Student, Auxiliar, Expat

Do you remember study abroad? I’ve talked about it often, if only because it was the beginning of so many things (good, bad, and neutral) for me. It was the first time I set foot in Spain; it was the first time I felt overwhelmed by the idea of becoming fluent in another language; it was the first time I truly embraced my Americanness.

At La Fundación José Ortega y Gasset in 2008.

The next stage for me was being a Conversation and Language Assistant, una auxiliar de conversación. Being a C&LA was different than being a student. I had responsibilities other than studying. I had more bills to pay. I had to deal with a lot more bureaucracy (although not as much as some people).I felt much more alone than I had as a study abroad student, surrounded by scores of other naïve Americans like me. But still there was a built-in group of people I could make friends with, my fellow C&LAs in Zamora, where I was located. Together, we found common ground in complaining about the lack of respect shown by our students, being the token Americans everywhere we went, and laughing about the abundance of zapaterías (shoe stores).


Now I find myself about to embark on a different sort of journey—one without a set end date, without a built-in group of fellow Americans, without a sense of surety. Daunting is a word that comes to mind. Sometimes I see the new(er) C&LAs and their blogs describe their countless trips, how they see Spain—and I see myself in them, but back in 2009. And obviously 2009 was not that long ago; I’m not saying that I’m infinitely more mature than them or anything of the sort. I’m only saying that we’re always changing, and I’ve changed since then, I’ve been altered by the transient nature of life.

My time in Spain has gone from student life to auxiliar life, to life life. No longer am I thinking, “Just until June” or “I can’t do that, because I’ll be gone by then.” Instead I’m thinking of work permits and marriage licenses and in-law dilemmas. I’m thinking of buying furniture and settling down and sending boxes across the Atlantic Ocean because when did I get this much stuff?


It’s all his fault. Mario’s, that is.

Perhaps the more seasoned expats will smirk at me and my naïveté. Perhaps they’ll feel a bit of sympathy because I don’t know what I’m getting myself into (and I suppose I only have the faintest idea!). Perhaps they’ll view me with nostalgia—they remember their beginnings too, their first trembling steps into the “real world.” I cannot say how, in a few years (or decades), I’ll view the Kaley of 2012. I can only hope that the me of today will not allow herself to be intimidated, to say no, to live a fear-driven life.

Let’s go.

15 thoughts on “Student, Auxiliar, Expat

  1. haha I can’t believe you tagged me in the bureaucracy part jeje! I can only imagine how you feel, taking the next big step, but it’s almost as if those two other experiences have slowly prepared you for it. kaley’s next adventure!! :)

  2. Hi Kaley, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, though this is my first time commenting – and as a fellow blogger I feel really crappy about that! I just wanted to say that reading your blog makes me happy. As a diehard romantic, I love reading about your relationship with Mario, and your sincerity really resonates with me. No matter who you become in the future, I’ll still be reading and wishing you guys well :)

  3. Excellent attitude, very carpe diem. We’re always changing and I always find myself looking back on things I did 2 or 5 years ago and thinking “Jesus, I really did that, how embarrassing” or “how could I be so stupid?”, then there’s a twinge of regret that I didn’t do better, then I realize that I was really just doing the best I could with what I had at the time and I feel fine.


  4. Living abroad without a set end date is definitely very different from study abroad or a program like Auxiliares. I’ve had my share of unexpected expat challenges, but even on the worst day it’s better to have taken the risk than to be sitting at home wondering ‘what if…’. Good luck on your new adventures!

  5. I figured a return was inevitable, what with your blog being about an American expat in Spain :) Moving to a new place is always daunting, but sometimes it’s easier without a set end date so you can throw down roots and really make it feel like home. Just take it one day at a time and enjoy the ride!

  6. Good luck Kaley! My (old lady) advice would be to get a A Good Job as fast as you can and the rest will all fall into place!

  7. You got this, girl. Everything you need is right inside of you and if you need a little extra sometimes, its right next to you (Mario). =) If you need a bonus sometimes, there’s always Skype! I have 100% faith you’ll be amazing and make the most out of each day.

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