Updated: Apr 22, 2022
How do you become a language assistant in Spain? I interviewed Angie who moved from Canada to Spain years ago and… never left! She shares tips and thoughts on how she made the move from Canada to Spain.
The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and you guessed it – teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find opportunities?
There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share a story about becoming a language assistant in Spain with you.
If you plan to be a traveling teacher, a TESOL certification is a great way to start. I got mine through International Open Academy for just $19! Highly recommend this as a first step in your traveling teacher journey.
This week I am excited to bring you a story about Angie’s experience as a Language Assistant in Spain! Angie and I connected via Clubhouse recently and she has the most HELPFUL tips for social media, living abroad, and more in her Clubhouse Rooms and on her IG. I’m excited she can share her experience becoming a language assistant in Madrid, Spain with us today.
What inspired you to start teaching?
My inspiration to go abroad and teach originated shortly after I finished my Bachelors of Science in Canada. I was completely and utterly burnt-out and felt overwhelmed with the options for post-graduate schools and deciding what I wanted for my future. In the midst of my applications for law school, medical school, and masters, I decided to send one more application on a complete whim… for a government grant program called Auxiliares de Conversación to teach in Spain for one year!
I had always loved teaching. My mom is a primary school teacher and I used to spend my volunteer hours at her school helping out in classrooms and with the students. I also had a background of tutoring. It was something I had always loved and when I sent that application, I secretly crossed my fingers to get a positive response back.
How long did you teach and where?
I was an Auxiliar de Conversación or language assistant in Madrid, Spain for two years (2014-2016). This position entailed being a teacher’s assistant in a high school in central Madrid. My role was based on helping students develop a love for a foreign language (French) and to encourage them to speak to me so they could be more familiar with a Native speaker and the customs and traditions from my home country.
I helped in language classes but also Math, Science, History, Physical Education, Music, and anywhere else they needed me! I was often given more autonomy to lead classroom activities and create projects and tasks for my students.
After finishing my two years as an Auxiliar de Conversación, I came to Barcelona to continue my studies and have continued to work at private academies here as a private tutor. I have continued to provide private classes throughout the almost seven years that I have been in Spain (2014-now). Prior to coming to Spain, I also volunteered in a primary school as an assistant teacher and worked as a private tutor.
How did you find the opportunity to start working as a language assistant in Spain?
I originally found the opportunity simply Googling teach abroad programs in Spain. My grandfather is Spanish so I had an interest in learning more about my heritage, which is why I centered my search specifically on Spain. I then found a very helpful Facebook group called Auxiliares de Conversación en Madrid (The Original). I started connecting with past, present, and future auxiliars and learning more about the program, its requirements, and how to properly prepare for my arrival to Spain.
Were any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?
The Auxiliar de Conversación program is available in the majority of the autonomous communities in Spain (when you apply you get to set your preference for three regions).
Depending on the region, you get paid a stipend of either 700 Euros (all autonomous communities with the exception of Madrid) or 1000 euros (Madrid). This stipend covers a weekly work schedule between 12 (700 euros) and 16 (1000 euros) hours. This leaves plenty of time for language assistants to find other types of work, such as private tutoring. Keep in mind these are usually under-the-table contracts.
You also receive private healthcare throughout the entire duration of the program. The cost of living in Spain is very affordable so it is entirely possible to survive on the stipend alone. However, I do recommend finding other sources of income so as not to depend on the government grant alone, particularly because delays in payment do occur.
Were you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?
Yes! I explored over 20 different European countries while teaching and several of my friends did even more than that! Many schools give you four-day workweeks, so many language assistants have three-day weekends, which they can use to travel around Europe.
The great part about traveling within Europe is that it is so affordable that even with a small stipend, you can still permit yourself to travel around and see the places that you would like to see.
I also highly encourage all language assistants to take time to really discover Spain. The regions are all so different and unique. I do believe it’s worth dedicating the time to really explore the country you’re living in.
What were interactions with students like?
The interactions with students are usually very positive given that language assistants tend to be younger than most teachers. This provides a closeness to many of the students, which often see you as a ‘cool older friend’ than another teacher. Students are normally very curious about where you’re from, your traditions and culture, and your language. I never had any issues with my students (and I worked in a high school!).
I loved being able to share and teach about my language, culture, and background. I had the autonomy to plan projects and activities of my own, I also found it very enriching.
What is your favorite part of your teaching experiences?
Teaching abroad is one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself into another culture. Within three months of arriving in Spain, I was speaking basic Spanish and within six having full conversations with others. I lived close to my supervisor, who often invited me over for dinner and to play with her children. Furthermore, having to live, pay rent, pay bills, go grocery shopping, go to the gym, and other daily activities really means that you are forced to adapt to the new circumstances that you are living and to fully embrace the change.
The two years that I taught in Madrid were absolutely the best years of my life. I learned so much about myself and really grew as a person through my discovery of Spain, a new culture, a new language, and the quest for independence.
What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?
Don’t be afraid to take the leap it could be the best decision you ever make. Furthermore, I highly recommend becoming familiar with all the wonderful communities on Facebook to discuss teaching abroad and particular programs.
They are great resources to read about the good, the bad, and the ugly and really help you in deciding whether these programs are right for you. Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask others for advice and help. Most language assistants are more than happy to help others along the way.
You can find more specific advice and information on becoming a language assistant in Spain, living abroad, and more by reaching out to Angie on Instagram. Find more about other traveling teachers on my resource page!
Want to hear more stories of teaching in Europe? Here are some to consider: