Genevieve moved to Spain to teach English after the regular 9-5 life made her realize she needed an adventure! This is her first year working as an auxiliar de conversación in Madrid:
1. Where are you from?
I’m from Missoula, Montana in the States!
2. What made you decide to be an Auxiliar de Conversación?
After I graduated college, I felt like something was missing. I knew I had always wanted to travel, but the opportunity to study abroad never really came up for me, so instead I decided to work. My internship rolled into a full time job after graduation, but I still regretted not traveling more. I began to do some research on how I could live and work abroad and I found that teaching English is a great way to do just that! After stumbling upon a lot of different blogs discussing how to move abroad, I found the Auxiliar de Conversación program and I knew it sounded like something I could do!
3. Which program hired you?
It’s funny because a lot of the blogs I initially found were negative towards the government’s ministry program, so initially I wanted to stay away from that. I applied to BEDA and was rejected fairly quickly which was a huge upset to me. I met all of their qualifications for an “ideal candidate” but I didn’t really have a lot of teaching experience or qualifications at the time. BEDA is very selective with their placements. So after that, I applied straight through the government and was accepted! It actually worked out for the best for me. Through the ministry, I get paid more per hour and I have more time off!
4. What region are you placed in?
I am placed in Madrid! Madrid was my first choice. Through the ministry, you have three categories of all of the regions and you select one region per category. Madrid was my first choice because you work the most (16 hours/week vs 12 hours/week) and get paid the most (€1000/month instead of €700/month). Madrid is also well connected for travel around the rest of Europe which is wonderful! Can’t beat those cheap flights!
5. Is this your first time in Spain?
Yes! I have always wanted to visit Spain, but it was just always a little too expensive for my budget. I’m so happy I decided to move to Spain. It’s been great for improving my Spanish and I’ve made a ton of wonderful friends.
6. What grades do you teach?
In the application for the ministry, you select your preference for teaching either elementary school or high school. I chose elementary school because I love working with children. In fact, most auxiliares end up working in elementary school because there are more bilingual elementary schools than high schools. When I arrived at my school for the first day, the auxiliares coordinator let us choose our grades. I chose to work with 3rd and 4th graders and I love it!
7. Have you worked with children in education in the past?
Not too much! My schooling background is in marketing and media arts. Before coming to Spain, I worked in advertising, so this is definitely a huge change! After I applied to the program, however, I did decide to get some teaching practice. I signed up to teach English online to Chinese students and I am still working there as well! You can read more about my experiences with online teaching on my blog!
8. What surprises you the most about the Spanish education system?
I would say there’s a lot that is different about the Spanish education system. First, I was surprised to learn they even had bilingual public schools! I think that is amazing and I commend them for that. On the other hand, I was a bit surprised to see the lack of respect that the students have for their teachers here. They call their teachers by their first name instead of Mrs. So-and-so which is a bit odd to me. They have no problem talking in class and being disruptive. When the teacher does yell at them, they seem more annoyed than ashamed which is crazy to me!
9. What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is working with the kids! As an auxiliar, we work shorter hours and are not expected to do a lot of lesson planning. We are there to facilitate English in the classrooms which is a blast. The kids love talking to me about my life back home and my family and of course, Pokémon! It’s a lot of fun to be able to relate to the kids to get them excited about speaking a foreign language.
10. What is your least favorite part of the job?
There are definitely times where the kids misbehave in the classroom. Luckily, we are not expected to handle discipline nor are we allowed to be left alone with the classroom so I don’t have to handle it too much. Still, it’s frustrating when you’re trying to do a lesson and Javier and Juan won’t stop talking and pulling on Laura’s hair! Or using their rulers as lightsabers. Or dropping their marbles on the floor… You get the idea.
11. What is your favorite word or phrase your students use?
That’s a tough one! I always find it a bit cute when my little students call each other “tío” or “tía” lol. I hear a lot of “No veo!” when I’m standing in front of the blackboard trying to write… They’re always asking me how to translate “Eres tonto!” and I usually tell them something like, “You’re sweet!” just to listen to them compliment each other when they get mad. That’s been pretty cute to watch!
12. What is your favorite part of living in Spain?
I have a lot of love for Spain! I’ve always studied Spanish, so learning the language better has been a blast. I enjoy understanding more and more each day! I also love the lifestyle here. People in Spain are so laid back. It takes some getting used to at first! If you make plans for them to show up at 8pm, you’ll be lucky to see them before 9pm! I’m also not quite used to the staying out all night thing, but I’m slowly adjusting!! I’m learning to not take life so seriously here. It’s about enjoying yourself and the company of your friends rather than making money and buying expensive things. I also love how easy it is to travel in Europe in general!
13. What are your plans after your year as an auxiliar?
This is my first year as an auxiliar, so I’m keeping my options open! As of right now, I’m leaning towards renewing for another year. I plan on either staying in Madrid or switching to somewhere more exotic like the Canary or Balearic Islands for a year! After that, I’m not sure. If I love it, maybe I’ll continue to renew. Otherwise I hope to go back to the U.S. and use my newly acquired language skills to reach more people in marketing or advertising!
14. What advice would you give a prospective auxiliar?
Apply! Why not? If you hate it, you can always go back to the States (or Canada, Australia, England, New Zealand). It’s not a bad gig if you’ve always considered living and working abroad. It’s a great way to improve your Spanish, meet new people, and experience a new culture! Your life back home isn’t going anywhere. We only get so much time on this Earth so experience as much of it as you can! Who knows? You might just love it!
¡Mil gracias, Genevieve!
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!