Kirsten is a former language assistant from the UK and has some good advice for prospective auxiliars. Here’s what she thinks of her experience in Spain:
1. Where are you from?
2. What made you decide to be an Auxiliar de Conversación?
My degree required I spend a year abroad, and the options were to be an Auxiliar, to find my own work placement or to go to a university abroad. I was (at the time) considering teaching as a career, and I felt like I needed a break from university lectures! The salary was also appealing for a student who is broke 99% of the time.
3. Which program hired you?
I worked via the British Council Language Assistant scheme.
4. What region were you placed in?
I was in a tiny little pueblo in Soria, in Castilla y León.
5. Was this experience your first time in Spain?
6. What grades did you teach?
I was in a primary school, and I worked with children in all years of the school from the equivalent of Reception age right up to those in their last year of primary.
7. Had you worked with children in education in the past?
I had done a 10 week placement in a secondary school in England before, so I had some previous experience in a school, but never with such young pupils.
8. What surprised you the most about the Spanish education system?
Coming from a private school background, I was accustomed to having to address teachers as ‘Sir’/’Miss’, and stand up when they entered classrooms, etcetera. Spain was a huge contrast because it was so much more relaxed – I got to go to work in jeans and trainers, and students called teachers by their first name. The lack of uniform was odd to me, it was like a constant Mufti day!
9. What was your favorite part of the job?
The pupils’ excitement at having a foreigner in their classroom made me laugh! It was like being a minor celebrity in my town, I couldn’t even go get milk from the shop without having one of my students run up to me. The tiny ones were particularly cute.
10. What was your least favorite part of the job?
Having to mark the homework! Admittedly I was the one who set it, so I guess it was only fair I marked it, but it still wasn’t the most fun way to spend an evening.
11. What was your favorite word or phrase your students used?
Not sure that’s repeatable – a few of my older students had quite a mouth on them…
12. What was your favorite part of living in Spain?
I loved the relaxed atmosphere, especially being able to drink a glass or two of wine in the afternoon with no judgement… I also travelled a lot, as I lived in a tiny town and wanted to see more of Spain. León was one of my favourite cities, though Madrid felt oddly like a second home. One thing I really miss from Spain is the patatas bravas from my favourite bar, they’re just not the same back here!
13. How has your experience as an auxiliar helped you in what you’re doing now?
My year abroad made me a lot more confident. I was terrified when I moved out there, but by the end I was so settled and happy out there I was genuinely a little sad at returning to the UK.
14. What advice would you give a prospective auxiliar?
If you’re considering being an auxiliar de conversación, I’d say go for it! It was an amazing experience, and working with children is a great way to improve your language skills simply because they don’t care if you can’t understand them or don’t have a great grip of Spanish, they’re happy to babble on at you anyway and you soon pick it up. The only other advice I’d have is keep on top of your paperwork (there’s a lot!) and don’t go for the very first available room you see. Have a look around, and consider doing a flat share with a native speaker, it really helps!
Thank you so much, Kirsten!
If you are a volunteer, language assistant, or English teacher abroad and would like to participate in an interview, let me know via the contact tab!
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