January of 2016 I made a decision that changed the course of my life: I moved to Madrid by myself for a year. The end of 2015 was a very trying year, to say the least, and with the start of 2016 I was left feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. I had to do something, change something. But what? What could I do? My job at the time was comfortable but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was living at home, I had been throughout the majority of college, and I wanted to be out on my own. I hadn’t traveled since my study abroad semester in 2013 and I missed it. Those few reasons were enough for me.
After a lot of pros and cons lists and a 3 hour conversation at a Japanese restaurant with my friend Johanna, I made my decision. I had 2 years of experience in the classroom so I decided to take that experience and teach English abroad. That was the only way I would be able live in Spain long term without taking classes at a university. In February of 2016, I received my confirmation that I was accepted into CIEE’s program, a study, work, and volunteer abroad program for many countries all over the world.
Why CIEE? Well I did a lot of research before choosing a program and it all came down to one thing. Support. I knew that moving to a big city like Madrid to work would be a lot different than studying, and living with a host family, in small, quaint Salamanca so I wanted to find a program that would have an office available if I needed help. I also wanted security that if I was accepted by CIEE, I would be placed in a school. When going through the Ministerio de Educación en España, the Ministry of Education in Spain, a placement in a school isn’t always guaranteed.
CIEE has 4 main teaching programs: Teach in Spain-Basics, Teach in Spain, Teach in Spain Immersion + 2 weeks of Spanish, and Teach in Spain Immersion + 4 of Spanish. I chose the Teach in Spain-Basics program in Madrid. The programs vary in price and amount of support given when you first arrive. Here’s a breakdown of the main four CIEE programs.
- All of the programs include:
- Placement in a Spanish school as a Cultural and Language Assistant
- Pre-departure assistance (assistance with your visa and general paperwork)
- Year round support in Spain
- iNext international insurance with 24-hour emergency assistance (U.S. residents)
- Airport pick up on the day of arrival
- Orientation (number of day vary on the program)
- Stay in hotel (number of nights vary on the program)
- Cultural activities
- A Lonely Planet guidebook
- A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course, a 150-hour certification course, for an additional $1,000 (optional).
- Requirements for all of the programs:
- To be a Native English speaker
- To have a bachelor’s degree
- To have US or Canadian citizenship
- Now here’s where the programs differ:
- Teach in Spain-Basics → 2 day orientation, 2 night stay at a hotel, and aimed towards applicants with an upper-intermediate to advanced Spanish proficiency and who have experience living abroad and have some experience teaching in a classroom. Option to teach in Madrid or in Andalusia. Cost: $1,200 (in 2016 I paid $1,000).
- Teach in Spain → 4 days of orientation, 9 night at a hotel, and aimed towards applicants with an intermediate Spanish proficiency. Option to teach in Madrid or in Andalusia. Cost: $2,200
- Teach in Spain Immersion + 2 weeks of Spanish → 4 days of orientation, 2 week stay with a Spanish family (breakfast and dinner included), 2 weeks of Spanish classes, and aimed towards applicants with low-intermediate Spanish proficiency. Cost: $3,400
- Teach in Spain Immersion + 4 weeks of Spanish → days of orientation, 4 week stay with a Spanish family (breakfast and dinner included), 4 weeks of Spanish classes, and aimed towards applicants with basic Spanish proficiency. Cost: $4,100
Along with these four programs, there is also a Teach in Spain Professional program in Madrid, which has a different monthly stipend and work hours. The Professional program has a stipend of €600-€800/month, as opposed to €1,000/month like the other Teach in Spain programs in Madrid, and applicants must be available to work full time, instead of 16 hours a week.
I truly believe that you get what you pay for with CIEE. If you want a lot of support you’ll pay more. It all depends if the support is necessary and/or worth it to you; for some it is, for some it isn’t. Because it is possible to work in Spain without a program fee, for example, applying through el Ministerio de Educación en España.
After being accepted to teach abroad, I began the endless paperwork. What paperwork did I need exactly? More like what didn’t I need? *ba-da-tussss* Here’s what I needed for a long term student visa, a stay longer than 90 days, at 24 years old. Some of the requirements change depending if you’re younger or older than 18. And keep in mind, this is for the Spanish consulate in Boston, which is used for residents of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
- 1 National Visa Application
- 1 supplement application form
- 1 color passport photo
- Valid passport
- Letter of acceptance from my program
- Health Insurance letter
- Proof of financial means during my stay (you have to choose one of three options and needs to be notarized)
- Notarized letter from parents or legal guardians stating that they will assume full financial responsibility for at least the minimum income official index, 537.84 Euros/month
- An official letter stating that a school or university in Spain or in the USA will assume financial responsibility of a scholarship or financial aid.
- Personal bank account statements showing that the minimum income official index, 537.84 Euros/month, can be covered throughout the planned stay.
- Non-refundable visa fee “Money-Order” ($160 for US citizens)
- Certificate of Non-Criminal Records – needs to have an Apostille of the Hague Convention
- Medical certificate – needs to be notarized
I had to make sure that I had originals and copies of all of these documents when I brought the documents to my appointment at the consulate. Be like Gallant, not like Goofus, and have digital copies of all of your paperwork, extra copies of your paperwork, and keep everything in one folder for when you go to your appointment at the Consulate. To make an appointment, the Spanish consulate in Boston has a page on their website where you can make an account and schedule a time slot.
Visa Tip: Take the first appointment you can find, even if it’s inconvenient. Time slot are very difficult to come by. Visas take about 2 months to be processed and approved, and you can’t make an appointment earlier than 3 months before your departure. I took the first appointment that was available and then 2-3 times a day I checked the appointment page to see if there were any cancellations. If I found a time what was better for my schedule, I’d cancel the first appointment and take the more convenient one.
For more info on the Spanish Consulate in Boston, visit their page here
This whole process may seem daunting but with some organization and determination to get the hell out of your town, it is doable. When you’re finally on that plane, heading towards your new adventure, you’ll know it was worth it. Comment below and tell me what your experience was like moving abroad to study or work abroad. Let me know if I didn’t answer a question you may still have about the process!