It’s about that time that all of us Auxiliars are thinking about our move abroad. With only about 4 months to go it’s time to start preparing ourselves. By now many applicants have their region and school assignments and there are others who are very impatiently waiting and calculating when we SHOULD be getting our assignments. I am one such person. That quote that goes “patience is a virtue…” yeah…crap. I can’t stand the wait any longer. I really wish I had heard about this program sooner. Nonetheless, no matter where I am placed I will just be grateful that I’m given the opportunity. When the time comes.. Anyway, now is the time (whether you have your placement or not) to get everything ready for your move abroad. If you’re like me and have no interest in coming back you should find this post extra helpful. Let’s get started!
First things first. Get your documents together ASAP! If you read my last post about my disorganized and chaotic adventure of getting my last visa you’ll understand why I am getting ready for my visa now! Remember that a few things i.e. your background check and physical can not be more than 90 days old before your visa appointment. For example, I am planning on the earliest to have my visa appointment the last week of July- the first or second week of August. Meaning I can not request my background check or get my physical done until the last week of May at the very earliest. You can still get your documents prepped however so that when the time comes you can get those things done. Now for the background check keep in mind that it needs processing so I plan on mailing my background check early next week so that by the time I get it back it’ll be within the 90 days. Remember to get it verified by the Apostle of the Hague. Which I explained in the last post.
For the Spanish consulate in Chicago you need the visa application correctly filled out, original passport and ID (plus a photocopy of both), one recent passport sized photo (last time I got this done they give you two so just bring both), original acceptance letter (your carta de nombramiento), your planned trip itinerary print out, your background check which has been legalized with the Apostle of the Hague, your medical certificate (I am getting this done at my local CVS for $80), a self-addressed express mail USPS envelope, and last but not least a money order of $160 (this is the price at the time this post was written). If you are looking online for the price of your visa, look at the student visa price! The website also says “please, be advised that additional requirements may be requested.” The last time I did this they didn’t need anything extra. The whole process takes about 30 minutes and is painless. If you can speak Spanish that’s a plus! This my friends is the most crucial part in preparing for your trip (or move in my case) abroad. Read more for more steps.
These next few things are steps that I am doing myself and I’m going to list them in no particular order but are good things to do as well before you leave.
I read on the Department of State (United States) that it is a good idea to enroll in their STEP program. It’s free and it’s just there so you feel a little more safe in a foreign place. It stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. When you sign up you receive travel alerts about the location you’re going to and they are better able to help you if you lose your passport while abroad. You can sign up here if you’d like! http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/step.html
Next thing you can look into is getting an International Drivers Permit. Even if you’re not necessarily planning to drive in Spain or wherever you go right now, it’s a good idea to carry such permit just in case you change your mind. I am getting mine through my local AAA but you can also go through National Auto Club. I just Google searched International Drivers Permit AAA and it brought me right to this page:http://www.aaa.com/Vacation/idpf.html on here it explains everything you have to do but basically you just fill out a very simple form, bring in two passport pictures (I’m getting this done at CVS for $11), $15 for the processing fee (check your AAA office for acceptable forms of payment, mine says a check will work just fine), and a valid drivers licence. It’s valid for a year and you can renew it even if you are overseas. The webpage explains it all. Again, this isn’t required at all but it’s a good idea to have just in case you want to have the freedom of driving abroad!
Next thing you’re going to want to look into is banking, both your local bank in the states and abroad. Right now I use Wells Fargo but I’m not too thrilled with it so I’m thinking of switching to a different bank or just closing all my accounts except the one I use for bills. I’ve read numerous articles about Charles Schwab. Looking at their High Yield Investor Checking account it says that its account does not require a minimum balance, there are no monthly service fees (take that Wells Fargo), no transaction fees, ATM rebates at the end of every month, and you can use it globally.
All you need to set up an account is your ID, your social security number, your address to your workplace if you have one, and your basic information. From there you can get your checks direct deposited. From there you can continue to use that account to build up the amount of money that you will want to use in Spain or wherever. I plan on keeping one checking account with WF to use that as my bill money while I am still here and away. I have a pretty decent amount saved up for loan payments so I’ll keep one account open for that since it’s easy to do online payments. I’ll use the money I save in Charles Schwab for my first couple months abroad. Just make sure your local bank knows about your travel plans so your cards don’t freeze while abroad. Now with the Auxiliares de Conversacion program you need a Spanish bank account for the schools to pay you.
Looking into banks abroad can be tricky. Luckily for me I have a friend in Spain that is helping me out with this. His recommendation is EVO bank. Looking at their website they have different options, Cuenta Joven (young account) and Cuenta Inteligente (Smart Account) I like the sound of the smart account a little better but with both you get a free debit card, no ATM fees, you can use it worldwide (again with no fees), free online banking, and 0.50% APR on your account (that’s fricken amazing!)
I’ll probably end up getting an account through them but there are other options if for some crazy reason you want to look further. Other banks in Spain are La Caixa (they charge a few fees but if you join their young club (LKXA) you get travel discounts with AirEuropa and discounts at the Barcelona zoo if you’re into that), and Santander (which I’ve read is awful! From the fees and not so helpful service and inconvienent locations). If anyone has had success with any bank in Spain leave a comment below so we all can learn a little more! Even more helpful if my Spanish viewers can talk about their banks!
Next thing I’m going to do is sell my sh**. No, I don’t mean all of it but do you really think I am going to want to stuff my Ninja blender, 4 different winter coats, my TV, and my car in my suitcase? Okay maybe the last two were obvious but you get what I’m saying. You don’t NEED this stuff if you plan on traveling the world. I feel guilty (and a little disappointed in myself)but I’ve thrown away 3 garbage bags of junk in my room alone.
Now I know I could have brought my clothes to a Goodwill or Salvation Army or donate them to another good cause but at the time I was just so fed up with heap of clothing items I’ve been hoarding since the 7th grade that I just threw them out. There were items that still had tags on them! I was able to return some of them and the others I sold. I plan on selling my big items like my totally awesome (and if someone is interested and wants to buy it let me know!) Ninja blender, my TV that’s not really that special but it’ll get me tapas money for a week, and my car. ….yes. My car.
Now I’m not telling everyone they should do this but if you saw my car you’d sell it too. Other than the fact that it’s going to fall apart any day (literally it’s so rusted that every bump I drive over is pushing the frame down to the wheel), it will pay for a good chunk of my plane ticket. I can’t wait for the day that I am able to sell my car and turn that around and buy a one way plane ticket to Madrid. It’s bittersweet but my car has seen better days. Think about holding a yard/garage sale and sell everything you don’t think you’ll take with you. If you’re like me and want to spend the next few years exploring Spain and the rest of the world heed my advice and get rid of junk! Every blog I’ve read so far tells me the same thing and “travel light” because if you do plan on coming home after it’s likely that you will have picked up new things from your travels.
Next thing which is actually the second most important is make copies of every document you plan on taking to abroad. Things like your passport, visa (which will be in your passport), and drivers licence can get lost. Now I know that most airlines have apps that you can use to obtain any boarding pass but it’s a good idea to print an itinerary and make a copy of your flight plans so you can leave it with your paranoid family at home or send it to your host family if you have one so they know when you will arrive and at what terminal and such. Also, make copies of your passport ID page, Visa, and Drivers licence to keep both on you while traveling in the airport and keep at your home abroad just in case you do lose those items.
Another thing you may want to look into is whether or not you’re going to need a duplicate passport. I might need one so I’m prepping my documents before hand. With an inscrita number of 4,153 it’s going to take a loooooong time for me to receive my regional placement and school placement. I’m expecting around end June-mid July meaning it could take me a while to get my visa. My appointment is July 20th as of right now but it could be pushed back later. It takes about 4 weeks to process so that could mean, if everything goes as scheduled I would get my visa around the end of August. Again, that could change. It could be earlier or later.
The reason that I’m worrying about time with my visa is because I am going to be working as an Au Pair in Madrid this September and I’ll need my passport to travel there. My host family wants me to be there the last weekend of August so I’ll be needing my passport then and if it’s still with the Spanish consulate in Chicago I’ll need a duplicate. Now since I don’t know when I’ll be receiving my carta I can’t really plan for this duplicate passport situation but I can get my documents together just in case. Make sure your passport is valid. It must have been issued within the last 15 years. You’ll need to fill out the form DS-82 which you can find here: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/212241.pdf You need to also write a letter explaining why you need a duplicate passport. If you want to know what I wrote you can email me and I’ll send you an example. Make sure you sign and date it too! Then you need to mail the form, letter, current passport, and a check or money order of $110 (at the time this was written it was $110. Check with U.S. Dept of State before) to the address listed on the form. You can pay $60 extra to have faster processing done but if I do this mid July I shouldn’t have to worry about that. Again, this is NOT mandatory at all!! This is for people that might do a little travel before the start of the program and are worried they won’t have a passport. If you don’t think it’s worth the extra $110 then don’t do it. Just wait patiently.
That’s it! Sounds like a ton of prep work but trust me, it’ll all be worth it when you arrive in Spain and everything goes smoothly when you know what bank account you’ll need, you’ll have your documents ready to go, and you can begin your journey in the land of tapas, siestas, and flamenco. Buen Viaje and let me know if you have any other tips or questions!