Scanning through my journal, I realise I can be the biggest pessimist when things don’t always go to plan. On the blog, it’s easy to flaunt the positive side of living abroad with fetching photos and carefully edited text. However, that’s only a sliver of reality.
Before arriving I romanticized the living abroad experience. I thought I’d religiously be eating Spanish cuisine, transform into a cultured venturer and make heaps of international friends. The reality is, I come home from work and I’m either exhausted or when I do explore, nothing is ever simple. In an attempt of awakening my inner-optimist however, I’m embracing that with every negative springs forward a positive.
I can’t speak Spanish like a native || It’s okay to make mistakes
I thought getting by in Spanish would be a breeze. However, I often find myself discouraged when I can’t express myself directly. Be it explaining to the lady in the bank that I’ve been waiting for my card for a month, or trying to help an elderly woman pick up her shopping after tripping over the curb. I’ve sometimes been tempted to give up, resort to speaking English and hope they understand. But ultimately, I’ll never improve unless I try.
The whole aim of this year abroad is to improve my Spanish and the key to learning any language is immersion. It’s all well and good having nailed the grammar and listening comprehension, but languages are to be spoken. So, although I might not be down at the local sipping on sangria and chatting about the latest Spanish news, I’m accepting that I’m not going to suddenly speak like a native overnight.
Of course, there are those who, after me plucking up the courage to confront them in Spanish, respond in English. While they probably mean well, my confidence is inevitably knocked. However, it’s all part of the process. You need to make mistakes in order to improve.
Everything is new || I’m doing something new
I’ve always been one for routine; comfortable with the familiar, envious of those who can hop on a plane and travel with little worry about what happens next.
This experience, however, is completely out of my comfort zone. As I’ve already pondered over in my Madrid Diaries; had this not been a mandatory part of my degree, a year abroad is something I don’t know whether I would’ve been capable of.
Arriving here, you’re hit with a wave of documentation, with the added unfamiliarity of supermarkets, the Spanish way of life and culture shock takes it turn. You feel disorientated, panicked, lost. It’s overwhelming. However, looking at it from the other side, it’s exciting. I’m experiencing things here which I never would have encountered back home in Liverpool. Sometimes all you really need is a shove in the right direction.
I have no experience || I’m gaining experience
I stepped onto the British Council path ignorant to the fact that I’d be teaching entire 55-minute lessons, to 16 different classes.
Aspiring EFL teachers embark on two-year courses and come out at the other side fully equipped and mentally prepared for what’s to come when entering the deceptive world of teaching.
I, on the other hand, found myself lost among classroom management, PowerPoint slides and lesson planning. Nonetheless, this role is providing me with the experience I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. From time management and IT skills to improving my leadership. With leadership, of course, comes the false parade of confidence. So far I’ve faked it and I think I may have nearly made it; my polite, ineffective attempts of quietening down a class of 11-year-olds have merged into the threat of turning off The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and writing for the hour (so festive I know).
There’s no doubt that I’m going to still hit dead-ends in the winding maze of the teaching world; I don’t have experience on my side to drag me out of certain situations. Nonetheless, as I come out on the other side of each mishap, I’m gaining skills which will come in handy when I begin the daunting quest of job hunting.
I keep making mistakes || It makes for a funny story
Nothing is ever simple. Whether it’s hunting down a box of bran flakes to satisfy my cereal cravings or trying to function the metro ticket machines at 7 am, it’s easy to become frustrated over the most trivial of tasks. However, looking back, they often make for the perfect ‘one to tell the grandkids’ stories.
Take a few weeks ago when I lost my travel card. Panic taking charge, I buy the wrong ticket, get my card jammed in the machine and then try to articulately ask for help while the metro station employer acts blind to the fact that this deranged English girl is on the edge of breaking down in the middle of one of Madrid’s biggest stations. Yeah, it’s safe to say I panic easily. However, that evening, I simply laughed. I’m living in Madrid, no one said it was going to be smooth sailing. Sip on some green tea and calm down.
Overall, it quickly became clear that the reality of living abroad is not what uni prepares you for. The realms of cocktail filled pictures on Facebook can be cruelly deceptive, but no one is ever going to share the negative online. I’m not delving into tapas every day and I’m not suddenly as cultured as I anticipated. I’m actually craving a stodgy home cooked roast dinner and I’m worn out 80% of the time. On the other hand, I am adapting to a new way of life. So while I actively try to stop being so negative, with this blog, I hope to share an honest insight into an experience I had admittedly romanticized before arriving.
We have no power over the negativity that may flood our path. However, how positive we stay does lie our power. So yes, living abroad is overwhelming, but, it’s an opportunity you should grab with both hands and run with.
Are you a pessimist? How do you try and stay positive?
Thanks for reading