Eileen McRae has lived in Spain three times. And during those trips her Spanish has gone from passable…to conversational…to fluent.
It has allowed her to play basketball with a local team, visit Spanish friends in their own homes, and pick up a job as a nanny.
Right now, Eileen is on a student visa in Spain to earn a Master’s degree in Social and Public Policy. The visa allows Eileen to work up to 20 hours a week. She’s been using that time to teach English…and has just recently been offered the nanny job.
“With English teaching, you don’t really need Spanish because you want to immerse students in the English language,” explains Eileen.
“But for my nanny job, it’s really helpful. They want me to teach and speak to the children in English, but, of course, the kids need to understand me, especially when I’m communicating something important.”
Even more importantly, her ability to speak Spanish has helped her connect with the culture and people of her new home—making it far more likely that she’ll be able to land an industry job and stay in Spain upon graduation.
This passion for language has created unique opportunities…like being invited to a Catalan home over the holidays.
“When I first studied here, I stayed for the holidays because my basketball coach and his wife (a teammate) invited me to stay,” explains Eileen. “It was my first inside look at Spanish and Catalan culture. And I’ve maintained a friendship with the family ever since.”
When she’s not studying, nannying, teaching English, or learning more about Spanish culture in the homes of her new friends, Eileen spends her time soaking up the city and falling ever more in love with her new home.
“I really love the lifestyle in Barcelona,” she says. “Places close in the middle of the day for lunch. I love that lunch is important enough to slow down for. The other thing I love is all the festivals, parties, and events here. Spaniards know how to have a good time and the events in Barcelona are always amazing.”
“Then there’s the fact that you can bike almost anywhere in the city within 30 minutes and public transportation is great. And Barcelona has a little of everything—mountains, beaches, big city amenities, neighborhoods with a small-town feel, and good weather almost all the time.”
What she loves most about Barcelona is its people: “I find that once you befriend a Catalan, they treat you like family.”
If you, too, want to connect with the locals this way, learning Spanish is a big help.
And according to Eileen, not as hard as you might think: “I think Spanish—of all the languages in the world—is one of the easiest to learn. The vowels are always the same. The way things are written are also how they are pronounced. You can easily pick up the basics in just a few classes.”
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