Traveling Around: Madrid
• Visiting a city that you once visited 20+ years ago, and not really exploring it again like you did back then. Awesome!
• Finally going somewhere to practice the language you actually can speak (well kind of fluently speak)
• Walking to go to the same store every day hoping that it would actually be open because you really want to buy something there.
• Traveling to a city during a time when the local culture is celebrating a big holiday; meaning that many of the stores and restaurants are not working during their normal working hours.
• Walking through the streets of the city to get to a certain location and then running into a huge American food grocery store. It was closed when we walked by, but still don’t think that we would have actually gone in. They always seems to stock stores like these with weird and unhealthy products that I wouldn’t normally buy if I was still living in the USA.
• Thinking about checking out the nightlife in the city, but realizing how tired you are after dinner; tired from walking around all day. Even taking the bus and public transport for most of the day makes you tired. Being a tourist somehow does make people tired, even if they are not doing so much strenuous work.
• Going to the Retiro park to watch many locals enjoy the nice weather and the green areas, but then also watching the tourists just act loud basically destroying the peacefulness of being in the nature of the park!
• Realizing that in this city, it is important and almost standard to make reservations at a restaurant for lunch AND dinner times. Many of the restaurants are quite small, so this may be the contributing factor for making sure to book a table ahead of time.
• Not turning on the tv in our airbnb once to watch some local tv programs and commercials.
• Having a love/hate relationship with how the local buildings were constructed. I think they were built to keep people cool during the really hot months of summer. But in the colder weather, the lack of insulation really makes being in an apartment a really cold experience (even when it is also cold outside, so you can’t escape it!).
• Enjoying listening to Spaniards just discuss mundane topics at length. I’m sure people who are native speakers of English do this as well, but it does seem like Spanish people really like to talk about things in detail that I think really don’t need to be talked about that much.
• Going on a day tour to some nearby cities, like Segovia. Taking in all the beauty of the countryside and views of the hills and olive tree groves.
• Being very pleased with the local transportation options and their efficiency. Always nice to see people using it and it being dependable.
• Getting to the airport was so easy from where we were staying in the center of the city. If we lived in Madrid, it would be nice to have an option to get to the airport using public transportation that is cheap and quick.
• Watching and kind of participating in some local cultural traditions. We got to see some Easter processions in the street.
• Just enjoying walking the streets of the city and looking at the wonderful designs of the building facades of the apartment buildings there. I wish more cities would consider spending the extra money to make their city buildings beautiful to look at!
Currently we have 32 international schools listed in Spain on International School Community. 11 of them have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of those schools:
|American School Madrid||Spain, Madrid||65 (Total Comments)||3 (Members)|
|American School of Barcelona||Spain, Barcelona||157 (Total Comments)||17 (Members)|
|American School of Bilbao||Spain, Bilbao||44 (Total Comments)||1 (Members)|
|American School Valencia||Spain, Valencia||21 (Total Comments)||0 (Members)|
|Benjamin Franklin Int’l School||Spain, Barcelona||66 (Total Comments)||3 (Members)|
If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at email@example.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences. Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock. Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!continue reading
Tell us about your background. Where are you from?
Hi there! My name is Lauren Kohlhoff and I currently teach Drama and Grade 7 World Geography at the American School of Madrid. I’m originally from the Atlanta area – a southern girl born and raised! After earning my degree in Early Childhood Education, I relocated to Northern Virginia where I taught third grade in the Prince William County district for three years. During that time I got married to my then boyfriend of eight years. It wasn’t long before we were itching for a new adventure.
How did you get started in the international teaching community?
If I’m being honest, becoming a teacher in the international community was a complete fluke. My husband had received a job offer in Barcelona in the spring of 2008. I knew nothing about international schools or how to get my proverbial “foot in the door”. So, I committed an afternoon to surfing the net and literally googled “american schools in Barcelona” just to see what my options were. The first hit was the American School of Barcelona. Bingo! I clicked the link, browsed the site, drafted a cover letter, and submitted a resume despite the fact there were no posted positions. Within days the director at the time contacted me, one thing led to another, and I had a grade 6 Humanities job faster than we could say, “Well, it looks like we’re moving to Spain!” I had contacted the right school at the right time; it was all about timing. It’s been six years and we haven’t looked back.
The American School of Barcelona is alive with energy. The school is small by comparison to other international schools, which allows the faculty, students, and families to foster a community that in many ways feels more like a family. I have truly never worked in a school where there is such passion for kids and their well-being beyond just academics and the walls of a classroom.
Having just recently moved to Madrid, I am still discovering what makes ASM a special place to work. There is certainly a greater sense of calm, which is something that stands out in a country like Spain! The campus is beautiful and features two new facilities dedicated to sports, sciences, and the performing arts. I am impressed with the number of programs that are on offer for our students, especially when it comes to performance and music. We have a very talented team of teachers who work tirelessly to guide our students to do amazing things!
Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
If there’s one thing I have come to love about the Spanish culture, it’s the laid-back “mañana” attitude towards, well, everything. Really, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done around here! But this love and appreciation did not come easily or swiftly that first year. I mean, it took nearly a month before we had internet! Businesses close early and open late, and you can forget running errands on Sundays. It took us the entire first year to adjust our expectations and learn to simply stop swimming against the current. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. We slowed our pace and eventually came to embrace the “mañana” outlook on life ourselves. Mealtimes are perhaps the embodiment of Spanish culture. Sharing a meal with others is an event that can last hours; there’s no such thing as “fast food”. Even long after the table has been cleared, conversations will continue to flow and the wine will too. This is known as the “sobremesa” and what I think is most special about dining the Spanish way – enjoying your company is just as important as enjoying your meal.
What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
This is a tough question to answer because I’ve been in such a unique situation. My destination was chosen and I was fortunate enough to land a job there. If there’s anything I’ve learned about job hunting over the last six years, however, it’s that geography weighs heavily on my happiness and well-being. The destination must speak to me and resonate in a way that fulfills me beyond the school’s campus. Yes, job satisfaction is very important, but it’s only part of the experience. International teaching is also about exploring who you are, learning your limits, and discovering what you never knew about yourself. So much of this happens off campus, and it would be tough to be in a place that stymies that personal growth. For me, Spain is perfect and I’m not sure that I’ll ever need to look anywhere else. I have spoken to a number of colleagues over the years who were not happy in their former placements because the location wasn’t right for them. If I had a dime for every conversation about this topic that included the phrase, “The school was great, but…”, I would no longer need tutoring hours!
In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Lifelong learning at its finest!
If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here. If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!
Want to work for an international school in the Spain like Lauren? Currently, we have 26 international schools listed in Spain on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
• American School of Barcelona (119 Comments)
• Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (49 Comments)
Sotogrande International School (6 Comments)
American School Madrid (27 Comments)
American School Valencia (21 Comments)continue reading