Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Madrid (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

April 21, 2017


Traveling Around: Madrid

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Can you relate?

• 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.

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• 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 admin@internationalschoolcommunity.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!

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Recently Updated School Profiles

Recently Updated School Profiles #22: British Int’l School Shanghai – Pudong, Greenfield Community School (Dubai) & Carlucci American Int’l School of Lisbon

April 24, 2014


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Members of International School Community have written some new and informative comments on the following schools:

21 Apr    Greenfield Community School (Dubai) (15 new comments)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

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One of the new comments in the School Information section: “86 nationalities are enrolled at the school. It has been recognized for the support it gives students with EAL…”

19 Apr    British International School Shanghai – Pudong (12 new comments)
Shanghai, China:

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One of the new comments in the School Information section: “Teachers are housed near the school for the first year. They can choose to stay after this year or move with an accommodation allowance…”

16 Apr    Carlucci American International School of Lisbon (9 new comments)
Lisbon, Portugal:

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One of the new comments in the Travel Information section: “A lot of locals know English here, but there are definitely store workers and owners that don’t know hardly one word! It is good to know Portuguese here…”

Check out the rest of the last 40 international school profile pages that have been recently updated on International School Community here.

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #31: Lauren Kohlhoff (A teacher at the American School of Madrid)

April 2, 2014


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Lauren Kohlhoff:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

989362_10151961808925686_1496660034_oHi 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.

10152146_10151961815280686_736214447_oWhich international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

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?

10152851_10151961811710686_564378207_nThis 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!

Thanks Lauren!  You can check our more about Lauren at her blog.

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)

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Highlighted Articles

The Teacher on 2 Wheels is Still Making Her Way Home

March 30, 2014


I’m 18,000 kilometers from where I started, traveled through 24 different countries, visited 35 different schools, taken 167 hot showers, 32 cold, and gone 7 nights without any.  I’ve stayed in 103 hotels, been hosted by 90 different people and camped for 25 nights.  I’ve drank 213 coffees, been rained on 16 days, but had 154 days of sunshine and faced 56 days of grueling head wind, and changed 6 flat tires.  With all of those statistics accumulated, I still have another 14,000 kilometers to go before I reach my hometown of Eugene, Oregon next October.

P1070005For those of you who don’t cycle, just reading those statistics must seem like a painfully long journey, but for me, the time has flown by and my legs are almost just as fresh as the first day I started, if not a tad stronger.  I write a blog post almost every three days, but in reality with everything that I experience, I could do a daily post.  Regardless of the country, I find that traveling by bike I’m constantly exposed to the world.  I don’t have much intimacy on the road meaning I’m susceptible to my surroundings and traveling as a solo female, I believe I draw more attention to myself.  People feel compelled to go out of their way to interact with me and take care of me, and I welcome their kindness with open arms.

I was an open-minded person before I started pedaling home, but now I become even more so, erasing all my prejudices.  I’ve encountered incredible hospitality on the road wherever I am and never doubt once the sincerity global of human kindness.  I start pedaling in the morning and the only thing I have planned is to pedal 100 kilometers, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen.  I can never predict what my day will be like, who I will meet, and where I will end up staying.  Of course I try to plan my accommodations in advance, but even then I can encounter surprises.

I’m on my journey alone, yet never once have I felt lonely.  In SE Asia, I would stop for my mid-morning snack at a café with a few locals, and before I had my coffee in front of me there was a swarm of people around, mystified by my presence.  Communication can be one of my greatest challenges, but through hand gestures, pictures, and Google Translator, I almost always find a way to express myself.  I thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of traveling through SE Asia from November through January.  It is a very easy to explore on bike.  Although the road conditions weren’t always optimal, I had food stops almost every 5 kilometers, basic and cheap accommodation was plentiful, and the weather, although hot and humid, P1050610made for packing little gear, so I was able to lighten my load on my bike.  As in Europe, distances from town to town were short and I never felt too isolated.  That all changed when I arrived in New Zealand in February.  All of a sudden I found myself in vast and remote wilderness with limited services.  I had to prepare my daily routes, even 2 or 3 days out, carefully in order to ensure I had enough food.  Although I had seen plenty of beautiful places along my route, New Zealand was by far the most breathtaking country for scenery because 95% of my day was spent alongside the most gorgeous and pristine nature.  From crystal clear lakes and ocean, snow-capped mountains peaks, lush rain forests, and arid mountain passes, I never stopped ohhing and awwwing at the landscape.  The terrain was by far the most difficult with constant elevation change, but it was also in New Zealand where I encountered the most tour cyclist to talk with along the way.  On any given day I ran into 5 to 10 cyclists on the road!

I’ve been in Australia during the month of March, and have another 4 weeks of travel in this vast country, including a tour around Tasmania.  I’ve been well accompanied for this portion of my trip, including a visit from my parents, meeting up with former colleagues and clients I had from working as a ride leader for a bike touring company in Europe.  Their hospitality during the past month and the familiar faces have been a refreshing change.

When I visit schools, a lot of kids ask me which has been my favorite place so far on my travels, a question that is virtually impossible to answer.  There are three main highlights to tour cycling for me: the scenery, the people, and the food.  Each of these categories corresponds to a different country preference, but overall I think SE Asia, as a continent, is my first choice, again because of the contrast in their every day life routines, compared to what I’m used to.  Naturally I’ve come up with a list of places that I could see myself living after this trip, from all the different places I’ve discovered on my route. After visiting all the schools along my route, I can’t help but welcome the idea to try living and working in a different location.  Barcelona has been home to me for 10 years now and although it is a very special place for me, I am too curious about the other places I have seen to return, at least any time soon.

P1040923I’ve had a handful of school visits that have made hopping on my bike afterwards difficult.  I’ve felt so inspired and motivated after some of my visits, fascinated by the school’s curriculum and pedagogy that I was ready to stay and start teaching again.  The school visits have given me the opportunity to continue interacting with children during my year away from the classroom and exposed me to different teaching methods, both an added benefit to my trip.  At the start of my trip I talked to larger audiences of students, however, now I prefer to work with a few grade levels and tie my experience and travels into a unit of study.  For me, it is more challenging and interesting to link my real world experience to the conceptual framework of a unit and for students it makes my visit more meaningful.  However, I never fail to have a question and answer session because they always have so many wonderings.  In SE Asia, I came across a lot of school holidays, which made for fewer visits, but I did manage to contact a few local schools as well in China and Laos.  Now that I’m in English-speaking countries, I visit a lot of public schools and a few private schools.  Once I reach the United States, I look forward to hopefully visiting some bilingual schools to take advantage of my Spanish and talk with the Latino population.

If all goes as planned, I arrive to San Francisco at the end of April and although Oregon is north, I will pedal south down the coast and then into the interior.  Starting with the Grand Canyon, I intend to make my way north through the various national parks, cross the Canadian border and reach Banff.  From there I will head west to Vancouver, and finally travel south to Oregon, a loop that includes roughly 12,000 kilometers. I’m a bit apprehensive about traveling in such remote wilderness areas in North America, but as I have learned on this trip so far, it is better to trust others and give them the benefit of the doubt. So far I haven’t ever felt like I was in danger or encountered any threats.

After the last article was published in the International School Community Member Spotlight, I had several teachers contact me about visiting their schools and even a few hosted me.  Please do look at my website and if I’m going to be pedaling through your area, or the area of a colleague, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

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Recently Updated School Profiles

Recently Updated School Profiles #21: Shekou International School, American School Madrid & ASF of Mexico City

January 14, 2014


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Members of International School Community have written some new and informative comments on the following schools:

14 Jan    Shekou International School (14 new comments) Shenzhen, China
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One of the new comments in the School Information section: “Folks that live in Shekou can smell home from miles away…distinctly smelly and fishy. There is a staff bus that now runs to designated areas…”

 

12 Jan    American School Madrid (7 new comments) Madrid, Spain:

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One of the new comments in the School Information section: “The school sets high expectations of all faculty and staff, and there is a high degree professionalism displayed by all members of the school community. The workload is fair – teachers are given a prep period for every course taught. Teachers who agree to teach a sixth section are compensated monetarily…”

 

11 Jan    American School Foundation of Mexico City (16 new comments) Mexico City, Mexico:

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One of the new comments in the Travel Information section: “If you are traveling with luggage, only use city taxis, which is more expensive but trustworthy…”

Check out the rest of the last 40 international school profile pages that have been recently updated on International School Community here.

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