Travel Talk with Ashley: Teaching English in Cantabria & Burgos, Spain

It’s time for the next installment of my Travel Talk interview series, and today I’m speaking to another English teacher in Spain through the auxiliares de conversación program. Ashley of Cómo perderse en España told me about her experiences in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria, plus her new home of Burgos.

Ashley at the Alcázar of Sevilla

Ashley at the Alcázar of Sevilla

Hi Ashley! What’s your story?

I’m originally from St. John’s in eastern Canada, and I moved to Spain about nine months ago in mid-September to work as an auxiliar de conversación in Castro Urdiales, Cantabria. However, that’s not quite the start of my Spain journey. I’ve been dating a Spaniard, born in Donostia and raised in the province of Burgos, for nearly four years. We’ve spent years going back and forth, living in different countries (U.K., Canada, France and Spain) or doing long-distance, but over the course of time I started to get the feeling that our relationship would lead us to Spain.

I applied to the Language Assistant programme in Spain on a whim, hoping that I could secure a visa allowing me to work in Spain, at about the same time that my partner finally received a visa to work in Canada short-term. We weighed our possibilities and decided Spain was the best option for our future together. I received Spain residence (through pareja de hecho) in April, which enables me to work in different fields, however I’ve opted to renew as a language assistant for next year! This time it’ll be in Burgos city, where I moved about three weeks ago. It’s always a fun (and challenging) journey to live in another country and I’m happy to call Spain home

In Burgos

In Burgos

Would you recommend the auxiliares de conversación program to others?

I would totally recommend the auxiliar programme. More often than not, the programme gets a lot of bad reviews, because it’s more difficult than most of us expect when we’re at home planning the big move to Spain. However, despite the bad reviews that are so common, there are great aspects to this programme, and there are assistants who have really positive experiences. It’s an experience and a way to learn about the wider world. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Lierganes, Cantabria

Lierganes, Cantabria

I was one of those people who had a really positive experience! What advice would you give to people considering becoming an auxiliar?

I have so much advice I could write a book! But the main things I’d like to give future assistants are:

  • Don’t be disappointed if everything isn’t as bright and shiny as you expected it to be. You’re not alone!
  • Remember to take your vitamins, and to eat and sleep well. Working with students is tiring, and you’ll need all the energy you can get, especially in the beginning.
  • Private classes! Seriously, this will help you out more than you think.

Agreed! How do you think Cantabria compares to the rest of Spain?

I think Cantabria is comparable to the rest of Spain, yet different. This region is very Spanish yet has original aspects to it. The slogan of this autonomous region/province is “Cantabria Infinita,” and I think it really sums it up, because it certainly is infinite. It has everything: ocean, mountains, beaches, cities and villages, agricultural areas and forests. Cantabria is lush and green from all the rain that falls here, so I think that it gives a different picture from what people imagine Spain to be.

Castro Urdiales' port

Castro Urdiales’ port

What are three must-sees for travelers in Castro Urdiales or Cantabria?

  1. Castro Urdiales in the summer. During the winter, this town tends to be lifeless, but once summer arrives, it completely changes! There are two fantastic beaches, the weather is warm and people from all over Spain flock here.
  2. Los Picos de Europa. Potes, a town in western Cantabria, acts as a gateway to this mountain range, and many people stay here when visiting this area. There’s even a cable car (el Teleférico de Fuente Dé) located very close to Potes, with must-see views of the mountains.
  3. Santander. The capital of Cantabria is also the biggest city in this area, with plenty to do and a gorgeous beach (el Sardinero)!

You say you’ve been dating a Spaniard for nearly four years. What has been the best thing about this? The biggest challenge?

That’s right! Borja and I have been together for almost 4 years. The best part of this is the constant cultural and language exchange. We get to use two languages on a daily basis, and, even now, we still have moments of cultural questioning, meaning we’re always learning new things about Canada/Spain. The biggest challenge is definitely being able to be together. Coming from two different countries means that at any given moment, we may be dealing with visas/immigration, unemployment and living in a foreign country or even long-distance, which causes a lot of stress for both of us.

Ashley and Borja in Castro Urdiales

Ashley and Borja in Castro Urdiales

What upcoming travels do you have on your calendar? What do you have on your travel bucketlist?

Not too long ago, I made a trip to Lille, in Northern France, which was fantastic! I spend a lot of time travelling Spain because this country just had so much to offer. I visited Zaragoza a few weeks ago, and the city completely surprised me; it had never been on my radar, but I loved the vibes I got from it. I can’t wait to get back and explore it a little more in-depth! Now that summer is here, I’ll be trying to see as many Spanish festivals as I can. I started off with a visit to El Colacho (a baby-jumping festival) in a village about 30 minutes from Burgos.

My travel bucket list is getting so long I can’t seem to get a grip on it! I can’t wait until my four months of summer holiday to check off a few. I’ve been dying to go to Sweden and Iceland for years, but Estonia, South Korea and Chile are countries I’ve added more recently. I know I won’t be able to get to them all this summer (or even this year), but I would like to take advantage of being located in Europe to travel to some nearby countries. 

Thanks for sharing, Ashley! Enjoy your next year in Burgos and your upcoming travels! Be sure to check out her blog, Cómo perderse en España or follow her on Twitter.

Want to be a part of my traveler interview series? Let me know!

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