8 Reasons to Teach in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación

In my second year of working as an auxiliar de conversación (also known as a North American Language and Culture Assistant) in Spain, I simply adore what I do and love that I have this opportunity to live in Spain. With applications for 2013-2014 opening on January 10th, I started thinking about all the reasons I would recommend this program to others.

Who could say no to these guys?

This program is far from perfect, sometimes presenting a variety of frustrations (mostly bureaucratic), and I won’t say that living overseas isn’t full of challenges. However, it is a pretty damn fantastic opportunity, and I love my life teaching English in Spain. Here are 8 reasons I would recommend a year as an auxiliar de conversación to anyone who wants to experience Spain, live as an expat abroad, or have the adventure of a lifetime.

1. Spain is ridiculously amazing
I mean, obviously I’m rather fond of it, being in the middle of my fourth stint in Spain, but, really, it is. The culture, the lifestyle, the landscapes, the sights… I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you for now since I think this entire blog is a pretty good love song to Spain. Whether you’ve already fallen in love with the country on previous travels or have yet to be acquainted with España, it will steal your heart forever.

2. You have plenty of time off
Working only 12 hours a week (16 in Madrid), you’ll have no shortage of time to explore your city in the afternoon and all of Europe with three (or possibly four) day weekends every weekend, plus bank holidays up the wazoo. Travel around Europe is relatively inexpensive, meaning you realistically could spend your weekends exploring Spain’s diverse regions or jet-setting off to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, romantic Paris, lively London, or a number of other fascinating destinations.

Riding camels in the Sahara Desert in Morocco: just a typical long weekend when you live in Spain.

3. Spanish fluency is a definite plus
There’s no better way to pick up a language than immersing yourself in a country where it’s spoken, no matter how basic or advanced your skills are to begin with. Of course, you can surround yourself with all English speakers and never improve your Spanish, but if you’re determined to learn, you will. In today’s globalized economy, and with today’s exponentially growing Spanish-speaking population in the U.S., Spanish is a definite asset.

4. You actually can save up money while doing this program
On first glance, a salary of €700 (or €1000) a month may not seem like a lot, but if you’re wise with your money and spend a few hours a week doing private lessons, you actually can finish your year in Spain with some money in the bank. You’ll need to arrive in Spain with some saved money since you won’t get paid immediately, and it’s no six-digit salary, but you can fairly easily make more than you spend, which makes this program incredibly affordable compared to a lot of working abroad programs.

5. What else are you going to do, anyway?
With the current state of the economy, finding a decent job back home is going to be a major struggle. Rather than working yourself to death searching for a job that barely interests you, why not spend a year teaching in Spain? As long as your meet the minimum requirements and apply early enough, even if you have no teaching experience, the North American Language and Culture Assistants program will grant you a position. Way easier than sending in a trillion resumes.

6. Teaching is a fantastic experience, no matter your interests or field of expertise
No matter your career goals, teaching — especially teaching in a foreign country — will do wonders to prepare you for whatever lies ahead, building confidence, communication skills, and an open mind. Plus, who can complain about getting paid to hang out with adorable Spanish kids?

How’d I luck into this life?

7. When better than now?
If you have a deep desire to see the world, when better to do so than now? You’re young, you lack any significant responsibilities, and you’re likely not tied down to a career or a spouse and kids. Twenty years from now — or even five — it will be infinitely more difficult to just take off and live in another country for a year. Live your youth to its fullest!

8. What do you have to lose?
You’re only committing to 8 (9 in Madrid) months in Spain, which will fly by in no time. Even if you’re absolutely miserable, which I promise you won’t be, you’re not legally bound to stay here, so you can always flee Spain for greener pastures or just stick it out and use your time as a valuable learning experience. But I have a strong feeling you’ll have an absolute blast.

Couldn’t agree more.

As I mentioned, applications for this fall open January 10th, and, since admissions are more or less on a first-come, first-served basis, applying as early as possible is highly important. Be sure to research the program and Spain well, weigh the pros and cons (Liz of Memoirs of a Young Adventuress summed up the cons well in this post, and read the comments for varying perspectives), but, mostly, just go for it! If you have any questions about the application process or life as an auxiliar, feel free to contact me. ¡Suerte a todos!

27 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    Really nicely done. The program should use this in its marketing materials (if any exist). I passed the link on to a woman whose daughter I think may be interested. Makes me want to sign up!

  2. Gammy says:

    If I could go back in my life, this would sound perfect to me! It is so true- enjoy your time now and treat it like a great adventure! I love your thinking!

  3. I am a huge proponent of the program, though I recognize and tell people about the negative issues. Then again, I had a wonderful school with students who were handpicked for the bilingual program, and was treated as an equal. This school is often recognized for their successful program, and I feel fortunate to still be in contact with many of my former coworkers and students.

    And like you say; it’s eight months, not a lifetime. And no one cares if it’s not for you and you don’t stay past that. I had loads of problems my first few months, but made myself stick it out, and here I am, five years later!

    • Kirstie says:

      Oh, definitely, there are a lot of issues, and not everyone has a great experience, although I wanted to focus on the positive aspects in this post. I do think, though, that most of those who have problems with the program still enjoy the chance to live in Spain, and even if your work life is miserable, hey, it’s only 12 or 16 hours of your week. I hope others can have as great of an experience as I’ve had or that they wind up just as committed to Spain as you are!

  4. Nana says:

    I thought I made a comment, but it disappeared. If you get two from me, just disregard.

    The kids are adorable. I still have Spain on my bucket list. Are you considering returning to Spain again next year or is this your swan song? Have a wonderful time for the remainder of your stay. XOXO

    • Kirstie says:

      Strange – an abnormal number of comments on this post were marked as spam!

      I still haven’t figured out what I’m doing next year. I think I want a change of pace, although I’m not sure what that means exactly. But I can’t bear the idea of being away from Spain forever, so I hope I’ll be back to visit frequently!

  5. dina says:

    I don’t think my comment went through. I just submitted my application today! I went on the site at midnight Spain time and sure enough Profex was open! I’m so excited, and also overwhelmed by the craziness that is Profex. I hope I applied for the right thing. 😉 I’m looking forward to reading your blog as I make my travel plans!

  6. Liz says:

    Thanks for the shout out Kristie! You’ve got a great list going here and it looks like you’re having an amazing year, looking forward to more posts 🙂

    • Kirstie says:

      Of course! Even though I highlighted the good parts of this program and think it’s worth sticking through all the struggles to live in Spain, it’s definitely important to be aware of what a mess this program really can be.

  7. Cassandra says:

    Hey Kirstie! Are you reapplying to the program next year? Or staying in Spain in general?

    • Kirstie says:

      Hey! I still really haven’t figured out what I’ll do next year, but, most likely, I’ll want a change of pace. The problem is that I don’t want to stay in Spain forever, but I also don’t want to leave forever. I wish I could live in multiple places simultaneously. What’s your plan?

  8. Monica says:

    I just applied as I am a spaniard but have lived in Australia for over 25 years and I would love to take up this opportunity. I am so scared though as I will be going with my 9 year old and I am petrified of the move and making a bad decision if it affects my son in a negative way 🙁

    • Kirstie says:

      Good for you! Be brave! Experiences like this are the best part of life, and you’ll either have a fantastic experience or you’ll learn a lot from it. Good luck!

  9. Roland says:

    Hey Kirstie,

    My name is Roland, and I just wanted to tell you that your blog is super encouraging. I just got my carta de nombramiento for the first time and am a poor, recently graduated Spanish major working for Apple and living with my parents to save money for the trip in three months. I just spent waaaay too much of my evening reading a blog that talked about how many people not getting paid for this program in a timely manner at all, and it was really kinda scary for me. Have you ever had any issues with that?

    Also, do you have any advice for applying for the VISA? Like I said, I just got my carta de nombramiento, and am a little lost on where to go from here and how to get moving. If you could comment back or email me, that’d be awesome 🙂

    Thank you!!

    • Kirstie says:

      Hey Roland! Thanks for reading my blog! Congratulations on your placement!

      I have not had any issues with getting paid. Madrid has always paid on time, and my school in Andalucía didn’t always get paid by the ministry on time, but they did pay me. It all depends on which comunidad you’ve been placed in, but they seem to be getting their acts together, and the comunidades that were having payment problems have mostly dropped the program. But do come with money to last you for a few months, because, even if all the payments are done punctually, you won’t get paid until the end of October.

      Read the auxiliar handbook thoroughly for visa help! Also, if you haven’t already, join the 2013-2014 Facebook group, because tons of people on there are asking about visa stuff. The search tool proves super handy when you have visa questions.

      ¡Suerte! You have a fantastic year ahead of you!

  10. Bea says:

    Hi Kirstie!

    Since I finish my degree this year I am currently looking at every option I might have for the future. I think this is a great one for starting out until I figure out what’s next. The problem is my degree is in Modern Languages (English and Spanish) and not Portuguese (my mother tongue). Do yout think I have even the slightest of chances of being picked for an auxiliar de conversación for either of them since I actually have a degree in one?!

    ¡Muchas gracias!

    • Kirstie says:

      Hi Bea! Yes, I agree that this program is a great option! You say Portuguese is your mother tongue, but how long have you been speaking English? Are you completely fluent? I don’t think they actually check your English abilities, as long as you live in an English-speaking country. Beyond that, they accept basically everyone without giving much consideration to the applications — it’s more first come, first serve.

  11. Love this. I couldn’t agree more. Whether or not people consider it to be a “real” job is completely irrelevant to me. I have grown tremendously and learned so much these past seven months. Before the program I’d only traveled to Spain. Now I’ve been to England, Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, Germany, and Italy. The program has its share of frustrations but as far as I’m concerned it’s almost too good to be true. Most would say it’s a crazy thing to do, but I would say that you are crazy if you don’t take advantage of such an incredible opportunity!

    • Kirstie says:

      All so true! I’m glad you’ve had a great experience with it as well. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my time in Spain, even though it wasn’t perfect 100% of the time, all thanks to the program!

  12. Hello! I just applied yesterday for this years program. My inscrita number is 16_2XXA002313, at first I thought Wooo! #16 but then I realized it’s actually #2313 and now I’m worried 🙁 My regional preferences were 1)Anadalucia 2) Cataluña 3)Pais Vasco. Profex spereates it into 3 sections and I had to choose between Andalucia and Madrid, I thought my chances for Andalucia would be higher so I hope I made the right choice. I also just read on an old blog that the Cataluña program was cut, so Im not sure why it was an option on Profex. Do you know if there is anyway to contact the coordintator to ask about Cataluña and explain that Madrid is a second choice that I couldn’t select through Profex? I’m also realllllly hoping to be placed in an elementary school, I love being around kids. What are my chances of any of these preferences being met with such a high inscrita number?

  1. January 9, 2016

    […] 8 Reasons to Teach in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación Though she says the programme is far from perfect, Kirstie Jeffries recommends working as a language and culture assistant as a great way to experience Spain, live as an expat abroad, and have the adventure of a lifetime. […]

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