Auxiliar Interview: Lindsey Z.

Lindsey is a second year auxiliar de conversación and blogger based in Andalucía. Read about her experiences working and living on the Iberian Peninsula! 

Andorra la Vella, Andorra

1. Where are you from?

Columbus, Ohio, USA.

2. What made you decide to be an auxiliar de conversación? 

There were two things that really inspired me to move to Spain. The first was my study abroad experience in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. It was the first time I had left the US and was the most exhilarating, challenging, and unforgettable thing I’d done up until that point. When it came time to start thinking about what I wanted to do after graduation, I thought back to my study abroad experience and knew my traveling days weren’t over. I knew I wanted to go back to Europe, and after spending a good chunk of my life studying Spanish, I also wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, so Spain seemed like a natural choice.

My second motivation in coming here was the fact that I graduated from college in 3 years. I wasn’t exactly ready to join the 9-5 grind at the age of 20 (I had completed a bachelor’s degree and couldn’t even buy myself some champagne to celebrate it), so I thought I would take some time to travel before coming back to the US and getting a big kid job. After deciding on Spain, I came across the auxiliares program during some random googling about how I could actually live there. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue my dreams of travel while also making a difference. 

3. Which program hired you?

I went through the Ministry of Education Language and Culture Assistants program, but I also interviewed with and was accepted to Beda.

4. What region do you work in?

I’m in my second year working in Andalucía. My first year I was placed in a teeny tiny pueblo called Cantoria in the province of Almería and this year I’m working at a school in Córdoba capital. 

With 1ESO, May, 2016

5. Is teaching abroad your first experience in Spain?

I had tried to go to Spain three times before doing the auxiliares program – once in high school for a class trip I ended up not being able to afford, once in college when I toyed with the idea of studying abroad in Málaga before deciding on the program in Germany that was more tied in with my major, and once while I was actually in Germany and came thiiiisclose to booking a spontaneous flight to Sevilla one weekend before seeing reports of awful weather throughout all of western and central Europe and decided against it. Fourth time’s a charm. 

6. What grades do you teach?

I work at a high school (12-18 year olds) and teach private classes to all ages.

7. Had you worked with children in education before the auxiliar program?

I did a volunteer program in college that allowed me to go to a local elementary school once a week and teach Spanish to a fifth grade class. I unfortunately couldn’t continue with it for more than a year due to my class schedule, but it was my first experience in a teaching role and something I enjoyed more than I expected.

8. What surprises you most about the Spanish education system?

I’ll never forget my very first day of work in Spain when I saw short, baby-faced kids walking into school next to seemingly giant 18-year-olds. At that point I wasn’t aware that high school in Spain is the equivalent of 7th-12th grade (in the US), so needless to say I was confused when I saw these tiny children there. Something else that was strange to get used to is the fact that the kids stay in one room the whole day and the teachers are the ones that switch.

Christmas markets, Munich, Germany

9. What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?

My favorite part of the job is just the small moments when I see kids getting really excited about learning something new, or doing something they never thought they could. It makes me feel like I’m really making a difference and sheds some light on just how important our role is. I worked in a village of 3,500 people in the middle of a rural desert my first year and yet those kids got to work with a native speaker of arguably the most important language in the world, which was something that was really humbling to realize.

My least favorite part of the job is the fact that the teachers we work with aren’t really given any insight as to what to do with us, which can lead to major inconsistency. In some classes I just kind of sit off to the side and occasionally pronounce a word. Then in another the teacher just kind of gives me the information for that day on a flash drive and is like, “Go!” before heading to the back of the classroom to sit and grade papers. I would say that the majority of teachers I work with do utilize me well, but those outliers can be frustrating at times. 

10. What is your favorite word or phrase your students use?

Honestly, any response to “How are you?” besides the standard I’m-fine-thank-you-and-you just makes my day! To me, it shows that they’re making an effort to go beyond the textbook response. 

11. What is your favorite part of living in Spain?

My favorite part of living in Spain is without a doubt the people. The low cost of living is nice, and the weather here is way nicer than where I’m from, but ultimately it’s the people I’ve met here who have truly made my experience so wonderful. Moving halfway around the world is scary, but the vast majority of Spaniards I’ve come in contact with have been nothing less than friendly, hospitable, and welcoming. Not that I think the people from my home country aren’t any of those things, but the openness here in Spain is something I really appreciate.

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Córdoba

12. What plans do you have after being an auxiliar? 

I didn’t renew the program for this upcoming school year, but I plan to be in Spain long term. My boyfriend and I just submitted our pareja de hecho application so I’m here to stay. I hope to one day get back to doing something related to what I studied (public relations) but I realize I might have to start off doing more ESL teaching work before that happens. 

13. What advice would you give a prospective auxiliar?

Everything will be all right. I definitely did my own fair share of freaking out, and looking back I can’t believe some of the silly things I worried about. Things have a way of falling into place. 

Thank you so much, Lindsey!

Read Lindsey’s blog for more about living and working in Spain: Via Couture

You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter

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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