By Andrew H., Auxiliar de Conversación in Murcia 20/21.
This is my second year teaching in the city of Cartagena in the Region of Murcia. This is my favourite city to live in here in Spain. The lifestyle is great here! So, if you are thinking about teaching abroad with ConversaSpain, I would like to talk about the pros and cons of living in the Region of Murcia.
Finding a Piso in Murcia
My roommate Danna and I started looking for a home in July in Cartagena city. Preferably, near the schools where we would be teaching. Last year, my school was in the town of La Palma and this is on the outskirts of Cartagena city, having to be accessed by bus every morning.
During the summer, I was working as an Au Pair. I was living with a lovely Spanish family in Benicarló city in the region of Valencia. Danna contacted me with the details of a potential home she had found while looking online on Idealista.com (one of the best webpages if you are looking for a piso in Spain). I got the long train from Valencia to the Región of Murcia in the south to meet up for the house viewing.
We arrived at Calle Montanaro, in Cartagena, Spain. We had to book an Airbnb and stayed there the night before. In addition, I would like to recommend looking for accommodation in person if it is your first time here. You can book an Airbnb or a hostel for a week or two while starting the search.
Danna and I began the Search for our Accommodation
Danna and I looked online! It was very important for us to find accommodation, as to obtain a home in Cartagena city is always a distance. My roommate Danna and I wanted to stay in Spain over the summer. After the school year, we wanted to obtain work. What kind of work? Well, something that was similar in nature to working as Primary School teachers in Spain the year beforehand with ConversaSpain.
To have extra money and further our teaching experience, we both worked as Au Pairs, Danna in Águilas within the Region of Murcia. We did this with a family who had a boy and girl to teach English. I worked and lived in Valencia, Benicarló, with a boy who was eight years old and taught him English for four months.
This gave us both immeasurable further experience learning Spanish and adapting ever further to Spanish customs. After the season of summer, with the coronavirus lockdown, we were finally allowed out again. Thus, we moved to our new families. Neither of us were living with Au Pair families in Cartagena city. So, organizing our housing, meeting the owners beforehand, and booking the accommodation online were a necessity.
For the second year in a row, we went through the website Idealista.com. When you subscribe to their website, especially months early before starting work, you lock down the necessary accommodation, and they will send at least 20 emails of different Airbnb’s, houses, homes, and apartments for you to assess.
This was crucial for me, as it laid out many differing options from experts. An important point to note is that we booked this location early and paid the deposit. This allowed us to immediately have our place secure. We first looked at the room that was advertised with the flat owner. But, upon looking, we asked to have a viewing of other rooms on higher levels. We found the perfect room shortly after, with all the facilities based around a central dining room.
Housing in Spain
In terms of the layout. The accommodation circles around a central salon area, with two small balconies. One in the front bedroom and one in the sitting room. There is a small kitchen and a quaint little bathroom with a bath and a shower. The balcony looks down into a narrow street, awash with so many cute rival balconies belonging to new friends of ours. The house is kept mostly empty, spacious, and clean. Free of excess materials and clutter it looks very modern.
I was very happy to be placed in Cartagena city! It is on the edge of Spain and thus contains a beach, a port full of beautiful boats and a tourist cruise ship which with we have travelled around the coast. Living in Cartagena, I’m near both of the secondary schools I teach at and pass students randomly. It’s very funny because they react, ”Hello teacher.” I immediately noticed this, as it is so rare to find people here in Cartagena that speaks any English.
Sharing Accommodation and Making New Friends
Danna is a great cook and makes beautiful food for us while I clean. We eat food like chili, carbonara, and chicken drizzled in lemon. We also eat spicy mango and pomegranates prepared by our friend Fayes. Furthermore, we’ve met many of our friends who live nearby: university students from Italy and Germany. I especially love the desserts we have both at home and in the Cartagena cafés. I always get a cup of coffee and a small tiramisú cake in the evening.
Our flat is near the Teatro Romano de Cartagena. It is a great location. I climb the hill and go there to sunbathe every week. The temperature warms up in the evenings even during October and November. We are one street away from Calle del Carmen, which is the focal street of Cartagena city, containing all the best cafés, restaurants, and bars. We used to spend wonderful afternoons with our friends there is one of the best pros of our apartment.
Location and Lifestyle in Cartagena
The city of Cartagena has a small beach Cala Cortina that is within walking distance and I go here with my fellow teachers to sunbathe, even to have a nap on the beach during the evenings after a long day of teaching.
Everything, be it food, stores, bars or beaches are available near our house. So, I’m very happy with my home in this city for a second year. All of Spain has an illustrious history of architecture from the bright, colourful, vivid spectacle of Arabic buildings, to the dark somber Gothic structures that line the main citadels. Our home gazes down at beautiful illustriously designed cream-coloured homes articulated with deliciously detailed shapes strewn as far as the eye can see.
Honestly, Cartagena to me is like a city paradise. The main street of Calle del Carmen is made of beautifully designed stone spirals as are the floors of many buildings here. Stone repels heat and creates an unblemished classy environment to live and work in. Where I live has a huge impact on my enjoyment and fulfillment in my day-to-day life. The people in this country are always fun and pleasant to work with. Where we live we have made many close friends from Spain, Italy, and Germany. It’s a great home to return to from work!
In terms of working here and the lifestyle, Cartagena grants a perfect location for people who love warm sunny holidays. A key reason I prefer the Murcia region over many neighboring regions of Spain or countries is that since Murcia is so far south. It provides near-endless blue skies, sunny days, heat and is perfect for sunbathing and getting a tan. These qualities are so far apart from my home of Ireland. The winter this year in Cartagena city is warm and cozy enough to spend lovely evenings outside around the cities and beaches even after days of work, where they would darken and sour in Ireland.
In Cartagena and the greater Murcia region, people speak a different, rougher dialect than what is common in other regions of Spain. I still feel that it is not too difficult to get the hang of, and it makes other common Spanish dialects easier to understand after some time spent living here.
Language Barrier in your Daily Life
For me, the most challenging time for a non-Spanish speaker is a doctor visit. Revise over what you want to say or feel online via Google well in advance as many hospitals have much poorer English than even they realise. Medical expertise is one of the most difficult things to accurately translate appropriately across languages.
As you can see, I am really enjoying my time here in Murcia and I am totally in love with the Murcia region, there are much more pros than cons, and also bear in mind that you will make those cons finally a pro.
And finally, as this is my second year as an Auxiliar de Conversación, I would like to talk about the differences between being in a primary school and being in a secondary school.
As I said before, I have worked so far as both a primary school teacher and in secondary as to have my friends here. I would like to share some very useful advice I can impart: primary teaching is an energetic, quirky, play-filled collaborative effort between you and the Spanish teacher in each class. Secondary teaching is a didactic lecture-driven system, where you instruct the class yourself from the top of the room. You write a presentation each week and control each class and every aspect from start to finish. This was the same system for my fellow secondary school Auxiliares.
Being adaptable to both the adult preferences of secondary and the playful routines of primary schools will allow you to excel as a teacher. So, being prepared for this diversity is important.