Counting down the days before your fly? Find out what to do before leaving for Spain.
So, you finally got your visa. Yay, congratulations! Now, as you’re prepping yourself for the big move, you may be wondering what you still need to do while you wait for your flight. This guide will give you a few tips on what to complete before you leave for Spain.
1. Contact your school.
Ideally, you should do this as soon as you receive your placement. The carta the nombramiento has the school’s name, address, phone number, and email address.
- To whom should you address it? It can be to the director (they don’t really call it principal in Spain) or the language assistants program coordinator.
- What should you write? You can introduce yourself by giving information such as your full name and nickname, your degree and interests, and that you would like to schedule a visit to the school to get acquainted with the staff. Here was my email to my school for school year 2020-2021:
Will the school respond right away? It depends. In 2019, I sent my first email in May. I didn’t hear back from them so I resent the email a month later. They responded sometime in September. In 2020 my school replied a week after I sent my email. Remember that it’s the summer vacation in July and August, so they may not be inclined to reply right away. In some reported cases, they school never replied at all, and the auxiliar just showed up on the first day of the program, 1 October.
2. Book your temporary accommodation.
If you have family or friends already living in your chosen area, then this will be less of an issue if you could stay with them whether permanently or temporarily. If not, then it’s best to book a hostel, Airbnb, or hotel room while you’re looking for your more permanent residence in Spain. Check out websites like Booking.com or Airbnb for listings.
You can also visit websites like Idealista, Fotocasa, and Badi to find out the price range for rooms or flats of where you intend to stay. As early as now, you can save your favourite listings and contact the landlord or agency to book a viewing.
Another website, Spotahome, apparently already verifies or vets the listing, but it tends to be on the pricier range.
A rule of thumb is to NEVER send money over without seeing the place first. It protects you from scammers (yes, they also exist in Spain), and so that you are sure that the listing looks as advertised.
Why do you need to secure a place ASAP? One of the requirements in order to get your TIE is the certificado de empadronamiento, a certificate which proves that you are a resident of the municipality. Ideally, you should already have this sorted out before your TIE appointment.
3. Save more money, if possible.
Think of the following expenses that you will incur once you arrive in Spain:
- Your train, bus, Uber/Cabify, or taxi from the airport.
- Your lodging payment (usually requires one-two months’ deposit for a room or flat/apartment).
- Your transport costs (buying a metro/train or bus card).
- Buying a SIM card.
- Food expenses.
- Payment for the tasas (fees) for processing documents, like the TIE.
- Bedroom and bathroom expenses to settle in.
- Pocket money for any travels you plan before the program starts, or on the weekends.
- Emergency expenses. Note that while some comunidades autónomas pay at the end of the month, some pay 5-10 days of the next month. And if you have issues with paperwork, then it could be further delayed.
Most people advise to have enough money for at least until December, even January. In my experience, it’s always goo to budget at very least €500 per month, especially if you’re assigned to a big city or intend to live there. Remember that your first weeks (September to October) will probably be when you will have to spend a lot. Of course, this amount will be totally dependent on your spending habits. I had about €2,500 when I came to Spain, and it was enough for about four, five months.
4. Make your TIE appointment.
Yes, even though you’re still in the Philippines, you can already book a cita previa (appointment) for your TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjeros). The student visa that you have on your passport is only valid for 3 months, and you need the TIE to stay legally in Spain when the three months expires. The TIE gives you a legal status in Spain, and it’s usually valid until the end of the language assistants program (so, May or June of the next year). It also allows you to travel to all of the Schengen states.
You can book the appointment for the toma de huellas (fingerprinting) here. Choose your province, and then select “POLICÍA – TOMA DE HUELLAS” then the comisaría (police station) closest to your intended place of residence. However, in order to proceed, you need to have a Spanish phone number. You can use a trusted friend’s or your school’s phone number.
Remember that this appointment can only be done in-person, because the government worker (funcionario) will need to scan your fingerprints. So make sure that you give yourself enough time to obtain the padrón (certificado de empadronamiento) before scheduling the TIE appointment.
What if you made an appointment is beyond the expiration date stated in your student visa on your passport? No problem. Just make sure that the TIE appointment is dated within the 30 days of your intended date of arrival in Spain. However, you must get the earliest reasonable appointment date, since some comisarías turn away people if they see that their stay has only 6 months left.
5. Print/Photocopy whatever you can.
Photocopying services in Spain typically cost at least €0.10 (10 cents) per page, while printing typically costs €0.20 (20 cents) per page. Convert that to Philippine peso, and it does add up.
While you’re in the Philippines, photocopy all of the pages of your passport, and print the following:
- your empadronamiento appointment
- your TIE toma de huellas appointment
- accommodation booking confirmation (which the immigration will want to see before your board the plane out of the Philippines)
- your carta de nombramiento
- your NBI Clearance (the school will likely ask for the original)
And just to be sure, bring all of the documents you presented on your visa appointment (though I didn’t bring my bank statements).
6. Make sure that your phone is open line.
If you are planning to use the same phone in Spain, make sure that it’s not locked into any specific Philippine network, or it may not accept Spanish SIM cards. You need a Spanish phone number in order to process things such as making appointments for government paperwork.
7. Collect realia.
Realia is everyday objects, such as newspapers and train tickets, used in the classroom to enhance the students´ learning process. You can therefore pack some items related to the Philippines, such as our Philippine coins and notes, postcards, and other objects that represent the Philippine culture. While everyone would love to taste Filipino food, you’re not allowed to share food with students due to allergen contents, unless specifically approved by the parents. Spain is quite strict with this.
8. Check the weather.
Not all of Spain is sunny year-round. I learned this lesson the hard way (insert facepalm emoji here). I was sick with sore throat and cold almost a month after I arrived.
So, to avoid this, make sure to check the weather of your province. The weather in the coast of Valencia and Andalusia can be as warm as, or warmer than, the Philippines, but winter can still be as cold as 7°C in the morning. Madrid can be as cold as 0°C in winter and as much as 40°C in the summer. The region of Galicia can be rainy, even in the summer months. Make sure you wear a scarf when the temperature gets cooler.
Come to think of it, this is the perfect time to plan your OOTDs (hehe). I’m not a fashionista (I literally wear the same clothes every week), but I realised that layering is the best way to wear your way around Spain. Now is also the perfect time to plan how you will pack your things.
9. Try making [virtual] friends.
Join the Facebook groups of your comunidad autónoma or province, and try to meet people who could be your potential roommates. In my opinion, however, the best way to integrate into the Spanish community is by looking for Spanish roommates. Of course, making virtual friends as early as now means you have someone to share your excitement with, and do activities together, even if that just means going through the Spanish bureaucracy together. It will also be a great time to connect with other auxiliares assigned to your school or in the same neighbourhood.
Do you have other tips on what to do before leaving for Spain? Comment them below! CM