As you might have gathered, I’m currently teaching English in Spain. If I ever thought I would end up ever living, working, and, generally, surviving abroad, well I wouldn’t have believed you. I love to travel and I think it’s something that’s so important. Even if it’s only a trip to the neighbor’s house. But moving to another country was never on my wish list.
I have gained so much, teaching in Spain. What has surprised me the most is all the confidence I’ve gained in myself. I am ready to conquer the world and I don’t need anyone else to help me do it.
The bottom line is that I did it and you can to! You don’t have to have an education or teaching background to do this program. I think I had an advantage because I do have this type of experience. But you might have other things that contribute to your application.
My Story: How I Got Here
I believe things happen for a reason. I was rapidly approaching graduation and all my fellow classmates were polishing their resumes, ironing their suits, and hitting the job fair. Education job fairs are a bit different than other fields because no one walks out with a job offer (that they really want that is). I went to an education job fair during the fall semester and felt completely overwhelmed. It was completely daunting and a bit impersonal. I felt more like a robot than a enthusiastic new teacher candidate.
That’s not exactly the point of the educational job fair though, to get a job. It’s an opportunity to practice interviewing and see what’s out there, see where you might want to go. And for me, I wanted to do something in my field and not get stuck in the system. My dream in life is to be a writer and holding off on that dream to throw myself into a first year of teaching was not appealing.
A teacher at the high school I was working at gave us advice about how to promote ourselves to get hired. She was an intern like us the year before and had landed the dream job at the high school. While giving her presentation, she mentioned some of her experience including her time in the peace corps (I know how amazing) and teaching in Spain. Immediately, I asked her if we could talk later about how she taught English in Spain.
So I picked her brain and she sent me this link to the program she did to teach English in Spain. And it sounded like just what I needed. It was only eight months and I got paid! Plus there was no fee to apply to the program. The teacher assured me that I would get in because they usually have more spots than they can fill (or people decide not to do the program). Sure enough, after anxiously waiting, I got accepted.
Through the Spanish government’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport, North Americans (Americans and Canadians) can become language assistant in Spain. Native speakers of English OR French have the opportunity to teach 12 hours per week (16 hours per week in Madrid) in a Spanish public school. This program is also available to native speakers of English in Great Britain and Australia. There are also language assistant programs to teach French and German in Spain for native speakers from France or Germany. And if you speak French, there is a similar auxiliar program through the French government. But in this post, the directions and the link is for North American language and cultural assistants.
The job title is comparable to a paid internship. Participants have a monthly stipend and medical coverage. The program runs from the beginning of October to the end of May (8 months). However, some applicants work from January to May for a half year placement (5 months). You get to choose your preferred placement regions.
To qualify you must be a US or Canadian citizen. You also must have some proficiency in Spanish. My Spanish was pretty rudimentary. I wish that my Spanish was better so I could have navigated settling in to Spain and connecting to my school better. You also must be a university graduate with a bachelor’s degree or be in your junior or senior year at university. Most auxiliares are recent college graduates who– like me– decided to have a bit of an adventure and avoid adult-ing. As this is the case, the majority of participants are aged 21 to 26. I have found that most people are 21 to mid thirties. But any person below the age of 60 can apply. Couples can apply to be placed together! Usually not in the same exact school but the same city or town.
If you do get accepted part of the visa process requires you to obtain a clean background check. You must also be evaluated by a doctor and get a note that you are in good physical and mental health.
Applications open in mid January and close in mid April. Generally the earlier you apply the better your chances. But I have an auxiliar friend here that submitted her application literally hours before it was due and she got in, so it depends. Also the earlier you apply the better your chances at getting placed in your desired region.
Be sure to have an open mind and be flexible. The Spanish are not known for their efficiency and speed, so relax and try to be patient with the process. When we had an auxiliar meeting the first week of school, we discovered their were only two people to handle the applications for the whole region of Andalusia!
About the Job
An Auxiliar de Conversación literally translates to a conversation assistant. The point of this program is to expose Spanish students to a different culture and to the language fluency of a native speaker. The job is to promote culture and language through conversation.
What is important to remember is that you are not the main teacher! You rotate between different classes and work with different teachers in their classroom. You are expected to plan and coordinate with your teachers. You make lessons, presentations, review vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and play games! You are not a walking translator. That’s not the job. The job is to speak nothing but English in school. Because you are not the main teacher (and unlike me you might not have a background in education), you don’t have to grade or run the classroom on your own.
So are you ready? Do you want to apply? I made this checklist to help anyone applying or thinking about taking this first step.
A Guide for Applicants
How to Apply:
- Explore and read all the documents on the website. They is even have a FAQ document.
- Decide to apply!
- Get the documents for the application. Get a passport if you do not have one already. Or start to renew your passport if it is going to expire within the next year and a half (at the least). If you do get accepted you want it to last you through the application and your time in Spain. Most programs will require your passport to be good with 3 months to spare.
- Copy of official transcripts (sent to yourself)
- Signed and dated letter of purpose. Kind of like a cover letter with a little less bragging and a little more passion and why. Less than 300 words. This is what I did for my letter–
- Paragraph 1: I want to be an ambassador for said school year. English is my first language or I am thoroughly bilingual. These things might sound a bit redundant but they are essential to say.
- Paragraph 2: What skills will I bring. Got these skills for a certain experience (culture, travel, language, teaching, etc.)
- Paragraph 3: Knowledge I have obtained from a certain experience.
- Paragraph 4: I really want to do this! Please with a cherry on top.
- Sign, date, scan.
- Letter of recommendation. Less than 250 words.
- Scan all documents and convert them to PDF format
- Create profile in PROFEX. At this point, I followed their application guide step by step
- Make sure to write down your username (passport number) and password. You can save your application and return to it before submitting. And if you get accepted you will have to login to accept!
- Fill out your curriculum information and upload documents
- Fill out the rest of the application
- Choose your top 3 regions.
- I did not know this when I applied but to pick your regions there is a drop down menu of 3 different groups of regions. You pick one region in each group and then rate each group 1-3.
- Submit application online. Submit before the deadline of course
- Print generated application form and checklist. Initial, sign and date checklist and send to your regional representative.
- I think they’ve changed it so now you don’t have to print or send anything in the mail!
- Wait for application processed email– “Registro de solicitud” it will say that your request has been registered. It took about 10 days to get this confirmation. For me it was 2 days after the end of the application deadline so I thought I was doomed!
How to Accept:
- Wait for acceptance. This. Took. Forever. It was almost exactly 2 months from the time I submitted my application to get an email.
- Email “adjudicación de plaza” or your award of placement. It will also tell you the region you are placed in. You have 3 days to accept.
- Email “aceptación de plaza” and wait for school placement letter.
- I got an email to send a copy of my passport to my region program coordinator. It was a totally sketchy email with no other information. I ended up searching the email in google to find out that the email belonged to the Andalusia coordinator.
- Get an email with 3 documents: 1) letter with school address and instructions to accept school placement, 2) A form to officially accept school placement, 3) Certified letter of program guidelines for visa application (this letter might be physically mailed to you)
- Print form 2: sign and date. Mail with 2 copies of passport.
- Do a happy dance!
You deserve it but this is just the beginning. Your next step will be to apply for your visa. Either way, there are lots of opportunities now a days to get a job or internship abroad. This is just one option and something that worked out for me. Have you ever done something like this? Or do you know of other opportunities to work abroad?
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