Meet Tamara!

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Name: Tamara Buchanan
Program: Bilingual English Development & Assessment (BEDA)
Home state: Connecticut
Current location: near Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
Blog/website: www.travelingnatural.com
College: Northeastern University — Class of 2007
Major: Psychology/Pre-med
Level of Spanish fluency: A2 (I guess, based on the DELE Exam)

1. Why did you choose the BEDA program? I chose BEDA because of the support they offer language assistants before and during the program. I really like how responsive they were to my e-mails when I was just an applicant. Also, I liked the fact that they actually interview language assistant applicants. It shows they care about who they are hiring to work with their students.

2. What’s your personal favorite thing about your city? Everyone is super friendly and hospitable. This is so important when adjusting to expat life. People really go out their way to help you with anything you need. The teachers at my school behave the same as well.

3. What’s one thing you wish you knew prior to starting with BEDA? I wish I had known teachers living outside of Madrid take an online class, as opposed to attending the Comillas University course. It is not the same at all and there is no Spanish study option for us. We are kind of left to rely on FB to share stories regarding classroom management or lesson planning. And if you don’t use FB (like myself), you are pretty much on your own.

4. What is your living arrangement, and how did you find it? I rent a one-bedroom apartment. I used Idealista to book a realty agent and some of the teachers offered help when I went to view the apartments.

5. Any regrets choosing BEDA over other programs? Nope! It was a great decision! I am really happy with the program.

6. What do you miss most about home, besides friends and family? Trader Joe’s and just being able to find my favorite hair products with ease :). Actually, I kind of miss having a car sometimes.

7. Do you recommend any web sites for good deals on hostels, flights, bus tickets, train tickets, etc.? I used Agoda a ton when I lived in Asia. Now I rely on Trip Advisor for reviews, Rumbo and Expedia for flights (there are many great sites for booking flights), and Renfe for booking train tickets around Spain. I am pretty much on the train 2-3 times a month, traveling. I love traveling by train!

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8. What’s one common misconception about the BEDA program? Hmmm … probably thinking that everyone will get a placement in Madrid.

9. Any payment issues so far? Never! We even got paid early in December.

10. About how much money do you think BEDA assistants need to make from private lessons in order to sufficiently supplement the monthly stipend? (Assuming assistants need to pay for round-trip trans-Atlantic airfare, etc.) It depends. If you live in Madrid–where the cost of living is expensive–then maybe an extra 150-300 euros (big range, I know!). But it also depends on how many hours a week you work at your school. Where I live, rent is a lot cheaper. What I pay per month for my cute apartment is what Madrid teachers may pay for just one room. I do private lessons and try to use that income for food and day-to-day expenses AND for transportation for my weekend getaways. But I budget. And there isn’t much to do in my town, so I’m not spending money, partying or shopping. Really though, the answer to this question depends on the person and some other questions like: Are you good at budgeting, planning trips in advance, etc.? Do you live outside of Madrid? How many hours a week do you work (12-24)?

11. What’s your single best piece of advice for incoming BEDA teaching assistants? Try not to yell at your students. Just smile, have fun in your classes and be ready to work. Don’t allow any problems you may have with your school to escalate. Let the BEDA directors know immediately. Live in the moment as much as you can, and be thankful for this experience….P.S. The less interaction you have with people at the bank or municipal buildings, the better ha ha 🙂

12. Do you ever see yourself settling down in Spain permanently? Ummm nooooo 🙂 This is my second time living in Spain. There are … what? Like 200 countries (more or less) in this world? I want to keep traveling, living and creating new experiences. I’m not one to settle. But sometimes…whenever I’ve been in Barcelona…I can’t say I haven’t pondered the thought…LOL 🙂

13. Do you have any plans for after your time with BEDA? Yes. I plan on going into the U.S. Peace Corps and then becoming a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

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14. What’s one thing you REALLY want to do before leaving Spain? I’ve done it! A few weeks ago I went to Sierra Nevada in Granada! Now I want to visit Mount Teide in Tenerife 🙂

JUST FOR FUN …

Favorite quote: “Not all who wander are lost.” -J. R. R. Tolkien & “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
Favorite hobby: Randomly hopping on the Renfe to another city with my camera in tow.
Favorite Spanish word/phrase: “Vale, Aye hombre” (when used during arguments ha ha)
Favorite Spanish food: Fideuà (only in Barceloneta though)

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For more information regarding Tamara’s BEDA experience (and more), check out www.travelingnatural.com!

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