Here are some ideas that helped me when travelling to Spain as a Language Assistant. Reading them might make your arrival upon Spain easier. Pack everything consciously, be prepared, and travel at ease!
Location. Location. Location
First thing. It is absolutely vital to know where your school is based. This will impact where you live, and what clothing you will pack. This might be the most important thing in order to be prepared and travel at ease.
The location of your school will influence your travelling time, depending on where you choose to live. Ask your tutor for the best areas to look for accommodation. Also, check what is available online. Use Google Maps to get a sense of where you will be and what is available in the surrounding areas.
Start looking for accommodation as soon as you can, even if they are only preliminary searches online. This helps you get a sense of what rent will be for the area you’re interested in (and will also give you an idea of what the cost for utilities is). It should also help you in understanding what is generally available so that you aren’t disappointed when you start viewing.
Always check for additional costs and include that as part of your rent. Have a master list of things you want in a place. Then, mark the non-negotiables. See what is reasonable within the area and adjust your list accordingly. This makes it easier to vet places and create a shortlist of suitable accommodation.
The way you pack should set you up until November or December. Other Language Assistants have dropped more lines on what to pack when traveling to Spain and temperature differences in Spain.
Each school has its own dress code. Ask your tutor, check the weather patterns where the school is located, and then pack accordingly. Remember, most schools have heating systems. Layering is crucial because you will most likely be using public transport to get to the school.
Pack your most professional clothing. It sets the tone for both you and your students. BUT, do not pack clothing that makes you uncomfortable. Be sure to check your clothing before packing.
Mending little things – like a button – makes life easier when you first arrive. The idea is to be able to start immediately without little hassles. That said, it is always advisable to pack a small sewing kit, and find out where the tailor and shoe repair shop is in your area.
You are also a person and here to experience Spain. Pack clothing that you love, and shoes that make you feel good. I packed in all my favourite shoes (all of them). No shoe was left behind.
I bought lots of toiletries and made sure they all fitted into my luggage. Let’s be clear – you can choose to purchase your toiletries when your arrival stock is depleted. But I knew that I use specific products, and my research showed me that finding these products in Spain would be difficult and costly.
The same was true about products for my hair type. Add to the list that I prefer cruelty-free, vegan, and organic products. I knew that I would have to invest a lot of time researching suitable products, plus going through the process of working out which worked best for my skin and hair. This would require time and money that didn’t seem worthwhile to me. So, I packed in my tried and tested products.
However, what I didn’t anticipate was the way the different climate and altitude would affect my skin and hair. We don’t really have heating systems or air conditioners where I live (it’s not really necessary). So that change also impacted my skin and hair.
Anyway, I packed in my black African soap and raw Shea butter. I also knew that Mitchum, my preferred deodorant, wasn’t readily available in Spain. So, I packed that in as well.
I brought my Kindle because I couldn’t bring all my books, but I brought a lot. This isn’t necessarily advisable to everyone, but books are my passion and I have to have them around me.
I also brought a number of art supplies because it is important to me. I brought empty notebooks, and extra handbags. I brought along postcards and all my jewellery. These are the things that helped me settle easily into my new space, and it was worthwhile.
Disclaimer: I was able to bring two bags of 23kgs on my flight. When I got to the airport, one bag was 25kgs and the other was 26kgs. I arrived early enough that I wasn’t charged for the extra weight but others may not be so lucky.
Book it as early as possible. This is standard travel advice. In September, everyone comes back from their summer holidays and flight prices increase accordingly.
Check with the 2020-2021 group if anyone will be teaching at your school or in your area. You could also ask your tutor for the names of the other Language Assistants. It helps to connect before the time and see if you can travel together to orientation or after. You may even be able to look for accommodation together.
Join MeetUp or similar groups to see what is happening in your area and make a point to go to one in the first month you arrive.
You can get the bus/coach, train or aeroplane. Know that you might pay extra for your luggage if you fly. Check the luggage conditions for your chosen mode of transport so you don’t get a nasty surprise when you arrive. Pre-plan as much as possible to ease your travel experience. It is very useful to know where you depart from, and the best way to arrive at your destination.
Download a scanning app onto your phone.
Bring all your original copies to Spain. Make photocopies before you arrive. Depending on your nationality, transfer airport and entry point, you may need to show them. Keep them on you, and not in your checked luggage.
Give copies of all your important documents to your next of kin or your emergency contact.
Scan all your documents. Save them online, and share the folder with your next of kin or emergency contact. Use this folder when you receive your different documents such as your signed Meddeas contract, social security document, NIE, rental contract, etc. Scan everything.
As far as possible hold onto originals and submit copies.
Be ready to pay for temporary accommodation, a deposit, setting up and living expenses for six weeks.
Have cash on hand.
Check bank charges and exchange rates with your bank at least a month before your departure date. You want to be able to withdraw cash without bank charges becoming an additional expense. This is especially true if you’re paying your deposit and first month’s rent from your bank account in your home country.
Get the relevant IBAN/Swift details for money transfers before you leave.
If you want more pre-departure tips, check what other Language Assistants have to say. Pack consciously, be prepared, and travel at ease!
By Noélle K., 2019-2020