Disillusionment... Or When "Expat Life" Becomes Everyday Life
Living abroad is really passé, at times.
Now, obviously, when I accepted a position as an auxiliar de conversación with the NALCA program, it’s not like I was expecting to spend the next year living some super-glamorous lifestyle full of weekend getaways to Ibiza, Nice, and Monte Carlo — after all, there’s only so much that you can do with just 700€/month. Still, I was expecting at least one familial visit and the opportunity to gallivant outside the Spanish border, but, life happens.
Also, there are times when my job is a little frustrating. While I am extremely grateful to work at a language school where motivated adults actually pay to learn, sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get them to cooperate and actually talk (I don’t bite).
On top of that, sometimes it all feels so mundane: going to Mercadona every week-and-a-half to refill my pantry, stopping by the bank to take care of formalities, popping a sweat at the gym twice a week — definitely not the “exotic” life that expatriates supposedly lead. Adding to the sensation of blasé is the fact that while Zaragoza is a rather lovely place, it feels very provincial compared to some of Spain’s other large cities.
I truly cannot complain too much. I get to live and work in the country that captivated me as a young, wanderlust-filled college junior, continually improving my command of the Spanish language and I’ve gotten to discover some parts of her that I had never seen before (Loarre, Teruel, Denía...). Furthermore, my personal life is quite satisfactory. I have a very nice living situation (with my own bathroom — natch!), co-workers with whom I have a very good rapport (both inside and outside the classroom) and friends from all over the world.
Although living in Spain is not always easy, I wouldn’t trade my life here for anything. As cliché as it sounds, becoming an expat has definitely made me a more independent and self-reliant person. After all, when you move by yourself to a foreign country, there’s no one constantly holding your hand. You are the one responsible for getting the important stuff done; opening a bank account, obtaining your residency/insurance cards, securing your undergarments so that they don’t fall off the tendedor and into the courtyard, etc.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while the life of an expat is not always the idyllic existence that people make it out to be, it is what it is... life. With that in mind, you have to approach expatriation with the whole, “when life gives you lemons, squirt the juice in your enemies’ eyes” mentality and focus on the truly wonderful opportunities and benefits it affords you.
Betty is a 21-year old recent graduate from Wake Forest University who recently moved to Zaragoza, Spain (in the region of Aragón) as an auxiliar de conversación (English Teaching Assistant). When she's not writing entries for this site and throwing back tapas at the bars in El Tubo, she can be found writing about her ramblings and observations on her personal blog, The Pumpkin's Head.