Saturday, November 24, 2012

5 Things to Be Thankful for When Living Abroad in Spain

We language assistants here in Spain can be a whiny bunch. From worrying about not getting paid on the first day of the month (despite being warned that our first paycheck would be delayed by a month or so), to being bored in a small town, we tend to voice any and all concerns in the program’s forum and its numerous Facebook groups.

But even though we do have a few legitimate reasons to complain (not getting paid is perhaps the most likely candidate), we language assistants still have a handful of things to be thankful for during our time in Spain. In light of our recently-celebrated American holiday of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d list five things I’m most grateful for while living abroad.

pumpkin pie
Source: Instagram

1) We get to live in Europe

I know that living abroad either during or after college has been a longtime dream for many of us, and Europe pretty much takes the gold for Most Glamorous Place to Live. When week-long winter rains are keeping us indoors or disrespectful kiddos are discouraging our meager teaching abilities, remember that we are immensely privileged to be living abroad in Europe—in western Europe, at that.

2) We have a job

Around a quarter of American college grads can’t find work, and half of all Spanish young people don’t have jobs. We are incredibly fortunate to have employment at this stage in our lives, fleeting though that employment may be. And because living expenses are so low in Spain (depending on how much you travel or go out at night), this job allows us to live decently for the better part of one year.

3) We work 12 hours a week at that job

While most of our friends (who have jobs) are grinding away at the 40-hour work week, we’re required to show up at our schools for 12 hours a week. Granted, most of us find more cash via private classes or language academies to fund adventures or nicer lifestyles, but still—we’re pretty lucky to have this gig.

4) We get to speak Spanish every day

Many of us majored in Spanish in college, or at least studied it at some point in our educational careers. Apart from studying abroad, it was pretty difficult to practice speaking the language frequently enough to become (mostly) fluent. But, for these 8 months in Spain, we have an immersion experience like no other—having to speak Spanish to survive (negotiating apartments, buying groceries, and having friends) and often needing to explain things while teaching (depending on the English level of our schools).

5) We’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from Europe, Africa, and Asia

To the west of Spain is Portugal; to the north, France; to the east, Italy, and to the south, Morocco—all world-class travel destinations within hours by plane or a day by train from our home in Spain. Sky-high (pun intended) airline tickets often prevent many Americans from taking the plunge to “see the world,” but we already overcame that barrier when we left home to work here. I know of lots of people who have taken, say, a month-long, epic, see-as-much-as-possible Grand Tour of Europe after graduation because they know they may not ever have such freedom to travel until maybe even retirement. We are so blessed to be so close to so many locations.

If you’re a language assistant in Spain right now, what else should we be thankful for? Comment below!
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