Caroline

Caroline in Mancor de la Vall

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

School/Major: I went to undergrad at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, and recently completed a master’s in Spanish at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.

What I was doing before I moved to the island: I was teaching English to Spanish speaking immigrants as a volunteer at the Esperanza Center, a Latino outreach center located in Baltimore.

Schools I worked at: I taught at IES Berenguer d’Anoia in Inca and CC Nuestra Señora de la Consolación in Palma for the 2010-2011 school year. For the 2011-2012 school year I continued teaching at my school in Palma.

First impressions of the island: I would describe my first year in Mallorca as a “working vacation.” Because auxiliars only work twelve hours per week in Mallorca, I found I had a lot of free time on my hands to pursue my own interests and take advantage of what the island had to offer (hiking, salsa lessons, Catalan class and all of the activities associated with the administrative, cultural and religious holidays such as Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastián in January, Sant Jordi in April and Sant Joan in June). Like most Spaniards, the Mallorcans value family and make a point of spending time together. I appreciated the myriad of days off from work such as el Día de la Hispanidad, also known as El Pilar (October 12th), and all of the “puentes” such as el Día de los Muertos (November 1st), el Día de la Constitución (December 6th), el Día de la Inmaculada Concepción (December 8th),  and el Día de las Islas Baleares (March 1st) to name a few. The Spanish call some of these holidays “puentes” if they fall shortly before or after the weekend so if a holiday falls on a Thursday, most businesses and schools will opt to take the following Friday off as well. The consecutive Thursday and Friday figuratively form a “bridge” that leads right to the weekend.

Living situation: During my first two years in Mallorca, I lived close to Plaza de España with a couple Spaniards and two other American girls. I now live in Son Armadams, which is a bit northwest of Santa Catalina. It is close to El Pueblo Español. I pay 200 Euros per month plus about 50-70 Euros more in utilities. I live with two Spanish women and one Cuban. I’ve been there for about a year and will continue living there. It is close to my school and makes the morning commute fairly easy.

Experience on the job: My best experience as an auxiliar was my time spent at IES (stands for Instituto de Educación Secundaria) Berenguer d’Anoia. It is a progressive school located in the center of the island, and most of the students speak Mallorquín (the Catalan dialect spoken in Mallorca) to one another. Although very talkative, the students were curious, respectful and intelligent. The teachers I worked with were very supportive and open to any suggestions or ideas I shared with them. They gave me free reign to plan activities and incorporate them into the teachers’ lesson plans. At the end of the school year, I was invited to accompany two teachers and the students of 2nd of ESO (8th graders) to London, England, where we visited the Globe Theatre and saw “Much ‘Ado About Nothing”. The teachers’ level English at this school was very high, and they were always asking me to correct them when they made a mistake. However, I did not have as positive an experience working at CC (stands for colegio concertado) Nuestra Señora de la Consolación. Most of the faculty did not care for the principal, and she happened to be one of the English teachers I worked with. Most days she would act as if I did not even exist in the classroom, and she made me feel as if I were more of an annoyance than someone who should be helping her. Many times she did not give me any direction with regards to what I should do and how to assist her, so I took the initiative to go around the classroom and help the students correct their exercises if I saw they were not correcting their mistakes themselves. However, most of the time I felt very unproductive in her classroom as she never told me what to do. As an auxiliar, you never want to step on the teachers’ toes but rather be supportive of what the teacher is doing in the classroom. However, if the teacher never gives you the opportunity to assist him or her or tells you how you can contribute, you can feel very awkward and may ask yourself “Why am I here?” There were days when I didn’t contribute at all during the class and stood in the back of the room, as my only function was that of a human dictionary. Many times I felt useless and unfortunately it was a waste of my time and the government’s money. While working with this particular teacher wasn’t one of my favorite experiences as an auxiliar, there was another teacher I worked with in infantil (ages 3-5) who was very positive and enthusiastic. She was professional and was very aware of my presence and role as an assistant. She included me in the class activities and knew how to utilize me. Thank goodness for her as she made it easier to go to work everyday. She didn’t care for the other teacher either, and I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling the other English instructor made everyone feel inept and bad at their jobs. I think an auxiliar’s experience at a particular school really depends upon how open minded the English teachers are, if they realize how lucky they are to have an auxiliar by their side and if they know how to capitalize on the fact they have an assistant there.

What I did in my free time: I really like going to spin classes, and I found a great gym that offers numerous classes throughout the week. It is called Gimnasio Illes and while it is on the expensive side (the monthly fee was recently reduced to about 45 Euros I think), there are seven different gym locations to choose from which is really convenient depending upon where you are living and working in Palma.
If you like hiking, Mallorca is the place to be. The Balears Natura website offers information on Mallorca’s natural parks and wildlife. Click on Parque Natural de la Península Llevant, and you’ll learn about one of the most beautiful areas of the island untouched by hotels. These virgin calas or coves are protected by the government, so no one is allowed to build there. You can spend the night at a refugio (“refuge” or small lodge) during your hike so you don’t have to return home the same day. If you want to stay at a refugio, you have to reserve a room a couple months in advance and pay about 15 Euros per night. A couple of my favorite spots are Cala Matzoc and S’Arenalet d’es Verger. If you go to these areas you can stay at Refugio S’Alzina or Refugio de Albarca. There’s a rock you can swim out to called Es Faralló, but if you do it be sure the sea is really calm and there’s no current.  You can find a listing of the various refugios you can stay at in Mallorca here. Torrent d’Pareis, l’avenc de Son Pou, la urbanización de Betlem, el camino del Archiduque and Cala Castell near Cala San Vicente are some of my favorite excursions.
My sister is coming to visit at the end of September, and I’m planning on taking her to l’illa de Sa Cabrera (Sa Cabrera Island), which is located just about 45 minutes south of Mallorca by speedboat. Consider visiting Ibiza and especially Formentera. There is an 8K and half marathon held there the second or third Sunday in May. Menorca is also worth a trip. You can get there via boat or by air. Unfortunately, non-European Union citizens do not receive the resident travel discount, so we pay twice as much.
If you like salsa dancing, there are quite a few venues in Mallorca that offer it. Salsa Jockeys is a great place to start.
I also enrolled myself in a Catalan course during my first year in Mallorca at Camp Redó. Although I was one of the youngest students in the class, I learned the basics of Catalán and was able to gain a better appreciation for the language and practice a bit with the locals. In the meantime, you can check out www.parla.cat and learn online for free. Another website to check out is www.softcatala.org. If you plan on staying in Mallorca for another year, you can sign up for a course in any of the languages offered at el Escuela Oficial de Idiomas.Their matriculation period for the 2013-14 academic year has already ended, but you may consider studying there the following school year.
If you are looking to supplement your auxiliar income, giving private English classes is a great way to earn a quick 10-20 Euros for an hour of grammar instruction or conversation with a student looking to improve their language skills. You can create a profile on http://www.tusclasesparticulares.com, and potential students of English may contact you.

Favorite drinkery: There are quite a few! I would say any place along the Ruta Martiana, which is like Palma’s “happy hour” that takes place every Tuesday night from about 8pm-1am in the Casco Antiguo (old town). It sounds strange for a weeknight, but if you want to break up the week it is a nice way to relax and socialize. You can bar hop from one tapas bar to the next and get a good deal on drinks and tapas (it’s about 2 Euros for one small glass of wine or a caña, which is a small portion of beer they serve in a glass that comes with your choice of tapa).
La Sifonería is another favorite. The novelty of this place is that the owner, Juan Carlos, serves you wine directly from the barrel. There is always work by a local artist shown in the gallery at the back. You can enjoy your beverage in this small, intimate space while watching the old films projected on the wall above the wine barrels.
I also like El Museo de Los Juguetes which is also located in the Casco Antiguo close to la Plaza de Santa Eulalia. This “museum” has great food (hot dogs, hamburgers, tapas, etc.), leather couches and papier-mâché masks hanging above the bar that look like they were used in Valencia’s Las Fallas festival. Calle de San Magí in the Santa Catalina neighborhood is another great place to go out, and their version of the “Ruta Martiana” takes place on Thursday nights.

Favorite eatery: Sa Gavina. Located near Plaza de España in the center of town, Sa Gavina serves up tortilla sandwiches you can enjoy there at the restaurant or get to go (perfect to be enjoyed on a hike). Also, Sa Gavina prepares a different variety of paella every Friday from about 1-4 pm for 6 Euros and the portions are generous. Restaurante Eco-Vegetaria is vegetarian friendly and offers three course meals for 10 Euros or less.
What I’m doing now: This summer I spent six weeks at Middlebury College studying Spanish. It was my fourth and final summer there as a student in the Spanish School. If you are interested in continuing your language studies in Spanish or in another foreign language, I would recommend applying to one of the language schools at Middlebury College. I’ve met a few students in the Spanish School who also worked as auxiliars in Madrid and in País Vasco.
While I no longer work as an auxiliar, last year I was hired to teach Communication Skills in English at el Colegio Madre Alberta in Son Rapinya, which is just outside of Palma. I will be working there again this year but am looking to teach Spanish in the States and would eventually like to study Translation and Interpretation at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, but have to come back to the States and work a few years before I can afford it! In the meantime, I’m trying to take advantage of living with Spanish speakers and practicing as much Spanish as I can with them.

Words of wisdom: Buying a cell phone is a good idea, but if you’re not planning on staying for more than a year, you may not want to sign up for a contract with a phone company as I hear it’s complicated to cancel. You can visit the Yoigo store or Phone House when you get to Mallorca and then put minutes on your phone and buy more as you use them. You can also set up a bank account at La Caixa or any other Spanish bank. Applying for a resident bus card is also a good idea, but you have to empadronarse or register yourself as a resident of the city of Palma at the town hall before you can get the bus card that will enable you to get the resident bus fare discounts. Also, buying a bike new or used is a great way to get around the city. Not all streets have them, but most of the main avenues have bike lanes. You may want to purchase a U-Lock as bikes do get stolen. With regards to health, I inevitably get a stuffy nose and soar throat each winter, as will most of your students. Many people will complain of being constipado which means their sinuses are stuffed up and may be having difficulties breathing normally through the nose! It’s annoying but very common, and the cold damp air doesn’t help matters. Last February I had to take off from work one day as I had a 24-hour fever and spent the whole day in bed. Of course, your school will understand if you get sick and need to stay home. Visit the doctor when you need to and take advantage of the free health care (you will receive a dental and medical card at orientation).
In respect to weather, Mallorca’s Mediterranean climate is like that of Northern California: hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Wearing a thick winter coat, gloves and a scarf feel good in the winter as it can get pretty damp and nippy outside especially walking around at nighttime. However, for those of you from the colder states, the 40-degree low in the winter may feel like nothing. There was a freak snowstorm in Palma in February 2012, and it was the first time in about fifty years it had snowed at sea level in Mallorca. It is a good idea to bring an umbrella or buy one there as it starts getting stormy in November.
Enjoy the experience, go with no expectations and take advantage of all the opportunities you can to meet Mallorcans and other Spaniards and explore the island with them!

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