Thanks to the program: Auxiliares de Conversación y Cultura, I was able to live and work in Spain for two years. The program is funded by the Spanish government and geared towards native English speakers. We have the opportunity to work in Spain in a public school as an assistant to the Bilingual English Teachers. Auxiliares work 12 hours a week (16 hours in Madrid), usually have three day weekends, and are paid 700€ (1000€ in Madrid). I was provided with private health care and given an enviable work schedule.
Applying for the program was free. After accepting my position, I paid for the student visa and a plane ticket, then I was on my own to set up a new life. There are many other programs to choose from, but they require enrollment fees. However, they also provide you with more support and help after arriving in Spain.
After two years working in the same position and working in four different schools, I feel comfortable enough expressing some of my raw opinions about the program. During my first year in the program, I worked in a public elementary school and a night school for teachers. I was living in a small town outside of Toledo, called Torrijos. In my second year, I split my time between two schools. I changed every other week from a bilingual high school and a bilingual elementary school. Each school was so different from the other! The students’ levels of English, the teaching styles, and my responsibilities were different in each school.
All auxiliars have an orientation in the beginning of the course. Orientation can last about four hours!! During my first year, I was completely lost. Most of the program administrators only spoke in Spanish; and with my poor Spanish level, I really had no idea what was going on! They explained to us about our roles, our responsibilities and about what we were expected to do in the classroom. Technically, the job is very basic. We are assistants to the Bilingual English Teachers. We don’t need to lesson plan or have much responsibility. We aren’t allowed to be in a classroom by ourselves without another teacher present and we aren’t allowed to grade papers and assign homework. Sometimes, there were days where all I had to do was read a text in English so that students could hear my accent.
Although the program has rules and specific guidelines, it’s really up to the school and the professors on how they utilize you in the classroom. My first year as an auxiliar, I was really incorporated into each class that I worked with. I only had English classes with my elementary school, so I worked with vocabulary and grammar. I created or found fun games, songs, and activities to encourage students to speak more in class. In the adult English class, it was almost the same. I created different games, presentations, and activities for the teachers learning English to motivate them to practice grammar and vocabulary.
This past year in the program was completely different. I worked in two bilingual schools. In a bilingual school, students not only have English classes, but they also have other subjects in English as well. I assisted teachers in science, history, math, P.E., etc. This year, most of my teachers didn’t ask me to prepare activities, games or any songs for the students. Unlike my first year, where I was left to have control of the class for my hour, this year I acted a lot more like an assistant. Overall, it was less work for me, but many of the days seemed repetitive and tiring.
As an auxiliar, I was only allowed to work 12 hours a week. Because I was in two different bilingual schools, I would do 12 hours in one school, and switch to the other school the following week. I felt as though being in two schools was extremely difficult and took away from my duties. I barely had time to get to know the students and really interact with them! It also made it difficult for my teachers to keep track of lesson plans and my own schedule.
Overall, I think the experience to be an English Assistant and have the opportunity to live and work in a foreign country is pretty great! It was an easy schedule that allowed me to have a lot of free time for myself. My 12 hour work weeks were easy and not very stressful. Some days, I started at the beginning of the day and end early. There were other days where I was able to sleep-in, come in later and leave at the end of the day. Fridays I had free, and Spain also has many “long” weekends, so some weekends I’d have 4-5 days off! I can’t complain about that! It really depends on the type of schools you receive and what you make of the experience.
Creating A Life
Working 12 hours a week leaves you with A LOT of free-time! At first, I didn’t have any idea what to do with all the time I had off! During my first year, I filled all my extra hours with private lessons. I would come home from school at 2pm, have lunch and go straight to private lessons until 9pm/10pm everyday! My second year in the program, I didn’t want to work as many hours and have more time to myself. I tried to meet with other people and make friends, work on my blog and edit videos or do house chores. With long weekends, I tried to travel as much as possible and tried to immerse myself into the Spanish lifestyle.
With all the private lessons I had, I kept myself busy! The extra income from my afternoon classes really helped to fund my travels. Of course there were other days where I laid around the couch, completely bored! Those days, I felt alone and felt like I didn’t have anyone here that really understood me. The auxiliar program is a great way for anyone who is interested in learning Spanish, learning about Spain and looking for a way to travel more and live in Europe! The experience is truly amazing!
If you’re thinking about living in Spain or applying to the program, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’d love to help you and get you set up! If you want to plan a trip through Spain but don’t know where to start, take a look at me and the boyfriend’s travel coaching services through Map It Trips. Our mission is to help you plan a cohesive and budget friendly itinerary for your trip through Spain!