My Spain Story: Christina Stathopoulos, from Business English Specialist to Analytical Consultant at Google Spain

Residency experiences in Spain can feel like a roller-coaster journey – we know, we remember those frustrating days. That’s why in this SpainGuru blog series, we’ve interviewed successful expats so they can share a more personal side of their residency experience.

We hope this series helps guide those who have some of the same questions and are in the same spot as we were once in our residency decision/process in Spain.

Expat: Christina Stathopoulos

Where do you currently live in Spain?

I currently live in Madrid.

Have you lived in any other cities/regions/Comunidades in Spain?

Nope, I have only lived in Madrid during my time here. I have, of course, taken advantage to travel all over Spain though and see all of the other beautiful sights the country has to offer!

What year did you arrive in Spain?

I arrived here in the summer of 2012, where I originally started out living in Tres Cantos and shortly after moved into the center of the city, which I much prefer (I love the bustling life of big cities).

What kind of visa or permit did you initially come to Spain with?

I initially came here on a Student VISA, studying Spanish. It also allowed me to legally work up to 20 hours a week.

What kind of permit or visa do you currently have?

I now have Permanent Residency and a NIE. I will be eligible for nationality in a few years if I so choose.

How long did it take you to go through that process?

Between all 3 processes that I have done, I would estimate that it has accumulated into 1-2 years of work and quite a lot of investment on my part in paperwork, background checks, having to call out of work for VISA appointments, and so forth.

How many different visa/permit processes have you gone through in Spain? (Tourist, Student, Work Permit, Pareja de Hecho, Marriage, Nationality)

I have been through 3 processes in total: Student VISA –> Pareja de Hecho –> Permanent Resident.

What process (if you have done several processes) was the easiest and/or the most difficult to go through?

In my experience, the Student VISA was the most difficult because it has to be started in your home country (the USA in my case) and I had to travel from my hometown in North Carolina to Washington, DC for VISA paperwork and pickup at the Spanish Embassy.

Then, upon arrival in Spain, I had to go through many more processes and it was complicated because I did not speak Spanish at the time. Workers at the VISA processing center here in Madrid didn’t speak English at all and were not helpful or open to working with me on the process. I had to return several times because of problems in paperwork and the bureaucratic processes were unclear and complicated from the start.

The easiest process was changing my Pareja de Hecho VISA to my own Permanent Residency, which required minimal paperwork and a single appointment at one of the government processing centers for foreigners (and it helped that I finally spoke Spanish by this time!).

What is something you regret about your whole legal process for Spain? Anything you wish you would have done differently?

I just wish I spoke better Spanish at the start so the process could have gone smoother. Now I am fluent, but it took years to get to this point when starting from nothing.

How much longer do you see yourself in Spain?

I see myself living here for a few more years before returning to my home country.

How does Spain compare to your home country? Why do you prefer living here?

I prefer living here for the time being. From the beginning of my adventure abroad, I wanted to experience life in another country, learn a new language, immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture and, most importantly for me, travel the world. In my opinion, Madrid is a strategic spot for traveling, offering an easy and affordable base to reach many destinations. Couple that with the fact that, by law, Spanish companies are required to give at least a month of paid vacation every year to full-time employees and it is no surprise that I’ve taken advantage to the utmost and traveled through 45 countries in the past 6 years. Besides that, I would not necessarily say life is ‘easier’ or ‘better’ here compared to my home country, it is just different.

What is your current profession in Spain?

I am currently working full-time as an Analytical Consultant at Google Spain and teaching on the side as an Associate Professor of Analytics at IE Business School.

What have been your past professions in Spain and for how long?

Upon arrival, I could not get a decent job in my field (Statistics) because of my inability to speak Spanish and my inexperience in my field. Thus, I found my niche and I started as a Freelance Business English Teacher / Consultant, focused on English coaching, presentation preparation, job interview skills, etc. with top executives, while studying Spanish on the side. I did this for 3 years, gradually improving my Spanish, and finally decided it was time to pursue my passion here.

I completed a Master in Business Analytics and Big Data at IE Business School and a graduate internship as an Associate Systems Engineer at SAS Institute. I then worked at Nielsen (American market research firm) as an Expert Engineer in Project Development and Big Data for 14 months. In the end, I landed my current (dream) job at Google Spain working as an Analytical Consultant for some of our top international clients. I’ve been working here for almost a year now.

How easy or difficult has it been for you in Spain to find a job? 

I have to admit, the first years here were a struggle. It was frustrating that I could not get a job in my field, but I accepted the fact that language is a typical barrier and I needed to overcome it to be able to pursue a solid career. Once I became fairly fluent in Spanish and completed my Masters in a field with a lot of demand, and then paired that with the fact that I am a native English speaker, it has been really easy to find a job. It is true that unemployment is a huge problem in Spain, so it is best to specialize in something with high demand and become bilingual to land a proper job. I am also a strong believer in continuous learning and strong networking. If you dedicate some of your time each week to those last 2 points, you are certain to succeed even in a complicated economic situation like that of Spain.

Any future goals for your life here in Spain both personally and professionally?

Personally, I would like to keep improving my Spanish and eventually start classes to learn another language. Professionally, I would like to keep advancing my expertise in analytics and improving my public speaking skills. I regularly speak in technology-related events, but I would like to do it even more and extend my involvement in promoting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Any tips for those still deciding whether to stay long term to live in Spain?

First of all, learn Spanish! It helps immensely. The local English level here is low compared to the rest of Europe and speaking Spanish makes life so much easier, not to mention it opens many doors for job opportunities. Secondly, to combat the high unemployment here, find a niche to specialize in with high demand and also learn how to properly sell your native English speaking skills (this is very useful and needed in international corporations regardless of your field of work).

By Christina Stathopoulos

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Christina Stathopoulos is originally from the US but has been based in Madrid for the past 6 years. She holds a Master of Science in Business Analytics and Big Data from IE Business School and a Bachelor of Science from North Carolina State University, her home state. She has followed quite an unusual professional trajectory here as an Expat, starting out as a Business English specialist for top executives and later pursuing her passion in analytics. She is currently working as an Analytical Consultant at Google Spain and teaching as an Associate Professor of Analytics at IE Business School. Alongside her corporate and academic work, she is a regular conference attendee and speaker supporting women in STEM and emerging technologies.

What’s your Spain story? Why’d you move here?

If you would also like to share your personal residency experience on SpainGuru, please send your responses to along with:

  • any social media accounts or blog/website links you wish to include promoting yourself or your business
  • 1-3 photos of yourself (it is up to you but we would like at least 1)

Thanks so much!

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