Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Prepare for NALCA

There's tonnes of advice out there, from previous applicants, for the North American Language & Culture Auxiliaries program. The following are the ones that rang truest for me:

Organize your paperwork early
Bearing in mind expiration dates for paperwork, get a jump on things: have your school transcripts ready, ask someone if they'll write your reference letter, sort out your money, plan when to obtain your criminal record, etc.

The 5 day limit to accept your school placement is B.S.
If I'd taken more time to research my placement, things would be very different right now. I probably would have been more prepared for my circumstances (i.e. rural village vs. happening town). I rushed to mail my acceptance to the coordinator, paying a lot of $$ to reach the 5-day deadline. In reality, you can email them to inform them it's on its way via snail mail.

Read the posts in the Facebook forum... but not too much
Facebook has helped make the journey for new auxiliaries much easier than in years past. Lots of teachers will have advice to pass on. However, limit how much you read. Eventually it can become overwhelming and confusing, and it takes personal experience to help you navigate the path to settling into Spain.

Learn Spanish
Especially if you're going to live in a somewhat rural location. In major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, you can probably get away with knowing very little Spanish. But where I am (rural AndalucĂ­a), having an intermediate level of Spanish has saved me many times.

Spend lots of time with friends and family at home
You will miss them when you're gone.

Find out how your job figures into your plans
Will you get paid out? Can you get a leave of absence? What happens to any unused vacation / sick time / personal days? 
At my job, I found out that a) I'd accumulated close to 100 sick days, and b) they would disappear once I left. You may as well use up any unused days if they won't be paid out, and take advantage of your health benefits (free massage, anyone?).

Do not bring too many clothes and shoes
New ruby-red shoes! (The locals kept staring at my trainers)
Trust me when I say that one of the best things about Spain is that clothes and shoes are cheap, making the shopping fun! I was initially sad to give away so many good clothes and shoes, but that disappeared quickly my first day shopping here.

You will have to sift through quite a few tips and tricks to settle into Spain. I hope mine help make the transition easier. After your own experience, you will probably also be one of the many to pass on words of wisdom.

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