What is it like to be an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain?
By Chris Johanson
For those who are about to Graduate and are not ready to embark in a full-time job yet, the Ministry of Education of Spain gives you the opportunity to teach English in a Spanish school for a year. The program is called Auxiliares de Conversación, which translates as conversation (teaching) assistants.
Salem State alum Chris Johanson is in Madrid right now and he has this tips for SSU on how to apply and what the experience has been so far for him:
The program awards a grant of 700 Euros per month, in exchange for working 12 hours per week. The one exception is Madrid, where the grant is 1,000 Euros per month, in exchange for working 16 hours per week. The program works on a first-come-first-serve basis and it is necessary to have a working knowledge of Spanish that is at least at the intermediate level. The application process is online, directly through the Ministry of Education. The link is http://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html
The application process can seem complicated, but, in hindsight, it really was not too bad. The application can be put together beforehand, allowing you to submit the completed application the moment registration opens, giving you the best chance of getting your ideal placement based on the regions you where you would like to live.
As for the job of being an English-language teaching assistant, I have personally found the work to be easy and rewarding, having worked with children at other jobs in the past. Teaching assistants are also known as auxiliares and mostly help with pronunciation, reading, vocabulary, and explaining the culture of their own country.
There is no doubt that this program is a great opportunity to live abroad and learn about a new culture while exploring an unknown part of the world. You also have a chance to impact the lives of children for the better, which is the true value of the program for them. Now, it is not all rainbows and sunshine. Discipline is a difficult aspect in the classroom, but that is generally handled by the lead teachers. However, auxiliares work four days per week, so every weekend is a long weekend, which greatly outweighs any frustrating issues they may occur in the classroom.
The hours go by quickly at school, allowing auxiliares plenty of time to explore their new surroundings, while knowing their hours at work are both meaningful and formative for the students.
To put all of this into perspective, allow me to explain how I ended up in the program. I admit that my path has been rather unorthodox. I first studied abroad in the spring of 2011, after I spent the previous semester listening to professors from the World Languages and Cultures Department at Salem State explain the value of the study abroad experience, as well as their own stories of traveling and living outside the country.
That spring semester of 2011 was spent in Barcelona, Spain. I returned home, as most students do, after falling in love with the city, only to find myself oddly unsatisfied, wanting to go back. So, I considered going back, again asking myself “Why not?” Before you knew it, I was on a plane bound for Barcelona. After a full calendar year, I returned home, only to hear Professor Serra mention the Auxiliares de Conversación program. I applied for the program and was accepted to Santander, in Cantabria, and Madrid, where I currently reside.
So far, I have not been here long, just about two months. Having lived in Spain previously has made the adjustment somewhat easier, but not as much as one would imagine. Being in a new city is always difficult at first, but born from that difficulty is an intoxicating level of excitement and adventure. Finding a place to live was difficult, which is to be expected. The only other difficult adjustment, which pales in comparison to housing, is Spanish bureaucracy. Getting your residency card and paperwork is tedious and, at times, frustrating. Patience and planning easily solve that problem, which helps to demonstrate how manageable the cons are and how they are tremendously outnumbered by the pros.
Every day, things get a little easier. Poco a poco. You adjust, you adapt, this new place transforms into your home. The auxiliares program is a chance to change your life in the best way imaginable. If you are considering applying, just ask yourself: “Why not?”