I met Kate through the Internet, much like how I met most of my blogger friends. She, like me, is teaching English here in Spain through Auxiliaries de Conversacion. She, however, lives in the North of Spain in La Rioja. What is funny is that I actually know La Rioja. My former Spanish tutor Daniel over at Coffeeshop Spanish taught English in La Rioja as well. So when I first came to Spain on the immersion trip he organized, Logroño, La Rioja was a stop on the journey.
Kate has a lovely blog and so I thought I would ask her to give her perspective on the expat life.
I’m Kate! Blog enthusiast, country counter, dog lover, and struggling Spanish speaker. I’m 24 years old, one of three, and have lived in Centreville, Virginia most of my life- that is until now. I graduated from college just over two years ago and started a desk job in Fairfax directly after graduation. It’s strange the things that change in your life as you work away eight hours a day, and suddenly it occurred to me that I no longer wanted to do exactly what was expected of me.
It was like a light went on, and everything I had ever wanted to do suddenly came flooding back. I wanted to travel, learn a different language, meet new people, and do something daring and different. I didn’t want to pay my endless list of bills, or spend that exuberant amount on rent along with the rest of my 22-year-old friends. I also was enthralled with this idea of having an opportunity to work on my writing. A creative writing major, my real passion is writing books, and working eight hours a day was leaving little time to actually pursue that dream.
It’s strange to think that just under a year ago, I was scrambling to finish the application to this program to get it in on time. Not only was it something I had just recently discovered in my latest Google-escapade, but I also had no idea what I would do if I didn’t get in, let alone what would happen if I did.
I didn’t consciously decide to do away with the life I had worked so hard to build for 2 years until I received the acceptance email, and suddenly it seemed less I had a choice and more like I just had to leap. And that leap has been both the greatest and hardest adventure yet.
I started a blog to detail and keep track of the insanity of my decision. TheMakingofKate.com was born both from my passion for writing but also as a way to share hilarious moments, daily frustrations, and of course, the revelations of this silly little thing called life.
5 and 5
Things I Love
1, The Cheapness of Spain
Not that the money thing matters- but the comparison of living life in Northern Virginia to living life in Spain is almost, almost laughable when it comes to the money thing. I love how inexpensive it is to live in La Rioja.
Rent is laughably cheap. The wine delicious and easier to consume when paying a euro for a cup. Grocery shopping isn’t half as painful because I can feed myself on twenty euro a week (including three bottles of wine.) Three-course-meal with wine- 20 euro. Drink at a club- 5.
For perspective, I was paying $850 in rent, grocery shopping for a week was closer to thirty or forty. A bottle of good wine would set you back about $7 or $8 dollars. Going out for a three-course-meal with drinks-$40. Buying a drink at a club- $10. I think moving back to the states will be a shock to my wallet.
2. The ease of travel
I say that with a little cringe because traveling from Calahorra, La Rioja can actually be a pain. But I have made it a point to do as much traveling as possible, and that beautiful thing about it is that at the end of the day it’s possible.
I’ve traveled to different towns in Spain, Ireland, Brussels, Switzerland, and back to the states thus far and have plans to travel to Italy, Germany, Scotland, Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, and Hungary before the year is finished. Europe is an amazing place to live because everything is so close together and Ryan Air is officially my new most hated best friend.
3. Walking Everywhere
Even though I live in a small city, it’s still that, a city. I walk everywhere, and even though sometimes it can be frustrating, there is something simple and rewarding in using your feet to get you from place to place, as well as working on staying skinny while partaking in the glory that is Spanish bread and wine.
4. Doing Something Different
I never studied to be a teacher. I actually was often asked if that is what I would end up doing with my degree and consistently declared myself against such a path. And so I am shocked to find myself doing just that now. But it’s been a crazy enlightening experience thus far. I’ve had moments of shock, laughter, frustration, and a great story or two during my time. I’ve also learned how to do something new, and to me that’s priceless.
5. The Wine and Free Time
I live in a small region without much to it. La Rioja is mostly agricultural and I appreciate the things it gets me. Fresh food and wine. The wine here is amazing and cheap and easy to consume by the bottle without suffering your typical hangover. Add that we only work twelve hours a week, and there is little left to complain about.
But alas, there are frustrations, too.
Unfortunately, my salary is just as laughable as the cheapness of Spain, and I’ve had to carefully live by a budget like I never have before. This can be really frustrating, especially when you are traveling and find something amazing in a shop, or when you miss your train and have to buy a new ticket. Having a limited amount of money is stressful.
2. Not Having a Car
While I love walking everywhere, I also can’t stand having to rely on public transport to get to my schools ever day. Or if I want to visit a town nearby. Or make my way from the big city back to my small town after a long day of travel. It can be a killer.
3. The Language Barrier
I’ve been trying my best to learn the language, but sometimes it’s just a no-go, and the resulting frustrations can be more towards tears than laughter. Learning another language from the bottom up is stressful.
4. Being away from friends and family
My first week I was brutally aware that I knew no one. Not a single soul. I had spent the first 24 years of my life growing friendships and having the love and support of family close by. This was a shock to my system, but one that was thankfully quickly remedied. I can’t believe how close I’ve become to so many people in such a short amount of time.
5. Small town options and siesta
I’m used to having a large array of options at my call and beckon. Northern Virginia is a cultural hub of food and shops- diverse and many, if I wanted Indian I had six or seven choices of restaurants within my driving range. Here, there is no such thing. It’s been hard adjusting to what is available and not craving certain foods that aren’t around. In addition to this frustrating limitation is the shop hours. It’s gotten slightly normal to where I laugh instead of grumble, but having to abide by whatever strange hours the owner of said shop wants to have is hard. Last Sunday I came down with a wicked cold and despite my best efforts could not find a single shop open with the medicine I needed. Same goes for picking up groceries or shopping.
In the end though, I wouldn’t go back on my decision. I have met such interesting people, had altering experiences, and grown in a way that I never would have dreamed if I had never left my original path behind.
Thanks so much to Nina for allowing me to share my story and guest post on her amazing blog!
Logroño, La Rioja, Spain
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