Auxiliar Interview: Alex of Backpacking Brunette

Alex is an ESL teacher who worked as a language assistant in Spain and now lives in Mexico! She is a fellow VIPKID teacher who loves travel, different cultures, and of course, Jamón Ibérico! 

Jamón iberico, you will be missed.

1. Where are you from?

I’m from St. Joseph, Michigan, which is a small town on Lake Michigan. It’s two hours east of Chicago and three hours west of Detroit. 

2. What made you decide to be an Auxiliar de Conversación?

Starting in September 2014, I spent three months in Spain as an au pair. The family I worked for lived just outside of Madrid. After taking the kids to school in the morning, I would take the bus into the city and just fell in love with it. Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn’t able to procure a visa to extend my stay. I said goodbye to Madrid in November 2014 but promised myself I would return. While I was there, I made some friends who were working as auxiliares. The program sounded like the answer to all of my problems. A legal way to live and work in Spain?! Count me in!

3. Was your au pair experience your first time in Spain?

When I arrived to Spain in September 2015, it was actually my third time in Spain. In addition to my time as an au pair, I spent two weeks traveling around Spain as part of a post-college graduation backpacking trip.

4. Which program hired you?

I was hired by the North American Language and Culture Assistants program. It was the only program to which I applied. 

Celebrating Halloween with the first graders!

5. What region were you placed in?

I was placed in Madrid, which was my first choice. It was the perfect region for me because I loved the experience of living in a big city. Also, with it being so centrally-located and having the largest airport in the country, it was ideal for travel.

6. What grades did you teach?

I worked in two primary schools. I mainly taught first and second grade but also worked with preschool, third grade and sixth grade. 

7. What was your experience working with children in the past?

I had worked as a babysitter, nanny and au pair but had no actual teaching experience.

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

Its rigidness. I felt like there were very few opportunities for the children to be creative. Most everything was by the book.

The last day of the 2015-16 school year with the bilingual program coordinator, Alba. She taught me so much about teaching!

9. What was your favorite part of the job?

The kids. I had no idea I would like teaching this much. In fact, I took the position expecting to hate it. 

10. What was your least favorite part of the job?

Commuting. My first year, I left at 7:15 a.m. and didn’t get to school until 9 a.m. Even though school got out at 2 p.m., I usually wasn’t home until at least 5:30 p.m.

11. What was your favorite word or phrase your students used?

¿Me saco los mocos? So much funnier than “Can I blow my nose?”!

Sharing the story of Thanksgiving with the first graders.

12. How many years did you work as an auxiliar?

I did the program for two years, and although I could have renewed for a third year, I decided it was time to try something new. I moved to Mexico in October to continue teaching English, speaking Spanish and traveling!

13. What was your favorite part of living in Spain?

My favorite part of living in Spain was traveling. My second year, I really focused on travel within Spain. I got ore bang for my buck, and I explored some amazing cities. When it comes to culture, history, sights and food, Spain has it all!

My boyfriend, Taylor, and me right after we signed on our apartment. When we walked out our front door, we had a view of La Almudena (pictured behind us).

14. What advice would you give a prospective auxiliar?

Find a hobby. Before you get to Spain, think about something you’ve always wanted to do but have put off because you didn’t have the time. Do you want to learn how to paint? Kick-box? Would you like to read a book a week? Write a novel? Auxiliares only work part-time, so I advise prospective auxiliars to find meaningful ways to round out their schedule. By getting involved, you’ll make connections and fend off home-sicknesses. During my two years, I blogged, had an internship, taught English online, started a book club and trained for two half marathons. Even with all that, I still had plenty of time for vino tinto and traveling. 

¡Mil gracias, Alex!

Read Alex’s blog, Backpacking Brunette, for more of her adventures!

You can also follow her on Instagram

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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