About Laura Jean

Learning how to be exactly who I am supposed to be in every moment with what I am given in life. Soon to be traveling around the world to find out who that person is.

A Millennial’s Path to Awakening

It’s the big bad world.  And according to Time, my narcissistic tendencies are the only reason  I spend hours on social media and I have been in my parents house since March.  Truth be told, I am stuck and have been stuck since I returned to Colombia. I  thought I had a job in Texas.  I really did.  Finally an interview, and a 6 hour one at that.  It was moving forward, though sometimes felt like moving backwards.  I am still confused where I want to go, or where I can go in this economy.

But apparently me even trying to figure this out or my entire generation trying to find out who we are in within such constraints as a crumbling economy, a government that is broken, the social services our parent’s generation was guaranteed us are being taken away by that generation, we are strapped with debt that cannot be settled, and our jobs and training are being by held hostage by people who are so afraid of not being hirable if they are let go that basic information and knowledge is not being transferred to the future.

But me wanting to share what I do in during the day to prove to myself that I am not useless.  Yes I sit here on my parents couch, no place I ever thought I would be this long, connecting with social media.  Trying to make connections on Linked In, finding people from college on Facebook to see if they know of any job openings, or building houses and gardens on Pinterest board because I cannot afford them in my life.

Every time I hear my computer ding from an email or Facebook message I still get this small pang of hope inside that maybe, maybe it was a job offer or someone finally responding about even a volunteer position.  It’s not, at least not normally.  Normally it is a friend responding to posts about applications for teaching English somewhere or someone  posting pictures with motivational quotes.  When I get up in the morning, if I can get myself to leave the bed having absolutely nothing to look forward to, I say I will just spend a few minutes looking for a job or a few minutes on Facebook.  It always ends up being hours and hours.  Searching through job posts, reading status posts, looking at pictures of your friends’ children, houses, and everything you do not have.  I make myself walk my dog and garden for my parents, but when the weather is not pleasant I do not know what to do.

The hardest part though, is the most narcissistic   If I cannot be an Engineer because I am too qualified or under qualified, or I cannot get a part-time job because my last 8 years of experience is all professional experience, what do I do?  If I spend all my time figuring out what I would do if I could do anything and then get a “real job,” can I give up my dreams to replace them with the dream of paying my student loans of and having a beautiful garden? The dream of settling down and having a family was always unknown for me, I never saw me in a conventional life.  But, now that future for me, and many other people in my same shoes is inconceivable.  The “normal” life path is unable to be achieved in the near future.

So, us narcissistic Millennial’s focus on what we can to get through the days and dream of what we can have in our out-side-of-the-box futures.  What can get us by and is it that we want?  What can make us a generation that does not need Prozac to be happy?  I sold most of my stuff to get rid of the expenses of materialism.  It helped.  I traveled to the number one place on my bucket list.  It helped. Just in this brief amount of letting go, I lost 40 pounds.  It helped too.  But now what?  Now where?

I need work, temporary as it might be but seem to be stuck in a rut that even I am having problems crawling out of.  No one wants to hire me in case I leave them for a job that is in my field, which is plausible.  If I cannot find a permanent job, how do I pay my loans?  We are a generation with more questions than answers.  Sometimes it is exciting that we mostly have a blank slate to make what we want out of.  Sometimes it is overwhelming, like jumping off a cliff into an ocean.  Are you too high?  Is the water deep enough?

For me, I have an opportunity to travel to Spain in the fall to teach English, if I can find enough money to get me by until then and for my first few months. The Camino de Santiago is next on my bucket list so it works out well in that regard.   Money will be tight, but it is already.  It will be stressful, but it is already. So, until them I am going to pour my energy into figuring out what to see in Spain, when to do my camino, what I want to eat, places to volunteer for board.  And, hopefully, if I follow something I know I like and I want, more pieces will fall in place. I have followed the rules my entire life and those rules are now useless and broken.  So, I am making my own.  And that might make me entitled, but I think it is better than blindly following the most narcissistic people who thought creating these rules to get rich off of was worth the loss of so many people’s livelihoods.  I don’t think we are any more narcissistic, I think we are awakening.

Our elders are really the victims, we have a wide open future to fix the mistakes, their livelihoods are falling apart, what they believe is found to be a world-wide hoax.  Yet, this is apparently what they think of us.

Either way, if you are in Madrid in the fall, we can be narcissists together.

Hola! Back stateside!

Hello everyone!  I am sorry for lack of posts.  I was unable to post a lot because I was living in Cali, Colombia dating someone.  A possible no-no for the Peace Corps, which I have not heard back from (at least I was supposed to tell them if I was dating someone new).  Soon the results from teaching English in Spain come in, however I am not sure if I am going.  I applied for some very good engineering jobs in the USA and I am really hoping to get one of them.  If not, Spain sounds like a very real opportunity.  I am not sure what I should do in the mean time, but I need to make money in between.  I guess I can keep applying for jobs!

If you ever happen to go to Cali, I know a great salsa instructor!  If you want his contact information, please leave me a comment or email him at profezules9 at hotmail dot com.  He also teaches rumba and different aerobics classes and is a personal trainer. He is incredibly passionate about what he does and loves Cali, Colombia and salsa.

I still have my pictures from Machu Picchu and South America to put up. Pictures of the amazing Christmas lights in Cali and more.  I have them backed up (that took enough time) I just need a better internet connection.   But the one thing that I cherished the most was the experiences and love so I do not have a lot of fun photos.  I have memories, greatly improved Spanish skills, and people who I can call family in South America.  And some of them have family here in the USA that apparently are now my family too and I can visit them :).

Options for Teaching English in…Spain!

I know, I know.  You are probably surprised to see Spain here.  But remember, I have a travel goal to do the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  What is a better way to go other than to get paid to do it.  And, these are mostly programs I looked at last year when planning.  I am most definitely a better candidate now that I have my TEFL Certificate (yay!) and teaching experience, and you know, enough Spanish for emergency trips to the Pharmacy (story coming soon!).

So, here is the information.  Do you know of any other options?  I guess a Fulbright for Teaching English is always a much more competitive option.  Or getting a master’s degree, which might be incredibly expensive and complicated (except for option 5 below, its free).

Teaching English in Spain

Spain, has a serious need of better English programs in its schools and has been filling that need from native English speakers from around the world. There are many programs that offer stipends for assisting English teachers in their classrooms throughout Spain.  The programs offer a chance for language and cultural exchange.  Minimal Spanish is required, though will help, and TEFL certificates are normally recommended but not required. And they pay, in Euros.

In general, you start working somewhere in September or October and the School year ends in May or June.  You get a student visa and must apply for a national ID card when you arrive in Spain.  Housing is not included and each program has a different level of assisting you with finding housing and applying for your Visa and ID card.  You need enough money to get you by until your first pay check, which can be a long time with some programs because of payment problems.  Some people take private students to help them get by.

One of the first sites you probably want to check out is the forum Expatriate  Cafe.  This forum branch is really for the most popular program in Spain, North American Language and Culture Assistant Program.  However, because there are limited spots, not to mention pay problems and a limit of 2 years, in this program, other options are discussed also.   You can get information on application procedures, links to statistics for previous years, participating Cities and areas, and advice from people from the previous years and applicants for the current year (and their blogs!).  Maybe even find a roommate for when you want to save all your pennies for wine and tapas in Spain!


1. North American Language and Culture Assistant Program

This program is actually sponsored by the Ministry of Education in Spain.  The pay is 700 Euros for everywhere outside of Madrid, and 1,000 Euros for Madrid.  I think you are mostly working with public schools You work in a school helping with English or other classes as an auxiliary to their class, so you are not necessarily the same thing as a teacher assistant here in the US. Because it is funded by the government, there have  been pay problems recently, with some people not getting paid until around January.

Required Documents for Application:

Apparently the most important aspect of this application is getting it done as soon as you can.  You are given a number once you finish the online submission portion (not the extra documentation, that can be done later) called an inscrita.  Applicants are given positions based on their number, not qualifications.  The system opens up January 8, and more information should be posted December 15, including a guidebook for this years application.  You can find last years guidebook here.

  • The application form is through an online system apparently called Profex, which is apparently complex
  • Copy of your transcripts or diploma (you should have graduated or be in your last year of school I think)
  • Letter of intent (300 words I think)
  • Copy of your passport
  • Letter of recommendation


  • 700 or 1,000 Euros per month (take away pay)
  • Health Insurance (you still might need travel insurance and money for prescriptions)
  • Sponsorship for a Student Visa
  • Living in Spain!
  • Lots of free time to spend traveling

Not included:

  • Housing
  • Travel costs
  • Visa costs
  • Help getting your ID card or bank/utilities/apartment set up etc. (some schools help more than other but the program itself does not provide assistance)
  • Possibly money for your first few months because of governmental problems

2. Bilingual English Development and Assessment (BEDA) Program

This program is very similar to the Ministry program, except it is in private Catholic schools, mostly in or near Madrid. You can work anywhere from 16-24 hours. The more hours you work, the more you make.  However, you make less per hour in this program than the Ministry program if you are in Madrid.  You can make the same amount if you work all 24 hours.

Required Documents for Application:

This application is done by email, the application is here.  Applicants are given positions based on their number also I think, but you also have to qualify more, including an interview.  The system is already open and closes January 31.  You can find the guidebook here.

  • CV
  • Cover Letter
  • Photo
  • Application Form


  • 700 to 1,000 +/- Euros per month (take away pay) based on hours worked
  • Health Insurance (you still might need travel insurance and money for prescriptions)
  • Sponsorship for a Student Visa
  • Living in Spain!
  • Lots of free time to spend traveling
  • You know where you will be, not a guessing game of luck
  • Private school funding – if the government tanks, you still get paid.

Not included:

  • Housing
  • Travel costs
  • Visa costs
  • I am not sure if they help you more or less with the application processes for your ID card or housing.  I do not think they do though.

3.  CIEE Teach in Spain

Honestly, I know less about this program as it costs money and I am not looking to spend thousands (yes thousands) of dollars on a program to work for money.  Especially when it seems easy enough not to.  I think, in the past at least, this program was tied to the Ministry’s program.  They got so many spots from the Ministries program in the Andalusia region.  They have four programs this year.  One is included for working in an office environment.  I am not sure if they help any with the payment situation or not.  I am actually not sure how they are participating this year. Their application fee is $50 through an online application system.


  • 700 Euros per month (take away pay) based on hours worked
  • Health Insurance (you still might need travel insurance and money for prescriptions)
  • Sponsorship for a Student Visa
  • Living in Spain!
  • Lots of free time to spend traveling
  • No guessing or luck into what region you will be in, school is still up in the air
  • How much they assist you in Spain depends on what plan you purchase, for example, this is the most expensive program ($2,300)
    • Pre-departure school placement at a public school in a pueblo, town, or city in Andalusia
    • Support of CIEE professional staff before you depart for Spain
    • Teaching and program guides to help you plan and prepare
    • Pre-departure online orientation training
    • Upgrade – Pre-departure TEFL certification
    • Airport transfer on designated arrival date
    • Orientation in Seville
      • Workshops on teaching methodology, cross-cultural training, finding housing, health and safety, visa registration, and more
      • Cultural and networking opportunities
      • Four nights of accommodations and all meals
    • Five nights of accommodation in your school location
    • Expert advice and assistance in converting an entry visa to the necessary work permit post-arrival
    • A monthly stipend of €700 to cover living expenses and new adventures, paid holidays too!
    • International medical insurance and 24 hour worldwide assistance provided through the CIEE iNext travel card
    • 24 hour in-country emergency support services via the CIEE office in Seville
    • Visa papers acquisition and visa application advice (apply in person at the Spanish Embassy or Consulate)
    • Scholarships available – note: February 1 application deadline
    • A Lonely Planet guidebook to plan your travels

Not included:

  • Housing
  • Travel costs
  • Visa costs


This program has the least information available that I can find.  The program is through a private bilingual school cooperative. I have emailed the program coordinator for more information and can update this when I have more.

Required Documents for Application:

The application is sent to you, but the website lists the requirements for the application.  The application is not complete until all of your information is in. The application period closes in the end of February.  You can get on the application mailing list by emailing Alana (email address on the website).  You work 17-25 hours per week.  The website does not list much more than that. The applications open the end of January/ beginning of February.

  • Bilingual Program UCETAM 2013-2014 Application
  • Questions for New Native Assistants
  • One (1) letter of recommendation – sent directly to Alana by the recommender NOT by the applicant!
  • Curriculum Vitae – can be in English or Spanish and does not have to be in any particular format.
  • If you advance to the next level, a Skype interview.


I am not sure exactly what is or is not included, it is not listed on the site.  I think you get more information emailed to you when the application documents come out.

  • Live in Spain!
  • They help all first years get their ID card in a group setting
  • Placement is in Madrid, no guessing game
  • Although their website is lacking in specifics of what you get and need to do with the program, they have a lot of information on applying for an ID card, renewing your ID card (for people already in Spain or in their second year of the program) and getting a Visa.  This information could be helpful to people applying to all programs.
  • They give you other options other than their program for after your time with them (maximum 2 years) is over.  This includes number 5 below.

5. Teach and Learn in Spain Program

This program is for earning a Masters in one of three program areas while being a teaching assistant in Spanish Schools.  The costs are covered for tuition and insurance and you still get a stipend for your student teaching.  In the end your credits are EU transferable credits (I actually do not know what that means).  It is not the same level of a Masters in Education in the USA but you can use a lot of the credits towards a masters course.  You need to submit a thesis.  As I do not have a lot of information about this program or know anyone who has done it, I am not sure of the quality.  The application is a college application and more detailed than I can provide in this blog post.

Program Areas:


  • Health Insurance (you still might need travel insurance and money for prescriptions)
  • Sponsorship for a Student Visa
  • Living in Spain!
  • A free Masters (might need more time in school for equivalent in the USA)
  • You can use all facilities at Universidad de Alcalá

Not included:

  • Housing
  • Travel costs
  • Visa costs
  • Help getting your ID card or bank/utilities/apartment set up etc.
  • A masters that can be used in the education system of the US (I am not saying that it might not help you as a qualification to get more money or help towards half of a Masters in Education in US)

Survival Tips

A few helpful hints for surviving Colombia that seem to work for the entire continent, or at least the countries I have been to.

  • Close your eyes and ignore the health/safety issues that you cannot do anything about and just be as safe as you can.  Well do not close your eyes when you cross the street, that traffic is lethal.
  • By all means, ask other travelers about safety in an area but don’t be too alarmed by reports of theft, crime, or disease in every city/barrio/country/bus. Usually when you get to the bottom of it, the person did something stupid or dangerous (they went to the beach alone with all cards/phones/money at 2 AM or tried to sell/bargain/cheat/abused the prostitute to a drug dealer).  Also do not take reports of complete carefree safety, they might have been lucky.  Ask locals, they know more and put the two reports together.
  • Always carry toilet paper or wet wipes or both.
  • Pick the nicest meat market you can find (that is not a touristy gringo trap), ignore the smells and the fact the lady just put raw chicken on the scale without a paper and gives it to you in a regular plastic grocery bag with chicken juice all over it.
  • Ignore the children running across the street with cabs gunning for them or the fact there are no safe alternate routes when a road or sidewalk is closed, just cross the street.
  • Watch to not step in dog poop and puddles of mysterious brown liquid coming out of pipes and when you see the pipe being fixed under ground and while its fixed all the liquid running into the street.  And for your own sake, hold your breath.
  • Ignore the fact that even though your door is locked with four locks your neighbor can still break in for you with a broom, but be safe and use all of those locks.
  • But, make sure you have a store of medicine you need for crazy diarrhea because with all this other stuff happening, you will get it and it is not a pleasant taxi ride, moto chiva ride, or walk to the drug store to get it when you are worried there will be an accident.
  • And, be sure to push your way in front of the people trying to push you out of the way to get in line first, no matter how much they call you a pushy dirty American gringo.  Or let it all loose (your incredibly irritated bowels, not your mouth) and see how they react, you probably wont see them again.
  • People will give you unsolicited advice about every medical problem you might not know you have and offer every herbal remedy they know.  Don’t tell them about it and you will still get the advice if you hold your stomach or head, have acne, your hair looks out of place because you are a backpacker and do not care, you sniffle/sneeze/cough, you have but bites (you will) or another rash, your are standing near a pharmacy.  The likely hood of unsolicited advice increases dramatically ever second you talk to someone.  If the cure is a yummy tea, hot chocolate, or cocoa leaves, or some herbal spiritual remedy (read: hallucinogenic), which is almost always is, partake as you desire.  You might even get it for free and make a lifelong friend.
  • Somehow though, this advice sharing does not go both ways. If you have not integrated more in your community or known a person long, you giving unsolicited advice can be interpreted as you being an arrogant gringo who thinks they know everything and you also must think they are completely ignorant and uneducated and stupid.
  • Only, if you are worried about this stuff all the time, you will get more stomach problems and not enjoy yourself. Have fun!

The Things You Can See When You Open Your Eyes

I know, I am bad blogger. I have not posted for a reason though.  A reason I still cannot say.  But, I realize that is no reason not to update!  So, I am back in Cali Colombia.  Maybe to stay for a while.  I finished my TEFL certificate and just need to get the number.  I have started an English group for kids a nearby park, and two yoga classes a week too.  One class is for kids and one for women.  My Spanish is improving leaps and bounds and I feel I am really starting to understand the culture more. But, the more I see and learn, and the longer I am here, the more realize the culture different and the more I realize it is the same.

I mean, when will you see a sheep in need of shearing head butting a pet dog on a very nice patio with the door open and both goat and dog wandering freely?  In the middle of the third largest City in Colombia?  Just as frequently as you see the chickens hopping from patio to patio in search of some food.  Or horses pulling carts to haul away rubble pulled up by expanding the sewer system and fixing the streets.  Oh, and don’t forget the horse or goat that is “mowing the lawn.  I t probably isn’t even their goat or horse, they just shoo it in and let it out when they have eaten their full.

The City is so full of contradictions.  Poor, but dressed nicely.  Modern, but antiquated.  Friendly and open, yet protective and wary.  Incredibly conservative, but incredibly promiscuous.  Simple yet complicated.  Eager to learn yet unwilling to change.  Hardworking and yet lazy or drunk.

It is an enigma waiting to be explored.  I have not taken any pictures yet, but I will be soon and I have tons from Peru and Ecuador.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I did.  I made baked chicken quarters, biscuits, Mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, and something similar to an apple crisp on the stove top. I invited some friends over and it was a big success.

Hola from Cali!

I am apparently in the Salsa capital of the world, Cali Colombia and having a great time!  There is a lot of yoga, a big hippy vibe, lots of meditation classes, including a very nice building house a branch of the Self Realization Foundation, and of course a lot of dancing.  It seems in Colombia, music is in the veins of the people like coffee is in the veins of people from Seattle.  Instead of memories of the smell of coffee defining the important moment of life, it is the sound of music playing out of every car, suitcase salesman’s bag, house,tienda, restaurant, and sometimes people just sitting around listening to small speakers. Often the music will start before I wake up and be going after I go to bed, if it ever stops.

Kids all dance around at home, at restaurants, on the streets, in stores.  When a song everyone love comes on there is pandemonium.  They seem to be able to move their hips and torso and arms and knees in ways I cannot fathom how to learn. Everyone seems to come to Cali to try to learn.  Knowing I am certainly not going to ever know how and being incredibly intimidated by the locals, I was going to skip that and do Cali as a quick stop that had cheap flights from Medellin.

But if you happen upon Cali during the Salsa Festival you should really stay, or so I was told.  And they were right.  There are demonstrations, free classes,discussions, cultural displays, and a lot of dancing.  And after a beer or two it is really all fun and only admiring how the Colombianas move instead of being incredibly jealous and intimidated.

Dance is really such an important form of expression for so many people here.  People use it to really show who they are and it is amazing.  Especially for someone trying to figure out who she is and learn express it to people who want to try to define her.  You do not apologize for people for them infringing on your dance space, you are not the wrong size for your clothing, the clothing is the wrong size, and they are most definitely not ashamed to admit to show that they take good care of themselves, all sizes and shapes.  Every woman below a certain age wears tight clothes and is not ashamed of showing what they have.  No one is afraid of looking stupid on the dance floor because their expression is just as beautiful as yours, why should they be?

So to the dance floor I went last night, with a new friend who is an amazing dancer and had a great time dancing with him and watching him dance with some amazing Colombianas who I can can just watch with amazement (ok so a little envy and maybe even a little curiosity).  I was wearing my new tight (though not tight by Colombian standard) Colombian jeans and not caring what might not look perfect in them because I figured out you can buy a nice Colombiana ass with the right pair of jeans (or literally buy it if you want, its cheap here, medical tourism).

So, my two-day trip to Cali has been almost a week and will be more than a week in the end.  My 3-4 week trip to Colombia will be 6.5 weeks.