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Teaching English in Madrid

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I’ve been receiving a lot of messages lately asking questions like “How are you traveling all the time?” “What do you to abroad?” And my personal favorite… “Are you even making money over there?”

(Just to answer that last one- no I am not working for free)

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Many of you may think that I am living a fairy tale life in a foreign land, filled with never ending fiestas, overflowing cervezas and free flights all over the world. Although I do know how absolutely amazing this experience is and how lucky I am to be living in Spain, the truth is:

I go to sleep early most nights, I work fairly crazy hours, I budget my money (A LOT) and this coming year especially, have a pretty damn tight schedule.

So, I guess it is finally time that I share a little bit about what I’m doing over here in good ol’ España….

This October I will be starting my second year as an “Auxiliar de Conversación” for the Comunidad de Madrid- or in simpler terms- I am an English Language Assistant in Madrid.

In this post I’ll answer some of the questions that you all have!

Auxiliar de Conversación Program Requirements

**Pretty much anyone can do this. There are really only two main requirements.

  •  You are a Native English Speaker -US or Canadian – (don’t worry the UK has its own programs)
  • You are a college grad

Fit these two extremely limiting requirements? Read on ……

A full list of program requirements and guidelines can be found using the link below:

http://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/dms/consejerias-exteriores/eeuu/auxiliaresusa/APPLICATION_GUIDELINES_2014.pdf

FAQ

Do you like your program?

As with anything there are advantages and disadvantages to the Auxiliar program.

Things I Love-

  • Having a set schedule- while some people don’t like having a set schedule, I really enjoy knowing my hours ahead of time each week. It allows me to plan other activities ahead, to comfortably travel, and to keep organized.
  • Receiving a regular paycheck- this is a major plus! Knowing that this money is coming in every month helps me budget accordingly. Having a schedule of only private classes can get messy (although some people do make it work). Students cancel, people get sick or something comes up- usually the money is consistent, but you never know.
  • No bitch work- there is an entire Auxiliar Handbook that outlines our duties and responsibilities. Thanks to this we’re not stuck doing a big pile of bitch work like grading tests or marking papers. (Some teachers may try to pull this over on you-make sure to read the handbook and know your responsibilities)

Things I could live without

  • Lack of structure- sometimes I feel that there is a bit of confusion when it comes to my roll in the classroom, but then again this program is still fairly new.
  • Lack of control- taking control of a large classroom can be hard (I also look like I could be a student at my school). I don’t have any formal “teacher training,” which obviously works as a disadvantage. There are times that I find myself a little bit lost.

Do you need a teaching degree or teaching experience to participate?

NO, absolutely not! You do not need any teaching experience to participate in this program. As I mentioned above, this is sometimes cause for confusion and frustration on my part, but it is pretty cool that anyone with any background can apply.

How do you get placed? Can you choose your city?

During the application process you are able to select three preferred Spanish “regions” in order. Be careful- a region in Spain is not the same as a city! (Click here for a guide to Spain’s regions) Placements are made on a first-come first-served basis and there are no guarantees. Once you agree to a region, the educational authorities of this area will assign you to a city and a school.

What kind of school do you teach at?

I work in a public bilingual secondary school (the equivalent to our high school). I teach students within the age range of 12-18. At a bilingual school, I assist with a range of subjects taught in English, not only English Language classes. For example, this past year I was an assistant in physical education, which was taught in English.

Through the Auxiliar program you can teach in a variety of schools from non-bilingual elementary and secondary schools to bilingual schools and even language schools.

Do you have support or supervision through your program?

 In each school, the auxiliars are assigned a supervisor. This is your go-to person for any problems, difficulties and questions you may have. My supervisor happens to be pretty great, but I have heard quite the opposite. It all depends on where you end up. Still if your supervisor is not doing their job, you can always go above them to the “Comunidad” to get some real answers, and hopefully alleviate the situation.

What kind of money are you making? Are you able to live comfortably?

The auxiliar program provides a “grant” of money each month for living expenses. This grant is a set amount of money each month, no taxes or fees are extracted. In Madrid the grant is equal to 1,000 Euros, but in other regions the grant is 700 Euros due to a lower cost of living. The nice part about this money is that it is what it is- you know what you’re getting. The monthly paycheck from the auxiliar program covers all of my living costs with a little bit of wiggle room.

A little insight into my personal monthly budget:

Rent (single room in 3 bedroom apt)400€
Apartment Utilities~75€
Cell Phone Bill15€
Transportation35€
Groceries~100€
Gym Membership~40€

*All prices vary based on region

** Rent is much cheaper in rural areas and smaller cities

I supplement this money with a few private classes a week, for which I charge ~20€  an hour. There are soooo many different types of private classes. I’ve taught everything from in-company classes and after school programs, to in-home classes and just being an “English play-friend” for young children. I use the money from my private classes for my “nonessential (if you want to call it that) budget category”- anything from traveling, eating out, drinking, and obviously shopping.

All and all with traveling once a month, I’d say I’m at least breaking even. This year, with a tighter budget, I’m even hoping to save a bit more! It’s all about personal choices. I’m not expecting to go home with a lot to speak of, but hey, I’ll be rich in experience right?

How do you get paid?

Most of my friends get paid through a direct deposit into their bank accounts. Unfortunately, my school is a bit prehistoric and still hands out paper checks each month. I’ve never had a problem, but some auxiliars talk about trouble getting paid on time. I think this happens more in smaller regions. My private classes are all either paid by direct deposit or off-the-books cash in hand 🙂 

How much money did you need to move to Spain?

Once again, it really depends. Moving to Madrid is probably more expensive than moving to a smaller city or rural area, but transportation to and from Madrid is easier. To start you’re going to need your visa. Getting a visa can be pretty expensive and includes fees to the Spanish Consulate, special insurance, background check payments, etc. Next you need a plane ticket to Spain. Depending on when you buy, your age and region this could be anywhere from $300-$1,300 USD (one-way ticket holla).

You will also need a place to stay for the first few days while you settle in and look for an apartment as well as money to support yourself until your first paycheck. All and all I’d say around ~$2,000USD. Before you freak out- $2,000 is easily made with a steady summer job and smart saving- don’t let that number at all stop you from pursuing the experience!

How did you go about finding a place to live?

I got really lucky and still had connections from when I studied abroad in Madrid, but it is fairly easy to find a place to stay (at least in Madrid). There are websites like Idealista, Easy Piso, and LingoBongo, as well as Facebook threads and forums, that constantly have listings for subleases. My suggestion– stay in temporary housing (hostels or airbnb) for a few days or so while you look. It is much more comfortable to decide on an apartment that you have seen in person rather than pictures online. This way you can also check out the area, the roommates and the REAL apartment- pictures can be deceiving. NEVER wire money to a landlord before coming to Spain- this is most definitely a SCAM.

Is speaking Spanish a requirement of the program?

Speaking Spanish is not a requirement of this program, although they do suggest that you have a basic understanding of the language before coming to the country. But then again I’ve worked with people whose knowledge of the Spanish language stretches as far as “hola” and “gracias”-so I think anyone will be fine. You’re also not supposed to speak any Spanish with your students, so try not to worry about Spanish in the workplace.

What was your Spanish speaking ability before vs. now?
I took Spanish classes for 10 years and even minored in the language. So you’d think I’d be fluent by this point right? Wrong. I’m still working on my Spanish A LOT and had no idea it would be this hard to learn. I still have a long way to go, but I have learned so much this year. Living with two Spanish girls has given me insights into colloquial every day Spanish- the informal, the slang, you know the “local speak”. I also take a private Spanish class once a week that only costs 15 ! It is a one-on-one class and the teacher really focuses on my individual needs.

What is your typical workday like?
In the auxiliar program, auxilares work anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a week in the classroom, again depending on region. This does not mean that we are only at the school for these hours- our schedules may include breaks or planning periods. We work 4 days a week- either Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday and our working hours depend on the type of school we are teaching at.

In Madrid, auxiliares have 16 classroom hours a week. I work Monday through Thursday usually from 8:15AM until around 2PM-3PM. After work I go home from lunch and a well-deserved siesta (yes, I nap everyday). When I’m nice and refreshed I head to some private classes, the gym and hang out with friends, not necessarily in that order. All of my lesson planning is done during my free periods and school and I rarely have work to do in my free time. Pretty. Damn. Sweet.

What is your commute like?
I am VERY lucky with the location of my school. I work in Mirasierra which is still inside of the “A” metro zone of Madrid. My morning commute takes anywhere from 35-45 minutes. Having a school in the “A” zone also makes for cheaper transportation. Still, like I said I’m lucky. Some of my friends have up to an hour-hour and a half commute. This is of course because they choose to live in the center of Madrid, which is further from where they work. They trade a longer work commute for a shorter weekend commute. It’s all about personal preference!

What is the cost of transportation?
I briefly mentioned this in my budgeting section, but I’ll go into it a little bit more here. I can only speak for Madrid, since this is where I work, but I imagine it is similar everywhere. Transportation rates depend on region, zone and most importantly age! You can pass for a “youth” in Spain until the age of 23! For now since I my school is Zone A and I’m only 22, I pay 35  a month for an unlimited metro pass. In a few months when I turn 23 that number will unfortunately increase to 55 . Abono, or monthly pass, rates for Madrid can be found here.
 

Do you feel safe in Spain?
I can only speak for living in Madrid, but as for traveling in Spain I have never felt unsafe. Overall, Spain is a VERY safe country. As a 22-yr old girl, I feel completely comfortable walking home at 6 am by myself (sorry mom and dad). I have never felt threatened or even uncomfortable. Sure Spanish men can be a little forward and handsy- but so can New Yorkers.
 

Was it hard to get used to the Spanish culture/lifestyle?
Personally, I really like the Spanish lifestyle, but I won’t lie, it is VERY different. For starters both the eating schedule and the food is a big transition. I LOVE Spanish food, but many of my friends felt differently. It’s a little bit hard to find your usual brands of snacks and products and it will take a little searching and getting used to. The nightlife is definitely a change- but most people get used to that pretty easily. All and all I think that adapting to the Spanish culture and lifestyle is pretty effortless, but it will take some time.

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While I’ve loved my time living and teaching English abroad in Spain, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Before making the decision to uproot your life and move abroad, make sure you do the research and assess the pros and cons. There are many reasons not to teach abroad as well.
 

Below are some other links about the auxiliar program or similar programs in Spain!

Further links with information about the auxiliar program:

http://youngadventuress.com/spain-auxiliar-de-conversacion ** awesome resource!!

http://www.curiositytravels.org/auxiliares-de-conversacion-interview/

http://spanishsabores.com/teaching-english-spain/

Information on similar programs:

http://www.candicenorwood.com/home/tefl-course-interview-kelsey-ohleger

http://www.curiositytravels.org/teaching-in-spain-with-beda-making-money-knowing-what-to-expect/

http://www.curiositytravels.org/teaching-english-in-spain-with-beda-my-school-schedule/

http://www.routewords.com/2014/02/so-you-wanna-teach-in-spain.html

http://www.adelanteblog.com/2014/02/beda-program-interview.html

More questions? Comment or contact me with any other questions and I’ll add to the list!

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