Lindsey is a former language assistant who has worked in both Andalucía and Madrid with the Ministry program. Here is what she thought about her time living and working in Spain:
1. Where are you from?
I’m from Nashville, Tennessee (currently living in the Miami, Florida area for 4 years).
2. What made you decide to be an auxiliar de conversación?
To improve my Spanish and live the “European Lifestyle.”
3. Which program hired you?
The Ministry of Education Program.
4. What region were you placed in?
2007-2009 Andalucía – Huelva
2016-2017 Madrid (didn’t stay for the 2017 semester though :/)
5. Was the auxiliar program your first time in Spain?
No, I studied abroad one semester prior in 2006.
6. What grades did you teach?
Secondary (middle + high) both times.
7. Had you worked with children in education in the past?
Not really before 2007, but between my two experiences I became an elementary ESL teacher.
8. What surprised you the most about the Spanish education system?
The difference between regions. Andalucía was definitely more laid back. Madrid is definitely more strict. It could have been the schools and not a regional thing.
Also, as a certified teacher in the USA, in Spain it seemed like there was a lot less oversight on the teachers and their planning versus in America. In the USA, most schools have you upload your lesson plans online, lesson objectives, types of assessments, etc. for a week of lessons. In Spain, I didn’t see this type of planning or structure. Classrooms are generally free of decorations (in high school, because teachers move from class to class and students stay in the same room generally).
In general, Spain education/curriculum seemed less organized, but that could have just been me. One night before a class, a teacher told me she would be out and asked me to create a PowerPoint on the election process in the USA. The night before? She didn’t have any backup plans and wanted me to spend hours (on a holiday) to come up with something. Fortunately, I got something from another teacher.
Also, I remember that at one high school we collected coins from students to make copies of worksheets. They also kept track of how many copies we made. Spain has a much smaller education budget and with the weak economy, you will see even the nicer schools lacking proper equipment, materials and resources for their students. However, teachers seemed equally stressed as American teachers when it came to teaching/school culture.
9. What was your favorite part of the job?
Living the Spanish life. The job was just my foot in the door to experience the Spanish lifestyle, which is undoubtably the best part about Spain. I’m not in love with teaching, but I do enjoy socializing with the teachers.
10. What was your least favorite part of the job?
Working all day without a normal lunch break and my second director would yell at me a lot, even in the bathroom. I was scared when I saw her coming down the hall. She treated the auxiliares like students and was disrespectful, so I quit after a few weeks unfortunately. However, it was my 3rd year to do the program and I felt it was time to move on.
11. What is your favorite part of living in Spain?
I like Andalucía, tapas, sangria, architecture, chill vibes and flamenco music. I like living in small towns (150,000 or less) and walking everywhere within 10-15 minutes to see my friends, eat, go shopping. Life is good. I went back to visit a town I lived in over 10 years ago and it was funny – I saw the same people in the street, shopping, and out at bars that I saw 10 years ago! And they looked about the same. This was in Andalucía, my favorite region! 🙂
12. What are your post auxiliar plans?
I got a masters in Education, but quickly left that as teaching in the USA is much different (i.e. more boring, too much structure for me) than Spain and the pay isn’t enough to get ahead if you’re single. Recommendation, don’t go into teaching unless you’re married or are really passionate about it, otherwise it will be a struggle. Now, I’m looking into a new career in business/social media.
13. What advice would you give a prospective auxiliar?
If you’ve ever lived abroad, Spain is definitely the country to go to! Having some background with the Spanish language helps (to make friends with the locals). Read up on different regions before applying to decide what is best for you. Check out Youtube videos of previous language assistants/auxiliares to hear firsthand about their experiences. Read blogs like this one for advice.
Go when you’re young without debt (20s) and take double the amount of money and half the amount of clothes – you won’t wear most of the clothes you brought anyway because you will want to buy all the cool Spanish fashions! Haha (but it’s true!)
And put yourself out there and practice as much Spanish as you can!! Make all the mistakes you can (that’s how you become an expert and have a lot of funny stories to tell!). Savor every moment, they have been some of the best in my life!!
Thank you, Lindsey!
Lindsey also has a Youtube channel about her experiences living in Spain. Check it out here: Lindsey LaVida
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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