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An Inside Look at Being a Language and Culture Assistant in Spain

 By Emily Ross

By Emily Ross

If you are a native speaker of English in North America and have an college degree,  you can apply for this program. Everything about this program seems like a win-win situation at first glance. As a Conversation Assistant in Spain:

  • You basically get paid to talk in English.
  • You get to live in Spain.

  • You work 12 hour weeks.

  • Health insurance is included along with a €700/month salary (more in Madrid, but you work more hours).

Visit https://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html for all the juicy deets: application deadlines, eligibility requirements, FAQ, etc.

However, its my job as a current auxiliar to tell you everything they don’t. There are some real challenges that you will face, so its only fair to get everything out in the open so you can decide whether this program is a good option for you.

1. The program is incredibly unorganized. Even auxiliars who have been in the program for years have trouble understanding what paperwork they need to fill out, in what order to accomplish things, and who to go to with questions. Luckily, there are Facebook groups to mitigate some of the confusion. This disorganization doesn’t stop with the application process, however. Even day to day life at most schools means you will constantly have to roll with the punches and think on your feet to deliver a lesson. If you are a person who needs to have advance notice to accomplish tasks, this job might not be for you. Preparation is helpful, but oftentimes, you won’t be given that luxury. Being energetic and ready for anything will go a long way.

2. Your experience will greatly depend on the school you are assigned to. If your school doesn’t know how to utilize their auxiliar, your experience might suck. Some auxiliars just sit in the back of the classroom while the teacher goes on with their normal lesson in Spanish, and some auxiliars are expected to give the entire lesson while the teacher grades papers or zones out. As an auxiliar, your job is to assist with the lessons, but a full time teacher should always be in the room with you. Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of, but remain professional. If you get assigned to placement that is less than ideal, stay positive and know that you still have your weekends to travel and live the dream.

3. You might not get paid right away, so have some savings to live off of for awhile. Depending on the region, you might not get paid for the first couple of months. Side jobs giving private lessons or working in academies are available and could help supplement your income while you are waiting to get paid, but having $2000-$3000 in savings to live off of in the meantime is helpful.

4. Knowing Spanish is a huge help. You don’t technically have to know Spanish to be an auxiliar, but it is incredibly useful in every aspect outside of school: getting an apartment, opening a bank account, meeting locals, going grocery shopping. You don’t have to be fluent, but if you have a solid base of knowledge, you will be golden.

I recommend this program to anyone who is interested in teaching English abroad but wants to gain some experience before being thrown into a classroom by themselves. The visa process, though sometimes frustrating, is easier and cheaper than some other alternatives such as the Work/Holiday visas for Ireland and Australia. There is also a large system of support. The community of auxiliars is close knit; and because you can reapply to the program year after year, there will always be an auxiliar who has seen it all and can help you through any issue. And for the especially tough days, a bottle of Spanish wine is only two euro.