Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key


Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo? I did. And do you know what I learned from them? NOTHING. I’ve learned that classes should be really fun and engaging and as a teacher you should always try to make it seem like a different form of entertainment. Any subject can be interesting if you sprinkle some creativity into it. (I once made a dating game to practice physical description words)

2. Teaching is exhausting


As a student you don’t fully comprehend or even try to understand the effort your teacher is making. Your job as a student is to sit, listen, and learn. Your job as a teacher is to facilitate, present, listen, ask 1 billion questions, get everyone involved, try to be creative, manage the classroom, I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

3. Don’t underestimate your audience


Just to clue you in, in my classes I talk in English 100% of the time. Even with my super young students (5year olds), and they can still understand what I want them to do. They can follow directions, and even answer a lot of questions. It’s easy to disregard small kids’ intelligence, but I wouldn’t.

4. Things will go wrong, learn to BS


How many times was the Internet down, my PowerPoint was broken, or an activity I planned didn’t take up the whole class period? More than once. But thinking on your toes is essential in teaching. I learned to BS my way through a class period by playing a random game, thinking of a last minute activity, or resorting to asking tons of questions.

5. Become fluent in body language

body language

It is SO easy to tell when students (or any audience) is not interested in what you are saying or doing. When you notice people’s eyes starting to glaze over, you have to switch it up and be a bit creative (refer to lesson 1). Don’t just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s obviously super boring.

So I know most of you aren’t ESL teachers, but I think the lessons I’ve learned as a teacher can be applied to any career field. Being creative and adaptable, knowing your audience, and thinking on your feet are invaluable skills for anyone.


A Day in the Life: Logan

Hi Guys!  As Shannon already explained, there is a lot more to our Spanish life than traveling and generously priced food.  We unfortunately do have to work.  Now that I have my weekly routine all figured out, I think its time I share what I do.

My official job title is Auxiliar de Conversación, and that basically means I pretend that I totally know what I’m doing in front of a highly critical audience made up of 11-18 year olds.  I have exactly zero teaching experience and was pretty much thrown into it.  Essentially, they pay me for speaking English with my “perfect American accent” (their words, I swear).

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

7:30 AM: Wake up and get ready to educate the future of the Spanish people.  Schools here tend to be pretty relaxed, and like Shannon, I don’t have much of a dress code to adhere to.  I can wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.  I try and keep it moderately profesor-y with a minimum of jeans and a collared shirt.

8:40 AM: I (ideally) leave my house for my commute.  Its a grueling 15ish minutes…foot and on the metro (aka its super close).  I really lucked out with the location of my school, and the fact that I can walk there is almost unheard of in Madrid.  Unlike Shannon, however, I work Monday through Friday.


9:00 AM: Start working.  Everyone at my school is amazing and the teachers have made me feel like a part of the team.  Everyone values the work I do, and it is really nice to feel like I belong.

I am mainly responsible for conversing with the students.  This can range from just asking them questions about their lives to creating vocabulary worksheets.  I do some lesson planning, but it is all based around conversation stuff and never anything like grammar.

11:00 AM: Break time.  I just go to the teachers lounge and hang out and practice Spanish.  I normally have between 1-3 classes between this break and when I start at 9.


11:25AM-End of day.  My end time varies a lot more than my start time.  Monday-Wednesday I finish around 2, and Thursday-Friday I finish around 5.  I have anywhere between 3 and 6 classes each day, and I am anywhere between 50% and 100% worn out when I’m done.  Its not that the job is hard, but I spend most of the day on my feet using my “teacher voice.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays I also have private lessons that I do on the side.  I don’t really love doing them, but the money is good and I enjoy teaching the students.  Overall, its not too demanding, and I am enjoying things here in Spain.  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about my life here.

Besos y abrazos,


A Day in the Life: Shannon

Hello all! So I guess it’s about time to let you all know what my life is like on a daily basis. For those of you who think I moved to Spain just to eat a ton of tapas, and travel around Europe – you are only half right. I came to Spain to be an Auxiliar de Conversacion through a program called BEDA. Now that I’ve finally got a routine down, I can let all of you lovely people in on what the heck I’m doing over here.


7:30 AM: wake up and get ready for work. My school doesn’t have a dress code for their teachers, or profes, which is awesome because after working in advertising, I couldn’t bear to wear business casual on the daily. Look at me channeling my inner teacher with this classic cardi + dress combo

8:15 AM: Start my 45 minute commute to work. Yeah, it kinda sucks, but I only work monday-Thursday and this was the tradeoff for living in the heart of Madrid.


9:00 AM: Arrive at my school! My start time changes everyday, but the earliest I have to be at school is 9AM. My school is in a smaller neighborhood in Madrid, and is a semi-private Catholic school. Everyone there is the absolute best (teachers, students, other faculty errybody). All of the teachers I work with are super nice, and have welcomed me with open arms and lots of chorizo.


9:00AM-11:15: I usually have two 45 minute classes during this time period. I teach everyone in the school (3yo-16yo). And I’m actually creating the lesson plan, teaching it, and creating activities for every class I have. I was honestly a bit worried I wouldn’t like the teaching gig, but I love the kids and teaching has been a surprisingly good time.


11:15-11:35 : Mandatory snack break. Spanish people usually eat five small meals a day, and this is one of them. During this time all of the teachers (myself included) go to the cafeteria to share a loaf of french bread and some spicy chorizo. This is where I practice my Spanish listening skills because the teachers talk SO quickly it’s hard to understand much of anything (pero, no pasa nada).

11:35-12:30 : My last class before siesta!

12:30- 2:30: All the kids go home and have a long lunch with their families (talk about adorable). Sadly, I have to stay at the school during this time because my aforementioned commute is too long to go home and have lunch. But I make the most of the mega break and plan my lessons for the following week.


2:30-4:00: I have two more classes to teach before the day ends. These classes range from elementary science, high school (ESO) English, and art.

After school I usually have one private lesson (so I can make some extra cash moneyz), and then I go home! My life here is really laid-back, fun, and different from what I’m used to. Hopefully this post gave you a little glimpse into what my life is actually like.

Besos y abrazos,








Our new home



Looking for tips on how to find an apartment in Spain? Check below the photos for a step-by-step guide! 🙂

For months before we left, Logan and I had to answer the question “So where are you going to live in Spain?” with a blank stare. We had no idea where we would end up living because BEDA doesn’t arrange housing for their Language Assistants, much like your grown up job wouldn’t find you an apartment. So instead of wiring money to a complete stranger for a piso we had never seen, we reserved an Airbnb for the first week with the hopes we would find an apartment before our reservation was over.

After lots of failed calls (apparently no one wants to take a couple), we finally found one we loved. We were already convinced this was the apartment for us, so we brought our deposit (finanzo) with us! Luckily the landlords are sweet abuelos (he showed us the apartment while towing around his two young granddaughters), they were very accommodating and already  had all the paperwork ready for us to sign the lease.


Luckily Logan’s Spanish is mega good so he was able to ask all the questions we had about the apartment, as well as translate the lease for me (thanks babe). Our apartment is home to five people: Logan & I along with 3 Spaniards we haven’t met yet (they move in next week).

ClosetCollageAs you can see we have a very spacious room, with our own bathroom (complete with shower). We also have a walk in closet in our room – ironic, seeing as how this is the one time in my life where I will have the least amount of clothes, but the most amount of space. Our bedroom has giant windows (withoutscreens: I learned screened-in windows is only an American thing) that let in amazing afternoon light and a cool breeze.

OtherRoomsOur apartment is built around a courtyard (bottom left picture), and we get amazing natural light all day long (yay for not living in a cave)! You can see the view from our bedroom (top right) I love that it just looks so quintessential Spanish: clothes blowing in the wind, rust-colored clay roofs, and lot’s of balconies.

Overall, our piso is a dream come true: truly amazing. We are super close to plaza de sol (the metro hub of the city), so we can get pretty much anywhere really fast. We are surrounded by shops, bakeries, and most importantly, cheap tapas places. Mom & Dad: FYI this is a mega safe neighborhood; we even have a doorman!

S/O to Kayla for embroidering this amazing art for me, it really does make our room feel more like home


There are definitely some key considerations you have to think about before you even begin looking for an apartment.

1. What neighborhood do you want to live in?

Madrid, like Chicago, is divided into neighborhoods or barrios. Each barrio has their own personality: hipster, college, party-centric, etc. Logan and I definitely wanted to live in a hoppin neighborhood full of restaurants, night life, and things to do, so we chose to look for apartments in Sol & Centre & Cortes.

2. Commute

This part was especially difficult for us because we had to consider each others’ commute before deciding on a neighborhood to live in, if you were here alone you obviously wouldn’t have to worry about that. I would suggest living near the metro line that goes by your school so you don’t have to do a shit ton of transfers/rely on buses. Luckily, both of our commutes are about 30 min from our piso, Logan’s is even less.

3. Scour the web

Now it’s time to look at the Spanish apartment hunting websites. We found ours via PisoCompartido, but other popular ones are idealista, and easypiso. These sites are great because you can narrow down the apartments by using their billion filters.

4. Call/Look

When you are looking for apartments in Madrid people usually won’t answer email, so you’ll need to either call or send a text (via What’s App, that’s what most people use instead of texting) and set up a time to look at the apartment. Pisos go fast, so the sooner you can see something the better. Make sure you bring the deposit and first months rent with you so you can start the process right away. As soon as Logan and I saw our apartment, we knew it was the one and had brought the money with us. We signed our lease that day, and moved in the next day.

Besos y abrazos,


How We Spent Our Summer

Spain paperwork

Now that Shannon has introduced you to our new blog and explained exactly what we are doing in Spain, I wanted to talk a little about the process we went through to get everything ready to go.  This is our story of everything that went wrong and the few times things went right.

The entire process is simultaneously easy, hard, and stressful.  Right now I know that makes close to no sense, but by the end of this post I think you will understand what I mean.

confused gif

The Application

The very first step after finding the BEDA program was to apply. Shannon and I submitted our applications almost immediately after the application period opened in late January.  This part of the process was fairly straightforward and just like any other job application. After applying, we had to wait about 2 months for the application period to close to hear back from the program coordinators about interviews.

The Interview

So after 2 long months of freezing winter and anxiously waiting, Shannon and I were both emailed about setting up an interview time!  The interview itself was really casual and only lasted about 15 minutes.  We were interviewed by coordinators from the BEDA program and asked fairly simple questions about why we wanted to teach in Spain.

This is a good time to introduce the theme of things going pretty well for Shannon and…well, not so well for me.  As I said, the interview was simple. What was not simple was figuring out what was wrong with my computer’s mic after starting the Skype interview. I could hear the interviewer, but she couldn’t hear me.  I know, worst case Skype scenario, right?  Through hand gestures and head nods, we agreed upon a new interview time where I could prove that I am actually a competent, capable person she should hire.

*** Despite my technological issues, and after anxiously waiting for what seemed like forever, Shannon and I received the email on May 9th telling us we were HIRED!  ***


We had pretty much bet a good job right out of college on this going to Spain thing, so this was a huge relief for us knowing it was worth it.  We were obviously extremely excited about this, but little did we know it marked the official beginning of the most stressful summer ever.


The VISA (aka the reason for the stressful summer) 


Now that we had been accepted into the program, Shannon and I had to apply for student visas.  We won’t really be students, but this is what the program requires.  Applying for a student visa is actually relatively easy…and hard.  What I mean is, if you have the documents required, show up to the consulate, and give them the required documents, you are essentially guaranteed to have your visa approved.  The hard part comes from getting all those documents in time to go to the consulate…

may the odds

These are all the required documents for a student visa at the Chicago consulate:

(I know most of you probably don’t care, we just want you to know how much work it was…)

  1. National visa application form
  2. Passport and ID
  3. One recent passport sized photo
  4. Original hardcopy acceptance letter
  5. Planned roundtrip itinerary
  6. Evidence of funds
  7. Proof of health insurance
  8. (step from hell) Recent conviction information request form
    1. From the State OR
    2. From the FBI (if you have lived in multiple states)
  9. Apostille for Recent conviction information request form
  10. Proof of health insurance (I know, they list this one twice…your guess is as good as mine).
  11. Medical certificate
  12. Self-addressed express mail USPS envelope (if you want the passport mailed to you)
  13. Money order for the processing fee ($160, for what? Who knows)

I will go through the steps and talk about why some sucked way more than it seems it would.  Here again Shannon had a lot more luck than me…go figure.  It’s also important to know every Spanish consulate has different requirements, so it’s not like you can get help from just anyone in the program…they have to be going through the same consulate for their advice and experience to be relevant.

National visa application form

The national visa and application form is actually easy.  You just fill it out and glue the picture from number 3 to it.

Passport and ID

Again, this part is easy since I have a passport, and because Shannon got hers renewed a while back.

One recent passport sized photo

Getting the passport sized picture was a little annoying because we had to go to CVS to get “professional” pictures, but whatever, not hard. (and by professional I mean some random employee took my picture with a point-and-shoot type camera in a small corner of the store).

Original hardcopy acceptance letter

The original hardcopy letter was mailed to us from Spain.  Mine came pretty early in the summer, but we had a little scare with Shannon’s.  A few weeks after mine came we started to worry because she had not received hers.  However, all was well a few days after contacting the coordinators because her letter finally arrived.

Planned roundtrip itinerary

I don’t even know why the planned flight itinerary is included on the list.  Shannon and I bought flight tickets in advance, so I brought a print out, but no one ever asked for it.

Evidence of funds

make it rain

The evidence of funds requirement is a little confusing.  We will technically be on a student visa, so they want some type of proof we will have money for like eating and stuff while we are in Spain.  Fair enough, homeless, starving students aren’t good for a country’s image. The problem is the consulate requires students to have an income of $2,000 each month (remember how we aren’t even students?)  Since Shannon and I will make a little less than this, we had to get our parents to sign a letter saying they will pay for us to be in Spain.  Oh, and the letter had to be notarized.  Because having my mother sign some stupid letter was just a little too easy.

Proof of health insurance

Proof of health insurance came in 2 parts.  One part was in the acceptance letter, and the other was a separate email sent to us during the summer.  We had to submit both to the consulate.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why it’s not just all in one place.

Recent conviction information request form

We thought we were good to go, that this part would be a breeze.

we got this

But we were wrong.

To be fair, we probably made the background check harder than it had to be.  The consulate offers two options.  Get a background check from the state, or get one from the FBI.  Shannon and I went to school in Wisconsin, so we were not sure if we would need a background check from Illinois AND Wisconsin, or just from Illinois.  We decided it would probably be safer to just go ahead and get the FBI background check.

To get a basic FBI background check, you have to get fingerprints taken at a local police station, fill out the proper paperwork, then send the packet into the FBI.  We sent these off one week after we were accepted into the program in early May because the FBI says it takes 6 weeks for the background check to be processed.  So after sending the paperwork off, Shannon and I waited patiently anxiously throughout the summer for our background checks to arrive.

True to their word, the FBI took exactly 6 weeks to process her background check.  Shannon’s was mailed to her home and she received it about 6 weeks plus 3 mailing days.  Mine, however, did not come.

I waited, and waited, and waited more…for 2 weeks.  Finally, I called the FBI to find out what was going on.  They told me they had no way of tracking the background check and that I had to wait 3 weeks to send out another one.  At this point I started to panic.


Shannon and I Shannon’s sister, Kayla, found REALLY good deals on a flight to Spain on August 31st, so we had already bought our tickets.  The Spanish consulate says it takes 5 weeks to process a visa, so I had to have all my paperwork ready to take to the consulate 5 weeks before the flight on the 31st to guarantee I would get the visa in time.  I did the math on how many weeks I had, and it wasn’t looking good.  My mind obviously raced to worst case scenario, so I got on Google to look for alternative methods to get a background check fast.  I found a company called an FBI approved channeler.  These are basically companies that also do FBI background checks, but cost more money and do it about 1,000,0000,0000 times faster (aka 72 hours).  I decided I was running out of time.  I needed to buy another background check so I could get step 9 done in time to have a visa appointment 5 weeks before my flight on the 31st.  Sound like a lot yet? More on step 9 in a bit.  As it turns out, we should have gone with the channeler all along.  It cost about $17 more to get in 72 hours what the actual FBI couldn’t get me in over 6 weeks.

So, after over 2 months of waiting for the FBI background check, I finally had one in hand.

What happened to the original FBI background check I sent for in May?  Turns out it was marked as undeliverable and sent back to the FBI.  On top of this, the FBI takes forever to process things, so I didn’t get the call telling me this until I had already bought the other background check.  I did eventually get it…just after I moved onto step 9.

Apostille for Recent conviction information request form

agony gif

Now that I had my long-awaited background check (plus 1 more), I needed to send it off to the state department to have it legalized internationally. Evidently, documents from the government aren’t recognized internationally (i.e. in Spain) until they have an Apostille from the state department. Now I know what you’re probably thinking.  How does one federal government department make a document more legal than a different federal government department when it’s the same federal government?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Those are just the rules, man.

Naturally, this step could not be complete without some sort of problem.

pissed gif

I (foolishly) used the USPS to submit my paperwork to the state department to be apostilled.  At first things went fine, but around 11:30 pm, I got an email saying there were no updates for my package.  This basically means the USPS has either delivered the package into oblivion, or forgot to scan it when it was delivered at the location.  I did what any reasonable person would do and called the local post office in Dulles Virginia.  I called about 20 times over 2 days and no one answered…ever.  I called the office that does the apostille and  was told they did not have it…or that it was with security.  At the time, I didn’t really have the luxury of waiting around for my background check to probably maybe be processed soon.  Remember the whole flight the 31st plus needing all the documents 5 weeks before the flight to get the visa?  I was still working under that deadline here…very stressful.  So I again started to panic thinking I did not have time to wait around.  I went to the Google again and did some research for other options.  I found a company that walks your documents to the apostille office and submits it in person, thus getting it done much sooner.  By this time I had received the background check I originally sent for, so I decided to FedEx (by this time I was pretty tired of USPS, they are #dead2me) my other background check to this company to have them submit it for an apostille in person.  As it turns out, this was probably what I should have done all along (see a theme here?).  This company had great customer service and submitted my documents and mailed them back in time for me to have an appointment at the consulate about 5 weeks before my flight on the 31st.

What happened to my original apostille?  I’m not really sure what the problem was when I called the office, but I did eventually receive my apostilled document…about 2 days after my consulate appointment for my visa.  Just my luck.  So I now had not only 2 FBI background checks, but 2 apostilles as well.  Great.

For Shannon the office that does the apostilles was true to their word and took exactly 5-7 days to process plus a few days for mailing and a national holiday.  Lucky her.

Proof of health insurance

This is where it mentions proof of health insurance again.  It’s the same requirement as number 7.  I guess they just really want to you know you need health insurance. Either that or they need a new proofreader…

Medical certificate

The medical certificate wasn’t hard.  Shannon and I just went to a doctor and told them what we were doing and that we needed a statement on the clinics letterhead saying we weren’t going to infect all of the Iberian peninsula with the next bubonic plague.  It was something else it had to say, but basically the same idea.

Self-addressed express mail USPS envelope

Shannon and I lived in Chicago so we just had to hop on the el and go downtown to pick up the visa instead of having it mailed by the worst shipping company to exist.

The Appointment

As I said before, the actual visa appointment at the consulate was very easy. You just wait for your turn and give them all the documents plus 1 copy. Shannon had her visa appointment before mine because everything went relatively smoothly for her.  My only issue was again with timing.  My appointment was on the 28th of July and my flight was on the 31st of August.  If you count the weeks up, it was 1 day under 5 weeks.  Remember, the consulate says it takes 5 weeks to process student visas.  I asked the consulate worker if he thought it would be done in time for the 31st, and he was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a problem.  He then gave me the best instructions of the whole process.  He said “if we don’t send you an email that your visa is done, come to the consulate the day before your flight to pick it up and it should be here.” I put that in quotes because that is exactly what he said (he did sound a little like Antonio Banderas, but that doesn’t change anything).  I almost laughed, but he was totally serious.  I took his statement as good news, but I really couldn’t be sure until I had the visa in my hands.

score gif


There is good news and bad news.  The good news is that Shannon’s visa took just over 3 weeks to be approved, and it only took about 2 weeks and 5 days for mine.  When I got the email I actually hugged my brother, Mason.  He wasn’t very happy about it, but I didn’t care.  It marked the end of the most stressful summer for us both.  I immediately called Shannon and she was equally excited.  So what’s the bad news?  Well since it only took 2 weeks and 5 days for my visa to be approved, it means I actually had time to wait around for all my documents to take their time in getting to me and didn’t need to buy extra background checks and apostilles plus shipping costs…lucky me.  But it doesn’t matter.  I would do the exact same thing again.  I had no way of knowing how long it would take to be approved and it’s better to be safe than in America when your flight leaves for Spain, forcing you to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to change your flight date.  Not to mention the fact that Shannon and I would have to fly separately and be left to navigate Madrid alone.

Overall, we are just happy to have our visas and everything ready to fly out on the 31st…except packing; we still need to get on that.


Besos y Abrazos,



***After going through all this, I am pretty much an expert in getting a student visa for Spain through the Chicago consulate.  I got various documents in multiple ways from different government departments.  If you are applying for a student visa and have any questions about the process or how much time it takes, please send me an email, and I will do what I can to help out.  I would love to help as many people as possible avoid going through what I went through.

Home behind, the world ahead

Hello friends, family, and random internet readers. Como estas? This blog’s purpose is to chronicle mine and Logan’s adventures around the world (and by that I mean Europe). You can expect to see a lot of smiles, food, alcohol, and, let’s be real, homesickness.


I guess the first question you probably have is why in the world are you two living in Spain for a year/what the heck will you be doing while you’re there (that is, other than drinking copious amounts of wine, traveling, and eating endless tapas)?

*Answer* Logan and I will be teaching assistants through a program called BEDA. The process was a long one: applying, interviewing, waiting, lots of paperwork, more waiting, and now we finally have permission to live in Spain (thanks Spain)! So while we are there we will spend about 20 hours a week helping Spanish children learn English *yay*!

Why did you decide to put your lives on hold and live in a foreign country?

*Answer* Because why not?! We are young, have no responsibilities, and want to live in Europe for a year. Logan also has a degree in Spanish (mega impressive) and wants to be even better at the language than he is now. As for me, I graduated from undergrad a year early, didn’t get to study abroad, and I want to experience another culture first hand (last point applies to Logan too).

We’ll be using this blog to update our wonderful friends and families (yeah, that’s you guys) about all of our thoughts, feelings, and adventures we have.

Besos y abrazos,