San Francisco to Madrid - Expat Interview With Nicole

Published: 29 Nov at 1 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Spain
Nicole is trading (at least) a year of San Francisco life for Spanish life in Madrid. She’s teaching English at an Elementary school, getting a Master’s in Bilingual and Multicultural Education and trying to cross of her Europe travel bucklist (or at least a good chunk of it). She documents everything with pictures (including lot’s of food and sangria) and hoping her Spanish improves quickly! Nicole blogs at La Mia Vita (see listing here)



La Mia Vita

Here's the interview with Nicole...


Where are you originally from?
My family lives in Southern California and I moved to San Francisco and stayed for the last 8 years so I consider both my homes.

In which country and city are you living now?
I’m in Madrid, Spain

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I just got here less than 3 months ago and I’m staying till at least July

La Mia VitaWhy did you move and what do you do?
After I studied abroad in Florence, Italy in college I always knew I wanted to live abroad again. Six years later after I finished my teaching credential and taught for a year, I found a Master’s in Bilingual and Multicultural Education in Madrid which I just couldn’t pass up.

Did you bring family with you?
Nope. Came all by myself!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I have been fortunate to travel a lot with my family and friends and so the transition wasn’t too difficult. The hardest part has been being soooo far away from family and the normal frustrations with the Spanish systems and my lack of knowing the Spanish language.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Since I’m in a Masters program, I quickly made friends, but of course all American friends. Making Spanish friends it’s very easy when you don’t speak the language well.

La Mia VitaWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I absolutely love walking around or having a picnic in Retiro Park.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I’m sure like everyone’s answers, the ability to travel so frequently and to so many different places.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
San Francisco rental market is very high so rent is much cheaper here. Food from grocery stores is incredibly cheap here even with the exchange rate. But clothes, restaurants etc are more expensive because of the exchange rate.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Well, you are getting this incredible experience to live aboard, travel, experience new things and have the memories of a lifetime but you are also trading home life for these experiences. I am missing out on my little brothers growing up, fun times with my friends at home and other experiences, but that’s the trade off and I don’t think anyone every regrets the trade.

La Mia VitaIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn the language before you come! It is so hard to make friends, find an apt, figure out directions, etc if you don’t know the language. Try to get to get to an intermediate level. I wish I had.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Not being able to hop in the car or a short plane right to see my family and friends even for the weekend. The distance is rough sometimes.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I still have at least 9 months here but I’m already worried about reverse cultural shock. I think it will be very hard to adjust back to US life and hearing English all the times and having to get in a car to get anywhere.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Research whatever school you’re considering going to. Make sure it’s accredited and talk to past students.
  2. Learn Spanish! Or whatever language they speak in the country you’re going to before you get there. You will be so much more comfortable and confident in your new home.
  3. Don’t compare anything to home. Just assume that whatever you think you’re getting, it’s true.
  4. Patience and flexibility… daily.


La Mia VitaTell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog several years ago to document my life in San Francisco, adventures, travels and family and now I’ve kept it going while I’m in Madrid. I love taking pictures so it’s really fun for me to share my pictures and this amazing experience I’m getting here in Spain!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Through my blog (see blelow), email nikymarie{at}gmail{dot}com, or via Twitter @NicoleMarieSF

Nicole blogs at http://www.lamiavitablog.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. La Mia Vita has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Nicole, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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