Corbett is one of those unique individuals you just know is going to make an impact on this world. We both were in bands in high school and I got to watch from afar as he become a stronger musician. He’s currently living out one of his life goals in Spain while teaching English to make ends meet.
Where are you right now?
I’m in my apartment in Murcia, Spain, getting ready for another day of work.
How did you end up in Murcia?
I did a study abroad program in Valencia, Spain, with the University of Georgia back in 2012, and I fell in love with the country. The culture and the pace of life here completely changed my perspective of the world. Very quickly, I knew I wanted to return to Spain to live here for at least a year—probably more. Valencia’s weather was beautiful, so I figured I’d look for a job there. The more I looked into it, the more obvious it became that teaching English was the easiest way for an American to make a living in Spain. However, there weren’t many English-teaching-assistant jobs in Valencia, so I had to branch out. Murcia seemed to make sense since it was only a few hours south of Valencia on the same coast. The cost of living here is ridiculously low, and there are lots of teaching positions.
What sparked your interest in Spanish beyond just classroom application?
I think I first decided to study in Spain because I was attracted to the idea of travelling and living in a totally new place. Ever since I got to college, I knew one of my goals in life was to stray from the beaten path. I’ve never liked the idea of pursuing the typical “American” way of life. So it honestly wasn’t so much about a desire to become fluent in Spanish. It was more a result of my curiosity about other cultures. And once I got a glimpse of the Spanish women … No turning back.
What’s your average day like? What’s your morning commute like? What do you eat?
A typical day for me begins around 8:00am. I wake up, eat breakfast, brush my teeth and walk to school. I live only about 10 minutes away, which is awesome. Classes start at 9:00am most days. I work either until 2:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m., depending on the day of the week, and I always eat lunch in the school’s cafeteria. The food isn’t top-notch, but it’s still good considering how little I pay for it. We eat a lot of fish since Murcia is so close to the sea, but I’m not the biggest fan of seafood. The most typical dishes we eat are lentil soup with chorizo, garbanzo beans, and either carrot or butternut-squash soup–my favorite. The best part about the food is that the vegetables are all local, since Murcia is pretty much “vegetable capital” for all of Europe.
What are your responsibilities at the school?
With this program, I’m technically not a real teacher. I’m a teaching assistant. So I don’t have many responsibilities beyond helping my students improve their conversation skills and pronounciation. Sometimes I have to evaluate the students in the form of oral exams, which I hate, but the majority of my time is spent facilitating English conversation in the classroom.
What are your expenses? Housing, food, pleasure, etc.
I make 970 euros per month. That’s my “student stipend” for being a teaching assistant through this program. my monthly rent is only 150 euros, plus utilities (about 25-30 euros). So call it 180 euros/month in rent for my part in a 5-person shared apartment.
Food is really cheap here too. A good “barra de pan” (baguette) at the local grocery store can be as cheap as 40 cents. If you want to go out for some tapas … A tapa + beer combo is usually about 3 euros in Murcia (so cheap). GOOD wine can be bought for as cheap as 1.85 euros per bottle because it’s local. The nearby city/village of Jumilla is popular for its wine.
I think it’s safe to say an average of about 10 euros per day will cover you for food. So about 300 euros per month in food expenses.
Travel expenses obviously vary widely from person to person. But taking a train to somewhere like Madrid, if bought far enough in advance, is as cheap as 40 euros, round-trip. Barcelona would probably be closer to 60 euros, round-trip. If you want to leave the country, there are tons of cheap airlines that fly into the local Alicante airport. If you want to go to the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands (also part of Spain), you can get a round-trip flight for less than 50 euros, if you pick a good date. Round-trip to Paris might be something like 110 euros.
A day trip to one of the many local beaches is about 13-15 euros, round-trip via bus (ie. Alicante, Mar Menor, Calblanque, Águilas, Cartagena, etc.).
And no matter where you go, you can find cheap, good lodging. Airbnb.com is a website that I use ALL the time for this. I recently stayed in someone’s spare room in the heart of Madrid for 35 euros per night, and it was a nice apartment. There are postings like that all over Europe, so I highly recommend it.
Sorry I can’t be more specific with other expenses. Food and rent are the only ones I can think of that don’t vary too much.
– 300 euros per month in food
– 180 euros/month in rent (shared apartment)
Are you the only American in the school?
Nope. I actually work in two separate schools here in Murcia. Three afternoons of the week, I teach pre-school classes to kids between 3 and 5 years old. At that school, there’s an American from the same program as me. In the other school where I teach students from 11 to 16 years old, there’s a second American assistant also.
What tools do you use to communicate back home?
I use Skype, e-mail, Tumblr, YouTube, Voxer, WhatsApp, Facetime, Google Hangouts–you name it. I think it’s so cool that I can instantly communicate with my friends and family, no matter where they are on Earth. For example, my sister is studying abroad in New Zealand this spring, which is literally on the opposite side of the planet from Murcia. Still, I’m able to have a live video conversation with her. It’s unbelievable. That definitely makes living abroad much easier than it would be otherwise.
How long will be you in Spain?
I have no idea, to be honest. Thinking long term is tough for me. I’m always changing direction, always finding new passions. I see the value in staying in one place for a long time, but I don’t think there’s any rush in committing to one place over another. Time will tell.
Did you bring your guitar or buy a new one in Spain?
I actually bought a 3/4-sized acoustic guitar in the US, specifically for travelling around Spain. So that’s the one I have with me here. I left my nicer, more expensive Martin acoustic back home in the states.
How do you use music to connect with your students?
With my older students, I don’t get so much time to use music in the classroom. For that reason, I started an after-school music club. We meet once a week to sing songs in English while playing the guitar. It’s given me the ability to develop a cool relationship with some of the kids who are more musically inclined. I try my best to only speak in English with them, and I think their overall level of speaking has improved as a result. In my pre-school classes, we sing songs almost every day that teach the students proper pronounciation. And the CDs that go along with the textbooks are amazing! The kids love the songs. Seeing how happy and excited they get to sing and dance to the music has been the highlight of my 10 months in Murcia. I love it so much. In fact, I think I could make teaching English to preschoolers my career. It’s such a rewarding experience.
Subscribe to Corbett’s YouTube channel to hear some of his music while he’s in Spain!
Have an interesting story to tell? Reach out to me, I’d love to interview you!