On Instagram and Introspection

One of my biggest guilty pleasures is stalking myself on the Internet. From being a Myspace kid, to my short lived YouTube career, to curating my life on Instagram – I am so guilty of checking what I was doing one, three, or even seven years ago.

Which makes me wonder why I’m currently so aware of the idea of “aesthetic”. I may not be a gazillionaire fashion blogger who supports their lifestyle with Instagram, but for whatever reason, my Instagram seems to have developed a theme. What can I say? I’m a content producer both by day and by night. Keeping it on brand is practically second nature to me.

If I use Instagram as a means to keep tabs on my past self, I’m my own biggest audience. Something deep down is directing what content I choose to share online. Sure, a couple of hundred other people are watching too, but a lot of this is for thirty year old Rosy. Photo albums are obsolete. Part of the fun of nostalgia is now looking at how many likes a post got, as well as the picture itself.

Or maybe this is just me and I’m totally weird/self-absorbed/kinda pathetic. Your call.

When I lived in Madrid, for example, my feed was bright. Because isn’t that what the life of an expat in Spain is supposed to be? If Hemingway had an Instagram, it would be sun kissed and vibrant and warm. Old Ernie and I both liked to criticise Spain, but we definitely wanted to immortalise the country in its best light.

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Sure, in Madrid I did all these things. I ate pink lollies and drank iced coffee (when it became gentrified enough to get it, that is) and wore floaty dresses. My life was significantly sunnier than its English equivalent and I wanted to remember that. But my life in Madrid on social media is definitely not the life I had. I was unhealthy and unhappy. From the major lack of vegetarian options to the comfort eating to dull the pain of teaching English or unpaid internships, Madrid had its downs. But unless I screenshotted my empty bank account, you can’t portray that life on Instagram.

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Which brings us to my time in Brighton. The sky is grey, my clothes are black, and I’m still drinking my iced coffee. The colours may be more muted, but I’m so much happier here. I’m not sitting around carefully curating my life to look back on. I’m living in the now and posting it as an afterthought. Whilst I only chose to share the best of Madrid, for me, all of Brighton is the best. I may have only been here for five months but I’m already much happier than I ever was in Hull or Madrid.

I can post a picture of my work desk and planner because for once in my life, my work makes me happy. I’m sharing food pictures because, get this, vegetarian food is everywhere. Who would have thought? Not Spain! Who needs pretty dresses? I’m wearing all black and I’m digging it.

So thank you, Brighton. For making me evaluate my social media choices. And more importantly, for making me realise how happy I am here.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post a picture of seagull or a bagel – and Future Rosy will know without a doubt that whatever the subject ends up being, Past Rosy was pretty freaking happy with it.

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Brighton, So Far

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So I moved to Brighton. Not as dramatic as my move to Madrid three years ago but much, much harder. Although in Madrid I had to deal with language barriers, reentering education, and, well, the Spanish. In Brighton I have to live with the uncertainty that everything leading up to now has been for nothing. Sure, you might think I’m being overdramatic, but…

Hi, my name’s Rosy Parrish and I think I’m finally entering my quarter life crisis.

I thought I’d experienced my quarter life crisis already. Multiple times. When I first moved abroad, when I turned down a well paying teaching gig for an unpaid internship, when I decided to move back to the UK. Pretty much every second of the last three years. And maybe I was in a crisis and this is just the peak of it. Or maybe that was nothing compared to what’s about to come.

Brighton was a huge whim. I’d never even been to the city before I started flying over for interviews. I knew one person here. To me it was just this whimsical seaside town full of quirky street art and indie coffee houses. But it seemed like a good fit. And I don’t regret that part of the decision at all. Brighton is the perfect place for me and although I’ve only been here a month, I can’t imagine myself leaving any time soon. I never felt that way with Madrid. That was always like biding my time until something better came along and appeasing myself by going on about all the ~culture~ I was experiencing.

Currently I’m a freelance writer. I sit on my bed all day because my desk doesn’t have a chair yet and type away. Sometimes I take a break to apply for a proper job. Sometime I watch How I Met Your Mother on Netflix because it soothes me into thinking it will all get better. If I were to watch Girls right now, I’d probably cry. The Avenue Q song ‘What Do You Do With A BA In English?’ makes my stomach do backflips. This is not where I thought I’d be at the age of 24. With £25,000 in student loans and working from my bedroom in a shared flat.

The older I get the more I realise that life is just a series of flukes one after the other. I used to spend so much time thinking would this have happened if I did a different degree? Went to another uni? Didn’t move to Spain? Hadn’t failed GCSE maths? But now I just feel that life is chaotic and I just need to deal with it. Sure, this isn’t the ideal situation for me right now. But if I’d picked a different degree or decided against teaching English, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve got right now. As stagnant as my time in Madrid felt, I know I experienced a life that many others can only dream of. I became friends with interesting people and captured myself a cute European boyfriend and I know the city will always welcome me back with open arms.

So I may not be writing in a swish city office wearing a cool blazer; but I’m writing on my bed wearing a dinosaur t-shirt. So I guess I’m doing okay.

I have faith that eventually I’ll get my cool job and my cool blazer because goddammit I’ve done 16 months of unpaid internships now and if that’s not seen as dedication to my art then I’ll probably just explode anyway.

The Best Of 2016


Since David Bowie left the mortal realm, the world has become a terrible place. But despite this, I thought it was important to look back at my personal positives of 2016… no matter how sad I am that Carrie Fisher is dead. 2016 was a year of big changes for me. After months of agonising over the decision, I decided it was time to repatriate myself back into British life. I’d gotten a tad complacent with everything… so obviously my brain decided to change it all at once. 2nd times a charm, right?

So, in order, I bring you my highlights of 2016.

Visiting Florence

I’ve wanted to visit Italy for as long as I can remember – and after almost two years of living on the continent, I finally got my chance. I traveled round the country by train – and although the trip was slightly derailed by the destruction of my passport – Florence was by far my favourite desintation. I saw amazing architecture, did fantastic shopping, marvelled at incredible art… and saw creepy fetus mannequins from the 19th century. I will definitely be back.

Reading Stephen King’s It

Much like visiting Italy, I had always wanted to read It. And although it really didn’t live up to the ‘omg so scary’ reviews I’ve been hearing my entire life, it was huge. Like, physically. And I’m glad I read it. And it makes me feel less terrible about failing my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year. Seriously, it was huge!

Giving up teaching

Although I have never wanted to end up as a teacher, it somehow became my job.  Yet it was always my means of staying in Madrid and getting a pretty decent income. So I stayed. But at the same time I was interviewing for summer camp positions to keep myself fed for the 3 months of Hell I was about to experience, I took a chance and interviewed for an unpaid editorial internship. And got it. Although I then had to decide between teaching and eating and gaining experience in the field I loved and starving – I’m glad I took the risk as it proved I was capable and qualified to do what I loved and gave me the push I needed to leave the safety net of Spain. Even if I did have to eat a lot of pasta to do so.

Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Seeing this play was a long time coming. I first bought the tickets in October 2015 and spent an agonising year waiting for my time to come. I’ve written about the show in great detail already, so I won’t dwell on it too much, but it was definitely my favourite part of the year. Not only did it fill the empty place in my soul of the waiting for a new Potter release, but my quick trip to London was the catalyst for my eventual return to the UK. Thanks, Harry.

Doing a Brexit of my own

And finally, the most important change for me in 2016, moving back to the UK. Despite being on the top of my game in the ESL world, I knew it was time to move on. So after packing my entire life into two suitcases and a cardboard box, I took the leap and moved back “home”. I write this blogpost to you from my new place in Brighton. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I imagine it will begin with job interviews, vegan food, and maybe a new haircut.

Cheers to you, 2017.

The Great Expat Dilemma: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Let’s get real for second. When I first decided to start my expat adventure I was a naive little 21 year old, fresh out of university, with no life or work experience. I was feeling defeated and like I was running out of options, regretting all of my life choices that had led me to that moment.

To avoid spending another minute wasting away in my teenage bedroom whilst all my friends went on to bigger and better things, I thought maybe I’d move abroad and teach English. I wish I could remember my thought process for deciding this, but I imagine a lot of it had to do with just wanting to prove that I could do something other than receive job rejection emails. Thus, I set myself a task to work towards (so my days could be spent doing something more worthwhile than watching Catfish marathons) and for the first time since education, my life had purpose again.

I chose my destination (Madrid), worked out my plan (to begin with a four week TEFL course and then wing it), bought my plane tickets, and off I went. Soon I was a qualified English as a second language teacher living in a capital city and hanging out with a crazy diverse group of friends. And my initial plan to teach English for a year and then head home then turned into two years with no plans to leave yet. But yet, that expat dilemma remains: when is it time to go home?

By moving to Madrid, I definitely accomplished what I wanted to do. Before I left I was crippled by intense social anxiety and could barely function in situations I hadn’t rehearsed in my head before hand. I couldn’t talk to strangers or look people in the eye or make small talk in shops. But moving to a place where you don’t understand a single thing anyone says, or have your mum to do things for you, really forces you out of your comfort zone. And whilst I still don’t revel in talking to others, I no longer feel like my throat is closing up. I can navigate through life without that omnipresent sense of dread following me around – and let me tell ya, it feels super refreshing. I recently spent a few weeks in the UK and had multiple people comment on how different I was so. So life experience? Check.

Another thing I wanted was work experience. And whilst teaching is in no way what I want to do with my life, it pays the bills whilst I embark on multiple unpaid internships – something that definitely wasn’t available for me in a place like Hull. I’ve managed social media accounts, learnt CMS, written articles about things I knew nothing about before I started – aka I’ve basically become a digital media wizard. So whilst teaching isn’t exactly where I imagined I’d be at 24, I’m getting that much needed experience all those “entry level” jobs somehow expect you to have already. It just took me a little longer to get there and I’m talking about verbs whilst doing it. Work experience? Working on it but let me give it a preemptive check.

So after doing everything I set out to do (and spending double the expected time here), why am I still in Spain? The simple, gross, and horribly cliché version is that I fell in love. With the city, with a dude, with my entire existence here. And why ruin a good thing? I’ll stick with the cheap wine and sunny weather and good Mexican food, thanks.

But another major factor in my decision to stay in Madrid is that I don’t know what would happen otherwise. Here I know I can keep getting teaching gigs, keep living cheaply, keep enjoying this big city life I’ve grown accustomed to. Before I moved here my life was so uncertain – whether I’d get a job, be able to move out, the sensitive state of my mental health, etc etc. Shit was scary, but here I don’t have to worry. As I keep saying over and over again, this definitely isn’t where I expected to be, but as long as I’m paying the bills, having fun, and improving myself as a person, I don’t see what the problem is. I may not be as far along on the career ladder as my classmates but look at all that sexy life experience I’m racking up. And I’ve learnt more Spanish talking to supermarket cashiers here than I did in in four years of German in high school, so there’s that.

So although expat life has its flaws; friends leaving every year, language barriers, and cultural mishaps – and even though Spain is definitely not the utopia all those retired Brits make it out to be, it looks like for the moment I’m here to stay.

A misleading title? Mayhaps. ‘Cause I have no freaking idea what I’m doing with my life other than enjoying it. But at 24, I think maybe that’s okay.

Bumble BFF: Expat Adventures in Friend Dating

One of the biggest struggles of expat life, other than language barriers and cultural mishaps, is finding and maintaining friendships. Not every expat enters a country at the same, but most importantly, not every expat leaves at the same time. At any moment one of your closest friends can up and leave and you’re left with some major free time on your hands. Sure, the usual rules about making new friends can also apply as an expat: socialise with your colleagues, join a class, stalk out mutual friends. But with the need to seek out new friendships multiple times a year (particularly in the dreaded summer months), these leads can dry out pretty quickly. Enter Bumble BFF, a new app that is here to change the way we platonically meet other people.

The idea of choosing friends solely online might seem weird to some people, but most of the friends I made in my formative teenagers years came from the Internet, and I met my boyfriend of two years on Tinder. So an app where you essentially judge people on pictures and a short bio didn’t put me off too much. When I heard about Bumble, I knew I needed to try it. If I can handle Tinder in Spain, I can handle anything.

I’ve been using Bumble BFF for about two months now and I feel I’ve got a good idea of what it’s all about. Most importantly, how weird it is to market yourself for friends. I know you can say that your profile is just a natural reflection of you, but that is still marketing yourself. If all of someone’s pictures were taken in clubs, I know we probably wouldn’t get along. So no swipes for them. Not in a judging way, just that I know I’d probably never hang out with them if their weekends are spent in six storey nightclubs and mine are spent in bougie dive bars. So it’s a good way to weed out the people you probably couldn’t form a friendship with.

Over my time on Bumble, I had some good conversations. Some progressed onto WhatsApp and some progressed even further onto actual Platonic Friend Dates. I’ve been on three now and finally think I’ve figured out the best way to navigate the app, because each Friend Date has gone better than the last. I’ve bumped up the age category and said bye to the young’uns (whilst simultaneously accepting that oh god I might be in my mid twenties?) and I know when to tell if the conversation is just normal dull-but-polite pleasantries or a dead end.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Bumble BFF and cutting out the middle man when it comes to making new friends. Using the app pretty much screams ‘HELLO I’M HERE TO HANG OUT WITH NEW PEOPLE’ and I love how unashamed that is. Especially for expats, ’cause we need all the help we can get. Even if, like Tinder dates, some of your Friend Dates don’t go anywhere, you still get a nice time out of it. So far I’ve had ice lollies, after work drinks, and mojito bar hopping; when otherwise I’d be at home watching Degrassi on Netflix. Both are fun, but one is slightly more beneficial to my inner happiness. And it’s not the Canadian high schoolers.

But let’s be real, as someone in a long term relationship, I really just miss swiping people’s faces.

Pros of Bumble BFF:

  • Everyone is there for the same reason
  • Super convenient and not time consuming
  • You can scope people out before you meet (you’re given enough information to sufficiently Facebook stalk)
  • Swiping is fuuuuuuun

Cons of Bumble BFF:

  • You’re putting yourself out there to be judged
  • Not a lot of people are using the app yet (at least in Madrid)
  • There’s still a chance you can be murdered

Verdict: It’s great for expats and people moving cities, but also an easy and fun way for anyone to meet new people. I’m really looking forward to how this concept develops in the future. The Internet has already changed so much about our lives, it’s only time before it starts to influence our friendships too. Yaaaaay Platonic Dating!

A Day In The Life Of An Auxiliar de Conversación


For anyone keeping track, I’m currently what you call an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid. I’ve been doing this since February last year, and it’s a pretty sweet gig. I’m definitely not gonna complain about 16 hours a week for €1000 a month. That’s a lie. I am going to complain. Because it’s currently June, the end of the school year, which means I’m just about ready to nap forever now please. So to mark the end of my time at this year’s school, I thought I’d do a little day in the life style post, documenting what a typical day was like for me. Admittedly, if I’d written this earlier in the year this probably would have been a lot more positive, but that’s not my style. So instead, here’s a day in the life of a slightly frazzled language assistant approaching summer vacation.

If you’re currently applying for the programme, I’m sorry. If you’re currently in the programme, you get me.

6:00: Aaaaah I hate that noise. Even changing it to Taylor Swift doesn’t make waking up at this time any less painful for me.

6:15: Okay, so I should probably get up now or something.

6:40: I am leaving the house. Keys, phone, abono, money, okay. I hope the metros are running on time today. Also, what is breakfast? Who is awake enough to deal with that at this time in the morning?

6:52: Come on, metro. Go go go. We can do this. Do not make me miss my train dammit.

6:59: GET OUT OF MY WAY, PEOPLE OF ATOCHA. Maybe I should start leaving my house earlier or something? Nah.

7:01: Made it! Time to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack in preparation for my day. Revolution and teaching are practically the same thing anyway.

7:16: Everybody give it up for America’s favourite fighting Frenchman! LAFAYETTE!

7:44: Why is it colder here than in the city? Does all that smog keep me feeling toasty? Ewww, fresh air.

7:55: I feel I shouldn’t be expected to be at work yet if the bakeries don’t even have any napolitanas ready. This is just inhumane.

8:05: Time to say ‘buenas’ 82 times in a row whilst all the teachers appear. Why did I leave the UK again?

8:15: Game Face on. Let’s do this.

8:24: Aaaaaaand the teacher’s not here yet. How long do I wait before getting someone to help me control these monsters? How are children so loud at this time?

8:27: The sixteen year olds are revolting. Send help.

9:05: The first class is over and all I was asked was how to spell something by the teacher. I didn’t actually know, but can’t really admit that as I get paid to speak English, so I made it up.

9:10: About to give a presentation on popular books for teenagers. Let’s find out how out of date I am with the teenagers of today!

9:23: LIKE NONE OF THESE KIDS HAVE READ HARRY POTTER.

9:37: Teacher tries to tell the students that examples of genres are plays, poetry, and novels. Despite me just using the sentence “part of the fantasy genre”. I can’t tell if they just don’t listen to me or think I’m constantly wrong, but I’ve learnt to pick my battles.

10:15: I’m with the oldest kids in the school now. They keep forgetting I’m a ‘teacher’ and insult the real teachers in front of me. I try not to laugh but sometimes they’re just too hilarious with their insults.

10:34: Would it be unprofessional to eat a banana right now?

10:49: I am definitely not qualified to be teaching the suffragette movement and got all of this information from Wikipedia last night. Sorry not sorry.

11:00: BREAK TIME. Finally the banana is mine.

11:20: I have a free period but no one else does. I’m sure I’d be much more productive if the WiFi worked, but this is Spain.

11:51: Is this job really beneficial to my future? Let the existential dread sink in!

12:15: Now for the youngest kids in the school. Who speak literally zero English. We’re gonna listen to Justin Bieber.

12:20: Apparently 12 year olds in Spain do not like Justin Bieber.

12:31: “What are the Spanish lyrics?” That is definitely not the point of this exercise.

13:10: THE BELL HAS GONE. I AM HOME FREE. Oh wait, I’m not. Because I have to wait around an hour to then spend another hour in a ‘staff meeting’ that I won’t even speak in. Sixteen hours a week, suuuuure…

13:40: *sits*

14:17: Like only half of the actual proper teachers show up for this but you know if any assistants bailed there’d be CONSEQUENCES.

14:20: “We’ll make it a quick one” Sure you will.

15:10: WINE WINE WINE WINE.

17:00: Finally heading back home. Can I nap on this train?

18:30: Oh look, an email asking me to plan a lesson sent a day before said lesson. I love when this happens.

18:50: How does one sum up the British political system in a single powerpoint?

19:30: I just want to watch The Office until I morph into Netflix.

20:15: I guess I should eat something that didn’t come free with a glass of wine.

21:00: It’s hard to adult when your day job is so SOUL CRUSHING.

21:45: Gonna pack my bag for tomorrow and lay out all my clothes so I can stay in bed ’til the last possible moment.

22:00: I guess I should probably think about going to bed if I want a decent amount of sleep. This is what my life has become.

As much as I may complain about this job, I actually really enjoy it. The teaching part and the kids are great, it’s just a little hit and miss with the schools (I’ve experienced both). But overall, as someone whose own language education was pretty underwhelming, it’s a pretty rewarding job. And if you’re looking into the programme yourself, I hope I didn’t scare you off too much.

Expat Friendships: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Making friends as an expat is a weird experience. On the one hand, everyone has a shared experience linking them together; on the other, you’re introduced to people who you might not otherwise choose to socialise with. As many of us as there are (even in a city as big as Madrid), it can be kind of slim pickings on the friend front. Such is the life of an expat.

When someone moves abroad and begins the transformation into an expat, they follow a specific pattern. This is something I call the We’re All In This Together Mindset. But honestly, that only really works in Disney Channel Original Movies, not when it comes to building a solid foundation to base your new little expatriate life on. Sure, this theory works great at first. You arrive in a new country, nervous and second guessing yourself, and then boom… a whole bunch of other people in exactly the same situation as you. Of course you’re going to latch on. And this can be useful in the beginning when it comes to exploring your new city and figuring out the basics. But is it enough to base a long-lasting friendship on? Nah. As people become more comfortable in their new life, they begin to gradually move on. And I’m not just talking about your new found friends, you’re included in this too, Hypothetic Baby Expat Reader. It’s like the advice you always get before moving away to university: “don’t settle with your first year flatmates, there’s more people out there!” It was true at university and it’s true as an expatriate.

Obviously it’s not the case all the time, and I still have friends who I met when I very first arrived in Madrid two years ago. But for the most part, after everything settles and people feel more confident, they move onto bigger and better things. And that includes new friends. Which brings me to my next point…

You’ll meet people in the weirdest places. I’ve already spoken about how to meet new people whilst abroad, but I never really touched on the completely bizare places I struck up conversations with strangers. Trying to find my way into a locked building, searching for a bank, on an Irish pub crawl. People are everywhere. Keep your eyes open and don’t write off a way of meeting someone just because you wouldn’t do it back at home.

In a slightly related note, don’t completely dismiss people either. I’m friends with a whole bunch of people I probably wouldn’t roll with at home. If anything, my time in the expat pool has made me a less judgemental person. Of course, there have been exceptions to the rule. Times where I’ve been proved right and people have been exactly who I thought they’d be, but than can happen anywhere. At least in Spain you can dull the pain with churros.

And of course, the most obvious and painful part of any expatriate friendship: you go into it knowing it has an expiration date. It might not seem like a big deal at first, but as the months draw on it gets a little distressing knowing that L Day is approaching. The dreaded Last Day. This is especially annoying with those pesky Americans and their even peskier visas. EU friends are in it for the long haul, so stick with us. But it’s also disconcerting to know that eventually, it’s going to be you leaving one day. Everything is temporary! Time is fleeting! Aaaaaaaah!

So… expat friendships. In my two years here, I’ve experienced:

THE GOOD: Meeting a diverse group of people who have helped me grow as a person and have understood all those #expatprobs better than any family members or friends back home.

THE BAD: Finding your platonic soul mate and having them leave a year later. Then repeating the process every year until your little heart can’t take it anymore and shrivels up to die.

THE UGLY: Befriending someone you usually wouldn’t because of how tiny the expat bubble is, until they one day just completely snap and call you a “c*nt-faced bitch” for no reason and then you’re stuck in their social circle FOREVER*.

*Note: forever is only a year for expats because lol visas.

What Is Home, Baby Don’t Hurt Me?

Get ready, guys. Cause this is where the #FirstWorldProblems start.

Ever since I moved abroad, I’ve had a weird relationship with home. Home here meaning the place I grew up, because after seventeen months, Madrid certainly feels like home now. I jumped on my first plane to Madrid in July 2014 and didn’t come again until the following December. And although I felt pretty settled in España, I remember feeling soooo excited to go home. I compiled lists of the food I wanted to eat, the people I wanted to see, the places I wanted to go. I felt relaxed and content to be back in my teenage bedroom, wearing my teenage clothes (here’s looking at you, Ryan Air baggage allowance), and seeing my teenage friends. But then came January, and I started a new job and met new people and just delved further and further into my Madrid life.

My next visit wasn’t for another eight months. I was still excited for the trip, if not only because of the finance drought faced by all English teachers every summer, but it definitely felt different to Christmas. And I had the realisation that my friends’ careers didn’t give them the luxury to take two weeks off every summer to harass their parents. So off to Madrid I went again, back to the bars I loved and the currency I’d become accustomed to.

Which brings us to today: I’m currently in the middle of my third trip to the UK since I moved to Madrid, and this time has been a very different experience. There was no list of food sent to my mum this year, no special requests, or hounding people over texts to see when we could hang out. I’ve just gone with the flow. And it’s taken me these entire three trips back to realise that the main points of my trip home consist of boring things that my inability to speak Spanish stop me from accomplishing in Madrid: getting blood tests, going to the opticians, and getting my birth control on the beauty that is the NHS. Of course, I love seeing my family, friends, and my cat. And I’ll never complain about eating normal bread for a change, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m not counting down with dread to my flight home. Because Madrid is that to me now: home.

This whole post might seem so obvious or so dramatic: but it’s only just really hit me that there wasn’t a distinct moment where I was like ‘this is it, Madrid is my home now’. It happened in bits and stages and it took over a year but yep, guess I’m pretty content with life right now. I’ll take my studio apartment and hour long commute to work over easily accessible vegetarian food for the time being.

Miss you, Madrid, see you in a week.


But I’ll miss this little monster more ❤

My Favourite Language Learning Apps: Spanish

I’ll admit, after almost fourteen months of living in Madrid, my Spanish is pretty terrible. I got complacent. I learnt what I needed to know (restaurant talk, bank talk, basic pleasantries), and then just stopped. Whether it’s because I’m lazy or because shrieking ‘NO HABLO ESPAÑOL’ when people try to engage me in conversation is an introvert’s dream, I’m not entirely sure. But somehow it happened. Occasionally, however, I do go through bursts of inspiration and/or guilt over my terrible language skills, and crack down for a week or two… but it never lasts for long. Especially with a Spanish boyfriend who I can look at expectantly whenever anyone asks me a question. But with a new academic year comes a new eruption of determination. So I figured I’d review my favourites of the countless language learning apps I’ve used over the last year, in the hopes it can help other little clueless expats out there. De nada.

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Duolingo:

Duolingo seems to be everyone’s go-to language learning app, probably because it’s so easily accessible on both mobile and PC. My first experiences with it were a few years ago when I attempted to relearn German… which didn’t go great. But once I decided I was going to move to Spain, I decided to give it another try.

Pros:

  • The language tree is a great way to quickly see which areas you need to work on. It’s bright and clear and not cluttered, which doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to learn.
  • The point based system makes it like a game, and if you’re as competitive as I am, earning those lingots is a great way to get motivated when you feel like skipping a day. Particularly with the chance to ‘buy’ extra levels, such as the flirting pack, which I love to terrorise my boyfriend with.
  • The comments on the questions make it really seem like a community. Sometimes the example sentences on Duolingo are odd to say the least, and seeing what other people had to say about the hilarious statements is a good way to remind yourself that other people are going through the same thing.

Cons:

  • Along with the strange sentence choices, some of the topics on Duolingo are a bit useless. In the job category I learnt about soldiers and commanders and lieutenants, words that I barely ever use in English, whilst completely skipping out professions such as butcher and baker and, uh, candlestick maker?
  • The fluency percentage thing. There is no way in hell I have 47% fluency in Spanish. 4.7% maybe, but not this. How is this even worked out?
  • THAT DAMN OWL. It looks so disappointed when you miss a day, that I’ve found myself not going on the site for weeks because I can’t deal with his judgemental little face. Thank you, uncanny valley.

Verdict: Duolingo is a great starting point for language learning, and also a great supplement to other services, but as a whole it just doesn’t do enough to help you really learn a language. For vocabulary stuff, it’s great, but I found that it didn’t help progress my grammar at all, so I ended up talking like a simpleton all day (whereas now I can speak like a toddler, yeaaaah).

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Cat Spanish:

Cat Spanish was my first paid language learning app, and you can only use it on your mobile. I am a very visual learner, so Cat Spanish was great for me, as it uses hilarious and adorable cat pictures to help you remember phrases easier. It probably helps if, like me, you are obsessed with cats. This app is definitely more a memorisation type of learning, rather than teaching you to figure things out for yourself, and although that might not be everyone’s way of learning, to me it really helped me find my confidence and gave me a basis to work off of.

Pros:

  • Lolcat-esque images that relate to specific phrases. If you’re a visual learner, a cat rolling around in toilet paper might help you remember what to say if you need toilet paper (which came in useful for me when I couldn’t reach it in a store).
  • Small levels which feel manageable. The app only introduces a couple of phrases at a time, so you’re not overwhelmed by words and grammar and pronunciation.
  • It’s in Castilian Spanish! Most of the language apps I’ve tried have been in South American Spanish, which is completely useless for me living in Spain. My biggest language app pet peeve is that developers don’t clearly mark which continent their language is for. Cat Spanish means I can actually use the phrases I learn in confidence knowing that people will understand me (other than my awful pronunciation, of course).

Cons:

  • Sooooo much repetition. I know that repetition is key to learning languages (spoiler alert, I’m an English teacher), but this app really takes it to a whole new level. I find myself screaming ‘yes, yes, I’ve got it now THANK YOU’ at my phone when it’s asking me a question for the millionth time. This is particularly relevant in the part where you have a conversation with a cat… they don’t flow fluently and even if I didn’t know the answer it would be easy to guess anyway because they give you all three choices. Come on guys, give me a challenge.
  • Refers to itself as a ‘social language learning app’ but for those of us who don’t have FB friends also using the app (or don’t like connecting absolutely every account we make to FB), social doesn’t even come into it. It paired me up with some random people who I guess downloaded it at the same time as me, but they stopped using the app months ago. So for me, this is the most solitary of all three apps I use.

Verdict: This was the first app that really got me to stick my teeth into learning Spanish, and acted as a great stepping stone to me -finally- starting to understand the language. For me, the memorisation technique works really well, but other people might prefer a more grammar based approach. I love this app, and think it’s worth the money, but it will all depend on what learning style works for you.

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Memrise:

The most recent app I’ve tried, but definitely my favourite (and actually from the people behind Cat Spanish). I’ve been using this app all summer now and feel I’ve progressed more with Spanish in these last few months than the entire year I’ve been here. Like Duolingo, you can use both the mobile app or the website, set a daily goal, and keep up your learning streak… but for some reason it just works so much better for me.

Pros:

  • Whereas other language learning apps start at the very beginning, Memrise offers a whole variety of courses so you can start at whatever level you feel comfortable at. I’m currently dabbling in two different levels, so it really feels like a more personalised course than the others. Yay.
  • The option to skip levels is really useful. Sometimes constantly failing on one aspect makes you not want to continue, so when ser vs estar was getting too much for me, I jumped ahead to the next level, and went back to tackle the earlier level later.
  • The review option actually seems to work. As in, the things it chooses are phrases that I probably should be reviewing at that time. Unlike Duolingo which seems to make you review everything every damn day. It just makes using this app an actual pleasant thing to do instead of something I dread. Go Memrise!
  • When you’re struggling with a word or phrase, you get the option to pair it with a ‘meme’ to help you remember it. More of that good ol’ visual learning stuff again! For me, the word for wrong is an angry avocado.

Cons:

  • Sometimes I don’t really understand the order it teaches things in. Like taking a million different levels to teach me the numbers, something I learnt myself before I used this app in about ten minutes, but trying to cram every variety of ser and estar into one level. One of these things is not like the other.

Verdict: Memrise pretty much gives you the best of both worlds mixing traditional and visual learning together depending on when you need it. I feel as if Memrise is more customisable than other apps I’ve tried, making it more enjoyable to use as I actually feel like I’m getting somewhere. More enjoyable to use, better Spanish skills. Yay!

So I think it’s pretty obvious which tool is my favourite. Memrise just ticks all the boxes for me, and although I’m still guilty of skipping a day every now and then, I’m more dedicated to this app than I have been the others (owl or no owl). I’d recommend Memrise to anyone trying to improve their language skills, particularly the Spanish course. Of course, I’m supplementing my use of this site with a textbook and activities of my own creation (as well as, y’know, going outside and interacting with Spanish people), but I like to consider Memrise the centre of my current language learning endeavour, and I doubt I’d be as learning as much without it there to guide me.

Nobody Likes You When You’re 23

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Tomorrow will be one year since I turned 22.  Coincidentally, it will also be one year since I got on a plane to begin my adventure in Madrid.  After a year of mundane unemployment, moving to a new country, holding down a paying job, and doing an internship in something I love; I really feel I have grown as a person.  Sure, my glorious year of singing I’m feelin’ 22 and actually, y’know, feelin’ 22 is coming to end, but this was definitely a chapter of major character development in the Book of Rosy.  So, because I love talking about myself so much, here are some things I’ve learnt during my first year as a proper grownup (grownups and adults are different things, because the former can’t refer to themselves as the latter yet).

5) Goodbye, Gossip Girl:

I’ve already discussed in length how I’m losing the ability to enjoy YA literature, but I’ve never addressed the loss of another important piece of media in my life: overdramatic dramas about teenagers. I realised long ago that I could no longer relate to real teenagers, but I never thought my love for the fictional ones would disappear.  Nowadays, I get annoyed with all the Pretty Little Liars’ stupid life decisions, I think Rory Gilmore is a whiney self-absorbed brat, and god forbid a student pursue an affair with a teacher (you love them so much you want them to go to jail, huh?).  When you find yourself more invested with the parents in Gossip Girl than whatever Serena is doing, you know something’s changed.

4) Work can be fulfilling, even if it isn’t exactly fun:

I never wanted to become a teacher, let alone work with children, but since I started my current job six months ago, I’ve had a complete change of heart.  As mushy as it sounds, whenever I see that a kid has enjoyed a lesson I created or has finaaaaaally learnt how to pronounce a word in the past tense (“walk-ed”), I get a little buzz that I can only presume is job gratification.  Sure, it isn’t what I thought I’d be doing fresh out of university with an English degree, but if I can give these kids the chance to learn a language properly, something the English education system never gave me, it can’t be that much a waste of my time.  Hell, I even spent two weeks of my summer willingly hanging out with some eleven year olds and crowning Taylor Swift the Queen of the World.  Tell that to 22 year old Rosy.

3) Don’t panic if you don’t know what you’re doing next week, yet alone next year:

All my life, I’ve followed a path. I’ve gone from school, to sixth form, to university.  There was never any doubt in what I’d do next, because I’ve always known what was coming.  I always presumed that the obligatory next step was a job related to the field I’d just spent three years studying, but that’s not how it went for me.  So after my year of spending more time with Indeed.com than with my friends, I thought hey, maybe I could go teach English for a year or something. Well, that year is now turning into two. And who knows what comes then? I could open my own business and stay in Spain, I could travel the world teaching English, I could go back home and dreamingly reminisce about my former life in Madrid. I have no idea. But I’m not panicking about it anymore. I have a job with a steady income, good friends, and all the cheap café con leches a girl could wish for. I’m pretty set for the time being.

2) I now know why my mum likes buying household products so much:

I’ve always loved shopping.  But -that- shopping revolved solely around clothes or films or cute stationery.  Then I moved to Madrid and got my first taste of house shopping.  But even then I was in a shared apartment, so my IKEA trips were limited to picking out my own bin and deciding to treat myself to the same glowing alien lamp I had as a teenager.  But next month I’m officially moving into my First Real Proper Grownup Apartment.  A studio apartment.  And last week I went shopping and bought tea towels and toothbrush holders and kitchen sponges… and it was invigorating!  But it’s more than that, it’s like I’ve become *gulp* house proud.  That empty bowl?  Wash it.  Those clothes on the back of the chair?  Fold them.  That laundry?  Cleaaaaan it.  I’d like to take this opportunity to formally apologise to my teenage bedroom, you didn’t deserve it.

1) I’m actually not a complete waste of space as a human:

This one’s a little braggy, but seeing as this blog started out as a way to document that excruciating year of unemployment I talk about so often, I think I’m allowed to gloat just this once.  From my graduation up until my 22nd birthday, my days consisted of Netflix, onesies, and trying to develop a psychic bond with my cat.  Hardly a life of luxury that one can be envious of.  And when I first moved to Spain, I didn’t really think anything of it.  Old retired Brits do it all the time.  All I had to do was pack a suitcase and buy a oneway RyanAir ticket; you’d think something so life changing would require more effort.  But since then I’ve had countless people tell me how amazing it was, how much I’ve accomplished, how they wish they could do it too.  And for someone who spent a little over a year staring at Facebook statutes about new jobs and new cities, it feels good to finally be through the looking glass.  Okay, gloating over now, we can continue on with the crippling self loathing you’ve come to expect from this blog.

Mainly I think it all comes down to being less of a perfectionist and just learning to go with the flow, maaaaan.  You can’t plan out your entire future.  You can’t predict where you’ll be in two, five, ten years.  You can’t keep comparing yourself and where you are to other people.  Because once I stopped focusing on one specific life path, a whole new world that I’d never even considered opened up to me; and now I have money, I don’t live in my teenage bedroom, and I have a super hot Spanish boyfriend. Olé!

So happy 23rd birthday to me.  Taylor was totally right about this past year, so here’s hoping Blink-182 got it wrong about the next one.  Wish me luck.

HEY NOW HEY NOW