Starting Over in a New Country in your 30's, Interview with two-time expat Christina
Christina is no stranger to Spain, or even to LMDES! We’ve been following this vibrant, inspiring, world traveller since we first interviewed her in 2016! She’s also written for the site too! Check out another article of hers here! (Psssst. it’s about dating in college versus in her 30’s. Don’t miss this one!)
Here’s the deal, Christina moved to Spain in 2015 after leaving a successful career in the (corporate) fashion industry. She was in her 30’s, which again shows there’s no specific age to move abroad. She spent 2 years here, then decided to return home. Now she’s back. What made her leave? And why in the world did she come back? She’s starting over (again) in a new country and we know you want to know what it’s like starting over in a new country in your 30’s!
Let’s dive in!
How long you’ve been here in Spain, where are you from originally, what do you do for work?
I have been in Spain for a little over two years in total. I am a native Virginian but I also grew up in Florida and that’s where my family lives. I’m currently an English Language and Culture Assistant in Almería (Auxiliar de Conversación) and I also teach English online.
Did you speak Spanish before moving here? If not, what advice can you give to those looking to improve their level while abroad?
I took Spanish from 12 to 22 years old and then stopped studying and practicing it after college. By the time I moved to Spain I had to re-learn much of the language. My advice for those looking to improve their Spanish skills abroad is to live and breathe the language! You’ll pick up some of the language just by paying attention to life happening around you but you can’t rely just on that. You have to practice speaking with Spanish people (a little vino helps with that if you’re timid!). I also recommend watching Spanish tv/films, reading books in Spanish, and listening to Spanish music/podcasts. Whatever hobby you enjoy, find a way to do it while also learning Spanish.
You made the shift from corporate America to English teaching. Why did you make the change? How did you prepare mentally and financially for this major life change?
When I decided to move to Spain I was at a point in my corporate career where I had no desire to move up any further. Teaching abroad in Spain had been in the back of my mind for years and after a solo trip to Spain in 2014, it was time to finally make the jump. The world beyond the United States was calling me and I felt like my purpose was to be out exploring it as much as I could.
I started planning my move 9 months out so I was able to save money within that time. That also meant saying “no” to trips and even being in a friend’s wedding. It was a sacrifice but my circle of friends understood and were fully supportive. Mentally, I don’t feel I had to prepare much. I had already traveled alone internationally so I was pretty prepared in that regard.
What’s your most used emoji?
I just looked at my phone and apparently it’s the weary face (cue Solange song, “Weary”). LOL. I usually use it to underscore a different emotion. I use it when something is really funny, sad, exciting.
Name one album you could listen to on repeat forever.
Beyonce’s self-titled album.
This isn’t your first time living in Spain, you went home and came back. Two-part question: why did you feel it was time to go home, and why did you want to give Spain a second try?
I decided to move back to the United States from Spain in 2017 because I felt at the time that I had experienced what I needed to during the two years I lived in Madrid. I got to travel a lot, I gained some international teaching experience, and I felt like I had improved my Spanish skills. I thought I needed to restart my career and finally settle down (whatever that meant). I also just missed my family and friends and needed some quality time with them.
After about a year living back in the United States, an opportunity came across my inbox to teach English short-term in Andalucía. Andalucía was a region that was close to my heart and I had previously told myself that if I ever did return to Spain that I would live in Andalucía. I also felt like there was so much of the language that I still wanted and needed to learn. Life is too short and I had nothing keeping me from leaving again!
You’ve now lived in two cities in Spain, Madrid and Almería, how does the Capital compare with Andalucia?
They are so different! Madrid is a busy, exciting city with many things to do. There are so many restaurants, bars, cafes, museums, cultural events, and strong public transportation system.
I currently live in the province of Almería, in a town called Roquetas de Mar. It’s a beautiful coastal city right on the Mediterranean which is an absolute dream. I get to live where people all over Spain and Europe like to vacation! The weather is warm and there are natural beaches, mountains and even a desert! (the only desert in Europe). Because of the climate and different landscapes there are many outdoor activities to do.
Almería, as well as the rest of Andalucían region is definitely more laid-back than Madrid. The language accent of the people here is also different than the accent of “los Madrileños”. It’s harder to understand but the challenge has only improved my Spanish comprehension skills.
What advice would you give to those who want to move to Spain, but aren’t, or don’t want to be “teachers”? How do you grow your side hustles while teaching?
The work schedule of an English Language and Culture Assistant is incredible. In Madrid, the hours are 16 hours a week and in Andalucía it’s about 12 hours a week. English Language and Culture Assistants also only work at their schools four days a week. In your free time you can earn some extra money with private classes or work on personal projects. The three day weekends allow extra time for travel (who wouldn’t want that?!).
How would you say that living abroad (in Spain) has changed / challenged you as a person?
It’s challenged every part of me! LOL. I am forced to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get stressed but I know now to expect the unexpected.
This second time around in Spain has made me fall in love with the mountains and sea. I have always been the city type, but I’m starting to think that’s not the only way that I can live. I know now that I need a balance between the two lifestyles.
Is there any aspect of living in the US that you miss? How do you cope?
I always miss seeing my family and close friends but thank goodness for Facetime, Skype, and social media! I also miss African-American culture but again, social media keeps me connected. And lastly, I miss having easy access to certain foods. That has challenged me to learn how to make certain dishes on my own so when I miss them, I can make them myself.
What’s your favorite expression in Spanish?
Que será, será.
And with that, we conclude this interview with the incredible Christina!