New Year’s Language Challenge


Happy 2015, everyone! 

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here (okay, maybe more than just a minute…) but I’m back and excited to be reconnecting with all of you in the new year! In the next week or so, I’ll get you up to speed on what’s been going on in my life and fill you in on my future plans for the Backpacking Brunette. Before we get into all that though, I have some very exciting news I’d like to share you with you. 

Before I left for Madrid this summer, I brushed up on my rusty ol’ high school Spanish with the help of a website called italki which connects people interested in learning a language with professional tutors from around the world. For more on how italki works, check out this incredibly detailed post.

italki makes learning a language convenient, affordable and fun. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time, so when italki offered to sponsor me to take part in their New Year’s Language Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity.

I can’t think of a better way to get started on my 2015 goal of becoming fluent in Spanish than joining the New Year’s Language Challenge. No matter what language you want to learn, there’s someone on italki who can teach you. So, don’t put your language goals off any longer. Join me!

Registration opened January 1 and will remain open until January 31. The entry fee is 100 ITC (or 10 USD). These credits can’t be used toward lessons, but hey, you’ve got to pay to play.

From January 15 until February 28, you need to complete 20 hours of language lessons with a tutor of your choosing. The challenge will last for six weeks. Don’t wait until January 31 to sign up or you’ll have to cram 20 hours of lessons into just four weeks.

If you successfully complete 20 hours of language lessons before February 28, your italki account will be credited with 400 ITC. Yep, that’s right. You’ll be awarded 40 USD to be put toward more language lessons. Pretty cool, right?

So, what are you waiting for? Join me in italki’s New Year’s Language Challenge, and let’s start 2015 off with a bang! 

Disclaimer: italki is sponsoring me to take part in their New Year”s Language Challenge. However, as always, my opinions are all my own.


The final countdown


November totally snuck up on me. I can’t believe I’m already four days into my third and final month in Spain. I know I’ve asked this before, but I’m going to ask it again: where has the time gone?

In truth, I actually only have about two more weeks (give or take a day or two) in Spain. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, this is the final countdown.

With the holidays approaching, travel is getting more difficult, so my family and I agreed that it would be best for me to come home the weekend before Thanksgiving. That’s a week sooner than I had hoped, but hey, I’m flexible!

Being home for the holidays wasn’t originally part of my plans, but now that it is, I couldn’t be more excited. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the entire year.

But, Alex, don’t get too ahead of yourself! You’ve still got two weeks left in Spain!

Because Spain hasn’t completely taken the “Type A” out of my personality, here’s a list of the things I’m planning to do and see in my last two weeks in Spain:

1. Pass the B1 Spanish exam.
2. Make a day-trip to Toledo.
3. Eat churros at San Ginés.
4. Tour the Royal Palace.
5. Visit the Thyssen Museum.
6. Take a picture with the bear in Puerta del Sol.
7. Explore the San Miguel Mercado.
8. Visit the North American Museum.
9. Ride bikes with Juan Luis.
10. Drink all the Spanish wine I possibly can.

What do you think? Pretty ambitious (especially #10), but I think I’m up for the challenge! I’m far from being done with Spain yet.

P.S. Sorry, I missed yesterday’s post. After a super busy weekend, I was super tired, so I spent Monday basically just sleeping. I’m going to make up for missing Monday by posting again tomorrow, so be sure to check back! My blogging goals for November are to resume a consistent posting schedule and include more original pictures in my posts. Woohoo.

Day 45

Day 45 Spain

Yesterday was day 45. If I’m not able to get a visa (which is looking unlikely at this point), day 45 marked the halfway point of my stay in Spain. Totally. Freaking. Cray.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, my first thought was: I arrived in Spain 45 days ago. My second thought was: I leave Spain in 45 days. Both sentiments are bittersweet.

I miss my family and friends in the States. Without a doubt, there are a few people I’m most definitely looking forward to getting back to.

At the same time, I now have family and friends in Spain. I’ve got life in Madrid pretty well figured out (finally), and I don’t want to think about how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to my second home.

Oh well, there’s no point on dwelling on it either way. The next 45 days are going to go by all the same whether I’m ticking them off on a calendar or crying myself to sleep every night. I didn’t miss the invention of time travel while I’ve been away, right?

With the first half of my stay over, I’m looking at these last 45 days like crunch time. I want to get to the most out of Madrid and my au pair experience as I possibly can. Finally having the hang of Spanish life should make this easier.

My first priority is my Spanish.

I want to continue to dedicate myself to my studies, and when I leave Madrid, my plan is to have completed both intermediate levels (B1 and B2). In order to reach that goal, I will need to spend more time studying at home and practice my conversational Spanish every chance I get.

My second priority is exploring Madrid.

Like so many other young expats, I have a tendency to get caught up in my city’s nightlife. I sometimes forget that there’s more to Madrid than just wine, tapas and staying out until 6 a.m.–although that is a big part of life here!

In order to achieve this second goal, I’ve mapped out my remaining weekends in Spain. I only have six weekends left! Without being too anal, I’m going to try to plan out my remaining free time. That way, I can continue ticking activities off my Madrid to-do list. I’m all about efficiency over here.

Between the five days I spent here in May and my first 45 days as an au pair, I’ve seen and done a lot in Madrid. Of course, there’s always more! Just to give you an idea of my itinerary…I’m planning on visiting the Thyssen, touring the Palacio Real, eating at the San Miguel Mercado and dancing the night away at Kapital.

I’d also like to visit at least two Spanish cities other than Madrid. This weekend, I’m going with friends to Salamanca. Additionally, I’m considering a trip to Sevilla over Halloween weekend.

If you’ve been to Madrid, what sights and/or activities do you think I need to include? If you haven’t been to Madrid, can you give me any general advice regarding how to get the most out of a city?