Madrid, should already be in Spanish. 

So of course, the ultimate question: how much does all this cost? Brief outline of the basics here:
  • passport photos: $7.44 at Walmart (the cheapest I've seen so far unless you get them done yourself)
  • translation of documents: so far, the cheapest I've heard is $30/page
  • Florida background check: $24
  • Apostille of Hague: $10
  • visa: $160
Total: $236.44
*Note: I already have a current passport and I live near the consulate, so I didn't include that in my costs.

My wallet is actually crying y'all. And we haven't even gotten to airfare and bag fees.

I just keep telling myself it'll all be worth it. I've got so many ideas on how I can go about teaching English to these little ones, and I love daydreaming about how it'll be like to live in a foreign city for a year. This may not be the conventional postgrad path, but each day I'm getting more and more convinced it's right for me.

Toodles for now! - Nic

Oh, this is a really random P.S., but if anyone is an elementary school teacher in the states and you're looking to introduce your students to a new culture, please get in touch with me! I have an idea I've been fine tuning that I'd love to shoot your way! :)

25 May 2013

The Spanish Sorting Hat

Why hello there readers!

So after four of the most brain-draining years of my life, I've finally done it. I am now a college graduate. Hard to believe, I know, considering I look about 14 to some people, but let's just roll with it, shall we?

Like any graduate, I constantly get the question of what I'm doing next in life. To be honest, it gets annoying after the first 748 times. And so, I started this blog to document what I'll be doing, and this first post has the answer.

For my first year in the post-college world, I'm hopping across the pond. Quite literally.

You see, back in February, I applied to be an English Conversation Assistant Language and Culture Assistant (fancy title, sheesh) in Spain. It's a bit of a risky move: the pay is rather low, you move to a foreign country all on your own, and there's no guarantee of getting your top choice region or age group.

SOUNDS LIKE FUN ALL AROUND. Everyone loves living by themselves and being completely les mis.

But in all honesty, I knew what I was signing up for. While I was abroad in Spain, I got a taste of living in Sevilla, and I also got the chance to work as a volunteer at a secondary school teaching English.The only difference now was that I was not picking Sevilla as my top city and I was not choosing secondary school as my top age group. The pay...eh, coming off of a college budget, everything else seems like living the high life.

In March, I received my acceptance letter into the program, but no word on location. Once I confirmed that I would indeed take a place in Spain, only then could they work on assigning me a school. Sneaky sneaks try to trap you into potentially accepting a crappy location.

And so I waited for the Spanish Sorting Hat CIEE to place me somewhere, and last week, I received an offer at a primary school in central Madrid, my top choice city and age group. I debated it, to be honest, because it's still a huge decision to make. But in the end, I decided to go for it and see where life abroad takes me.

Long story short: I am moving to Madrid, Spain, this fall. 

So where, pray tell, does this blog come in?

Well, dear reader, let me tell you.

I'm not much of a blogger, and I certainly am no Shakespeare, but:
1. There are plenty of auxiliares or future auxiliares who might want an honest perspective on the journey. Think of it as Quidditch Through the Ages, Spain Style (Auxiliares Through the Ages?).
2. No matter how much I try to keep in touch with everyone from home, I know I'll definitely miss some details, so I'll try to make up for it here.
3. I have been told many a times that maybe writing in a journal would help make me less stressed. This isn't really a real journal, and I doubt that advice is true in my case, but hey why not.

So where do we stand now? Now that I accepted my placement, it's a waiting game to get my forms from Spain in order to get a visa. I will outline that process in another post, because frankly it's a nightmare. I'm still on the fence about taking the GRE, so that might also come up again. Regardless of that though, I need to mentally (and I suppose physically too) start preparing myself for grad school application extravaganza in the fall. Cue happy dance (loljk).

And that will be all for now, I believe.

Bring in the dancing lobsters. xx, Nic