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This Spanish Expat Found His Perfect Place in Ensenada

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Beach in Ensenada
Credit: Isaacmoon | Wikimedia Commons

Ivan Sanchis was looking for a teaching job that would allow him to settle down in a place with a Mediterranean climate similar to his hometown of Seville, Spain. Luckily, this Spanish expat found his perfect place in Ensenada.

Ensenada is a very nice place to live,” Sanchis, 43, told us. “They call it the Mexican Mediterranean. The weather is fantastic and the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s Napa Valley, is about a half hour drive away. I also love that I did not have to change my diet, so I eat the same and cook the same as I did in Spain. With olive trees all around, it’s very similar to the area in Spain where I grew up, but right on the ocean.”

Sanchis was born and raised in Seville, Spain, the capital and largest city of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. He said he also lived for a few years in Córdoba, a little over an hour north of Seville, during his formative years.

Following secondary school, he attended the University of Seville, one of Spain’s largest and top-rated universities. He received his bachelor’s degree in English language and literature studies, and later earned a master’s degree in European literature and second-language teaching at Huelva University, about one hour west of Seville. He now holds a Ph.D. in teaching Spanish as a second language and has written extensively on the subject.

He met a young woman from New York City and left Spain to live and work in Puerto Rico teaching Spanish at a military base for a year and then returned to Spain to work with visiting students who were participating in the Erasmus Program, a European Union student exchange program at Seville’s Pablo de Olavide University and the University of Seville. He also taught Spanish language and culture at the University of Huelga. Sanchis has also worked in England, Portugal and the United States.

But his life changed recently when the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) called with a tenure-track offer to teach in their Modern Language School. The school is well-known globally for its Institute for Oceanographic Research.

“I was hired because of my expertise in teaching Spanish to U.S. students,” he said. “In fact, my doctoral dissertation was on that subject. The idea is to attract more U.S. students to the school to teach them Spanish as a second language, which will prepare them for teaching positions in the United States.”

Ensenada in Mexico
Credit: Creative Jen Designs | Shutterstock

Sanchis also sees an entrepreneurial opportunity in Ensenada that he might be able to develop.

“I see a big opportunity here for a relocation service,” he said. “Plenty of expats live here or want to move here and there are not good relocation services available. Although Ensenada receives quite a few tourists, especially from cruise ships, not that many Mexicans who live here speak English. I can help those who want to move to Ensenada deal with real estate firms and other typical relocation needs.”

But his teaching job is his full-time job at present. If everything goes well, he will have achieved tenured-professor status in two years.

“The campus is just four blocks from my current apartment, so it is very convenient,” he said. “It’s a one-bedroom loft apartment with a bed, a small sofa, a couple of chairs and that’s about it. I’ve only been here since June so I haven’t had a lot of time to furnish it. Our neighborhood is very quiet, which is a big help because we are still dealing with the pandemic here and I am doing all of my classes online from my apartment at the moment, which is not ideal for either me or my students.”

Sanchis pays US$400 a month for his apartment, but the cost also includes gas, electricity, Internet connection and most other utilities. But he has bigger plans for a living space after his wife arrives in January.

“Right now, I live close to the beach in a good area,” he said, “but we would like a house or a condo in a more country-like area perhaps one of the cliff areas with a view of the ocean. That area is very nice and costs about US$750 a month. I think you can live in luxury here for about US$1,000 a month. For example, a condo with two-bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths will cost less than US$1,000 a month, maybe US$800 – $900 depending upon how far from the city you want to live.”

Social life for Sanchis and other expats in Ensenada and elsewhere in Mexico has been impacted by the coronavirus, but in spite of it he told us he is making lots of new friends and is getting on very well with Americans and other local expats.

Panorama of Ensenada
Credit: Matt H. Wade

“There is a big community of expats in Ensenada,” he said, “many of whom work in Southern California since we are just about an hour and a half drive from the U.S. border.  Between Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada, there are condos and homes stretching south along the coast. The lower cost-of-living, the Mediterranean climate and the beach are the big draws. This area is a surfing hot spot. And, of course, the Valle de Guadalupe is so close and has beautiful hotels, restaurants and great food and wine. You can sit at an outdoor terrace with a wonderful glass of wine and watch the sunset, all at a very reasonable cost.”

Although it is the weather he loves most, which reminds him of Spain, he also loves the diversity of the expat community in Ensenada.

“Expats here are from Russia, France, Spain, and of course, the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “The city also has a real history of people who came from Japan. We have a large tuna fishing industry in Ensenada, so expect great sushi! With expats from everywhere, I have found that it’s a big melting pot here. I really love being around people from different environments and from different origins, so that really turns me on. I mean, I love it because I am a continuous learner.”

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