10 Things All New Auxiliares Should Know

I remember last year at this time when I was thinking about doing the Auxiliar de Conversacion program in Spain. I had about a million questions running through my head, and I felt like every blog post I read or facebook group post I read was giving me some solid answers, but also some mixed answers on a few different topics. So, I decided to write this for new auxiliares about the top 10 things I think they should know BEFORE coming into the program.

1. It’s in Spain. I know this is obvious, but with the program being in Spain means that it operates under a spanish timeline. What I mean is that everything takes a little longer here. Everything from a visit to a restaurant to getting your NIE card. With that being said, you also won’t find out about your school placement for awhile, and even after you do, you probably won’t get too much information until the first day you walk into the school. Also, basically the whole month of August, Spain is on vacation, so don’t expect any emails regarding your school to be returned then. Unless you get a school director that’s super into technology and communication, which is rare. But remember the positive too–it’s in Spain! Siestas, vino, parties, different culture, travel, etc. 

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

2. It’s run by the Spanish Government. Be prepared for bureaucracy at is finest. It took me FOREVER to get my NIE/TIE because I live in Bizkaia but my school is in Gipuzkoa, so I had to go to San Sebastian police station to get my NIE (just the number), but then had to get my TIE (the actual card) from the Bilbao police station. Why? Not really sure. It really depends on who is working what day and your luck. But in my experience, put a smile on your face and attempt to speak spanish and (most) people will be helpful.

3. Brush up on Spanish BEFORE you come. Listen to music, study general vocab and verbs, etc. Check out my post about learning spanish if you need some ideas!

Don't be this person when you come. (source)

Don’t be this person when you come. (source)

4. Find housing AFTER you come. Don’t agree to anything before you come. It’s better to book a hostel or hotel for a week and figure out where you want to live once you get a feeling of the city or pueblo you’re living in.

5. Come with money. There have been lots of posts in the auxiliares facebook page and the general consensus is come with about $2000-$2500 saved. I came with that much and it really helped me when I needed to quit aupairing and live on my own.

6. Settle first, travel later. Yes, you’re living in Europe and it’s really exciting that you can travel everywhere so easily. But if I could go back and change something, I wouldn’t have traveled so much in the beginning here. It was overwhelming and I feel like now I have a good group of friends who have become my travel buddies and I enjoy the trips I take more. I think trying to settle and getting to know the city you’re living in first is really important. I didn’t feel settled here until late December, then I went to the USA for Xmas and it took me another money after I got home to resettle.

Me, when I got here lolol. I'm still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

Me, when I got here lolol. I’m still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

7. Use social media and word of mouth for private classes. I got the majority of my classes using the facebook groups. People always post about people wanting private lessons, and once you find a family or two, it usually just snowballs to more people wanting them. Be open to teaching both children and adults. I give a lot of lessons to adults and they are my favorite classes!

8. Bring an unlocked iPhone (or other phone that is unlocked). Seriously. This is one thing I STRUGGLED with when I got here. I don’t like to be that person that is attached to their phone, but when you move to a foreign country and are trying to settle, technology is VITAL. You need it to schedule private classes, for apartment searching, maps if you get lost. I didn’t have a working iPhone here until the middle of November (about 7 weeks after I got here) and it was just awful. If you have an unlocked iPhone, all you have to do is get a sim card and pop it in! It’s so easy. I use Yoigo and I love it. It ends up being about 10 euros a month and I have 3G and cheap texting/calling. In Spain, everyone uses Whatsapp, so text message prices never factor in anyways. And I only call for emergencies. I can recharge my sim card online and I do it every 2 months. So just bring an unlocked phone and save yourself the hassle of getting it unlocked here, or worse, having to buy a phone here. 

9. Not everything is going to work out–be flexible. When I first got here, I was a live in aupair. It was awful. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect situation because I would have free rent/food and only had to watch the kids a few hours a day. Well, a few hours turned into a lot of hours and I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no life here. After a month, I quit aupairing, moved out, find an apartment and began giving private classes. Just remember to be flexible and if something doesn’t work out, change it. 

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

10. Just breath! It’ll be fine! It’s going to be overwhelming at times, but it’s an adventure and a HUGE learning experience. The best part is, you’re in Spain, so everything is more laid back here. In the USA, I felt like my life NEVER slowed down and I was always going and stressed. Here, while I was really overwhelmed when I first got here, I did have time to relax and breath once I quit aupairing. So relax, half the struggle is making the decision to come and the first 1-2 months of living here. But like any big change in life, it takes time. You’re not going to feel settled and comfortable over night, but give it time. I really think it’s about making it over that 2 month mark, and then it’s pretty smooth sailing. 

Just go! (source)

Just go! (source)

I hope this helps any auxiliares who are thinking about doing the program! I would highly recommend it. And if you hate it, the time FLIES. I am in month 7 or my 8 month contract, and it seems like I just got here YESTERDAY. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

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Trip to Vitoria and My First Pinxtos!

Today, I had my first day of orientation for my job as an auxiliar! I woke up extra early because the bus ride to get to Vitoria is about an hour and I have to take the tram to the bus station. One thing I’ve loved so far is Bilbao’s public transportation. I purchased a Barik card that can be used on the metro, tram and Bilbao bus system. All you do is add money and you get transportation cheaper than if you were buying single tickets. So simple!

Before orientation, I met with some fellow auxiliars at the bus station and we took the bus. Our first day of orientation was en el Salon de actos del Gobierno Vasco, which is a government building located along the outskirts of Vitoria. The orientation was all in spanish so it was really difficult for me to understand, until an Australian guy who apparently either works for the government or is an older auxiliar started speaking. He spoke slowly and more animated than the others. I felt so accomplished after he finished talking about the TIE/NIE (aka green cards) we will need to legally stay in Spain and I understood exactly how to get one! He also made me feel really excited to be doing this program and to be living in Basque Country. I haven’t even been here a week and I already feel like I’m in the best region of Spain. 

The orientation was short and over by 11:30am, so some fellow auxiliars and I went out to explore the city for a few hours. Vitoria is the capital of Pais Vasco, so I was really excited to see the city. Since we began on the outskirts at the government building, at first I was unimpressed. However, after walking about 10-15 minutes towards the center of the city, it transformed into a beautiful city and I went pretty picture (and later, instagram) crazy.vit2

vit1

vit3I really enjoyed walking around Vitoria! It has beautiful, old architecture and is a very “green” friendly city. It’s very clean and they encourage green things like using public transportation/buses. While in Vitoria, I also had my first pinxtos in Basque Country!! They were SO GOOD. Pinxtos are the basque version of tapas. I love them because they are really small portions so you can try a bunch! I got two; one was a ham sandwich on a sweet croissant and the other was caramelized bacon, goat cheese and a walnut on a sliced baguette. I obviously also had to have multiple copas de vino blanco because I aupair in the evening and wine is necessary for that. And drinking wine at any hour/all hours is completely normal in Europe……so yeah, I’m never leaving ;). vit4

Instagram

I made it!

It’s been a whirlwind so far and this is the first chance I’ve had to post, but I’ve made it to Spain! My total travel time to get here was over 24 hours, so I was EXHAUSTED by the time I arrived. I booked my flight through STA travel because it’s really cheap if you are a student or under 26, but I didn’t really look closely when I booked it. Long story short, I ended up having a layover in NYC between LaGuardia and JFK, where I had to get my 70lb suitcase from baggage claim at LaGuardia, find a shuttle and then recheck it at JFK. And, I got off at the wrong terminal for the JFK airport so had to take the crowded airtran with all my lugguge to get to the correct terminal. Thank god I backpacked Europe before doing this alone, because if I hadn’t done that trip, I’m not sure I would have even been able to figure out what terminal I needed to be at lol. But it was such a pain to have to go through checking my bags and security all over again. And, when you travel internationally, you have to clear customs and go through security a third time. I was over it by the time I was in the Madrid airport.

Luckily, on my flight from JFK to Madrid, I made a friend who is also doing the auxiliar program! The seat on the plane next to me was open, so she came and sat next to me the whole flight. It was so nice to have someone to talk to during the flight and we had to go to the same terminal in the Madrid airport so it made that leg of my journey more bearable! Once I got to Madrid, I got on the plane to Bilbao and it felt like I blinked my eyes and was there! I am aupairing part time with a family here, so my spanish mom came and picked me up from the airport! She came with her mom to pick me up and it was honestly hilarious; my suitcase was huge, their car was small and lots of spanish was being spoken. When we got to their flat, we walked around Bilbao a little then I took a shower and fell asleep FOREVER. I woke up later that evening and walked outside my room and met the kids I’ll be aupairing. They are SO ADORABLE. There are two twin girls who are 6 and a boy who is 8. Really sweet kids. I can definitely tell that they will be challenging at times, but it will be fun!

The next day, I woke up and we went and got a sim card for my cell phone. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE UNLOCKED BY A FACTORY AND I PUT THE SIM CARD IN AND IT DIDN’T WORK. SERIOUSLY. So, I’m waiting to see if I can get the problem sorted out with my iPhone and until then my spanish family gave me a flip phone to put my sim card in…so I OFFICIALLY HAVE A SPANISH PHONE NUMBER. We then went on the funicular to see the whole city of Bilbao!!! 

bilbao2

 

That night, I went out with a few other people from my program. Lots of tinto de verano and  botellon. Apparently bottelon is normal as everyone in Bilbao knows and talks about it. Essentially, it’s drinking outside in public lol. So, we went to a store and bought some cheap alcohol and drank on the streets of Bilbao. Lots of vino blanco for me lol. I also didn’t even leave to go home until 4am last night and was surprised by how many people were still out. I love Spain.

Today was chill. I walked around the city with my Spanish dad and he gave me an official tour, showing me literally every corner of Bilbao. It’s a relatively small city, so very walkable. We walked for about 2 hours. I finally got closer to the Guggenheim today too! SO PRETTY!

bilbao3

 

Tomorrow if my first official day of aupairing and I’m also going to the beach and trying to open a bank account and get a gym membership (wish me luck on the last 2….)! Hasta luego!