Auxiliar de Conversación Program in Spain

Hello loves!

So the most common question I get is people asking me what program I do in Spain. So I decided to just do a general post about the program and my experience thus far. The program is called North American Language and Culture Assistant or in spanish, the Auxiliar de Conversacion Program. It is done through the Spanish government. There are about 2,000 (mostly) Americans that come to Spain each year to work in schools around the country. I work 12 hours a week and get a stipend of 700 euros ($950) a month, tax free (Or if you are in Madrid, you work 16 hours and get 1000 euros ($1350)). I am over here on a student visa, and the work I am doing is considered “graduate” work (lol don’t ask me how Spain swung this one…).

My basic role in the classroom is a language assistant, so I will take half of the class and do complementary activities with them, mostly relating to pronunciation and speaking. Sometimes, I lesson plan, sometimes I grade papers, sometimes I sub a class, sometimes I get called off work…for a whole week, sometimes I don’t do much in class, sometimes I teach German exchange students, sometimes I drink wine with colleagues in the middle of the day…….If you can’t tell, my job isn’t really defined. And that is the most important thing I think anyone who is considering this program needs to know. There isn’t much regulation and it can be a real hit or miss, depending on your school placement. Luckily, my school director/boss is awesome!! He’s been so helpful and if I need help with anything, he is a great resource and so helpful. One day, I was talking about needing to go to the dentist, and he offered to take me to his dentist for a consultation. So helpful.

When you apply, you preference what region you want and what the size of the city or pueblo you want and the age of the students you want to teach. Then, the Spanish government assigns school placements. I’m honestly not even sure they look at the applications. I preferenced Catalonia, Valencia and Madrid and said I wanted to live in a big city and got placed in Pais Vasco and my school is in a pueblo (note: I later found out Catalonia and Valencia were no longer participating in the program due to budget cuts). But hey, it all turned out good!

To apply you need to be a college graduate or completing your final semester of school and have proof (ex: transcripts). The prefer some spanish language classes (not a strict requirement, I only had one semester in college). You also need a letter of recommendation and a letter of intent. It’s an easy application. The only hard part is it’s in spanish and the website they use for it is a little difficult. I’m talking about you, profex. 

After you get a placement, you have five days to accept or reject the placement. Placements usually aren’t given out until the end of April or May. People still receive placements through August and September. The biggest factor in receiving a placement is your inscrita number (aka your application number). This program is on a first come, first serve basis. So if you’re even thinking about doing it, apply and then think after. 

Also, talking about the money. The stipend doesn’t seem like a lot because you really aren’t working that much. I remember when I told me dad about it, he about fell over and told me it would be impossible. Luckily, because you aren’t working that much, you have plenty of time to pick up private classes, which are so easy to find (through fellow auxiliares, through Facebook groups, the school, tusclasesparticulares.com). I currently teach around 10-12 hours extra of private lessons a week and charge 15-25euros ($20-$34)/hour, depending on the kind of class it is. So if money is what you’re worried about, don’t let that factor into the decision. It was what I was most worried about, but I’ve gotten here and I’m fine! I mean, I definitely budget and don’t shop at Louis Vuitton, but I’m not struggling. Cost of living here is also a lot cheaper than in the USA.

My experience so far has been good, but it is definitely what you make out of it. It is a very independent program. I consider myself a very independent person, but at times, it’s been very challenging for me. But I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to live abroad, travel, experience new things, improve/learn spanish. And at the end of the day, it’s only 8 months (9 if you are in Madrid). The time flies!

I’ve made some great friends who are also auxiliares and consider them my family here in Bilbao :) The coolest thing about this program, is the people you meet who are also auxiilares are very similar to you and it’s really easy to relate to them. Having a good group of friends here is the #1 thing you need. Yeah, you need to set up a bank account and get a metro card and a piso, but at the end of the day, my friends here have made the difference!

Anyways, here is the website for the program: http://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.htmlThe application period opened January 9 and is open until April 1. APPLY APPLY APPLY if you are even considering doing the program, because I think inscrita numbers are already pretty high. 

There is also a Facebook group for auxiliares. JOIN AT YOUR OWN RISK. People argue and post about dumb things and it’s mildly entertaining but also annoying. Definitely turn off your notifications for the group. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Along with this post, this website is also a pretty good resource for what to expect if you decide to do this program…. http://whatshouldwecallauxiliares.tumblr.com/ lol.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the program! You can comment or email me. 

En serio, si estas pensado sobre haciendo la programa, aplicas!!!! 

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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

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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

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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!!! 

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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!

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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! 

Adiós USA!

Tomorrow I’m leaving for Spain! I can’t believe it’s finally here! I have a layover in NYC where I switch airports from LaGuardia to JFK, which I’m dreading, but other than that I’m really excited. I skyped with the previous aupair of my host family today for over an hour which actually took away a lot of the nerves I was feeling about many things. There’s still a lot of things I really don’t have organized at all, but I learned with traveling you can only plan so much. Planning every detail is never going to work and can actually end up being really frustrating when it doesn’t go according to plan. Lindsay and I learned that early on during our Eurotrip in Ireland with bus tickets. But if I did have 3 wishes prior to going, this would be them:

Wish 1: If there is one major thing I wish I had figured out, it would be my cell phone. AT&T wouldn’t unlock it because it is under contract until November which basically means I can’t buy an international SIM card and put it in my phone. So, I’m just going to take my iPhone and see if I can get it unlocked in Spain. If not, I’ll just buy a cheap pay as you go flip phone and use my iPhone when I have wifi.

Wish 2: I also wish the program I was teaching English through had more information. I kind of expected this going in because I read a bunch of stuff online about it being pretty disorganized, but I would like to know my teaching schedule and when/where our orientation is. I’m only supposed to be teaching 12 hours a week, but I’m teaching in a small town outside Bilbao which is about 40 minutes by bus. I’m hoping to only teach 3-4 days a week so I don’t have to make the commute as much.

Wish 3: Be fluent in Spanish. The struggle is going to be real in Spain with my sub-par Spanish speaking abilities….LOL. No hablo español muy bien….

Other than those minor (okay…major details), I feel pretty prepared! I’m ready and excited to take on this adventure! VOY A ESPAÑA!  

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