Auxiliares de Conversación, Language and Culture Assistants in Spain Survival Guide
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An Auxiliares de Conversación or Language and Culture Assistants, in this context, are non-Spanish nationals of American, Australian, Austrian, Belgian, British, Canadian, Chinese, Dutch, Filipino, German, Italian, Irish, Luxembourgian, New Zealnd, or Portuguese nationality, who go to a region of Spain to teach his or her native language at a primary, secondary, or official language school for eight months as part of a program run by the Spanish Ministry of Education.
This guidebook is intended to help anyone who is entertaining the idea of applying, applying, has applied, participating, or has participated in the Language and Culture Assistant program in Spain. Currently much of the information will be geared towards those assistants from North America, but because this is a Wiki, it is our hope that it will grow to serve those assistants from everywhere and become more informative over time and even multi-lingual.
This guidebook will not only help to prepare you for your eight month Spanish experience but will also give suggestions about traveling on a budget while in Europe, give advice and resources about teach and also learning one of the fifteen spoken or signed languages in Spain.
Contribution and Updating
In order for this to become the best resource to all future, present, and past Language and Culture Assistants, we will need you to contribute your wealth and knowledge from your personal experiences with the program. The best way to contribute is to register a screen name on the Wikimedia Foundation network (Wikibooks, Wikiversity, Wikipedia) and to start editing pages; correcting errors and updating information when needed to stay up-to-date.
To create an account click "Log in / create account" at the top right.
Click "create account" and fill out the necessary information and you should then be registered!
To edit a page, just point your browser to that page, log in, and then click the "edit this page" tab at the top!
The Language and Culture Assistants Program gives the opportunity to anyone of American, Australian, Austrian, Belgian, British, Canadian, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Irish, Luxembourgian, New Zealnd, Philippine or Portuguese nationality, to go to Spain for eight months and teach their own native language.
The Assistants will have the opportunity to learn about the Spanish language and culture and use their experience upon their return to their home country, thus developing cultural understanding between the citizens of Spain and the home countries.
The program provides Spanish students and teachers of English an opportunity to broaden and increase their knowledge of the English language and other cultures through interaction with native speakers.
The Autonomous Regions will assign all candidates, individually, to their city and elementary or secondary school. One may not choose their city. The MEPSYD and some of the Regional Education Authorities will organize orientation seminars at the beginning of the school year.
North American Candidates
In order to qualify to be a candidate to be awarded a grant to teach in Spain for eight months, North American candidates must hold a U.S. or Canadian passport. They must be either a junior or senior in a university undergraduate program or have already graduated with a B.A. or B.S. (it is not specified in what the degree has to be, though one in Spanish, linguistics, or a foreign language is maybe preferred). Apart from being a North American citizen and having pursued a university degree, candidates must be in good physical and mental health and have a functional level of Spanish. A functional level of Spanish is not really specified by the Ministry of Education but has been said by assistants that some people arrive in Spain with a very basic level of Spanish.
Grantees will work as English language assistant teachers, under the supervision and guidance of a classroom teacher in K-12 schools and Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas (state-run language schools) throughout Spain. Grantees will teach 12-16 periods per week. Most assistants will work no more than 12 hours and will have up to three hours of prep time a week for their classes. The assistant and the classroom teacher (or the school representatives) may agree upon other activities and responsibilities in which they should be involved, including attending faculty meetings, making class presentations and participating in extra-curricular activities such as workshops, field trips, student exchanges, music and theater performances, or sports events.
Conditions of the Grant
If you are indeed awarded a grant to teach in Spain, you must accept the region that was given to you. If you would like to change regions you will have to wait the following year and apply again. The grant is an eight month contract with the Ministry of Education which generally runs from the beginning of October until the end of May. This past year, assistants working in the region of Madrid reported having a 9-month contract, from the beginning of October 2010 to the end of June 2011.
Each assistant is paid at least €700.00 a month. No taxes are due because it is technically considered a grant for continuing education instead of income. Assistants will hold a student visa. Assistants in Madrid and Barcelona generally earn more (up to 1000 euros per month) to compensate for the higher costs of living in these areas, but they will likely be required to work more hours per week (16 instead of 12).
In most cases you must find your own housing, transportation to, from, and within Spain. You are completely independent while in Spain but generally will be provided a contact at your school who can answer questions regarding housing, transportation and any other issues that come up.
You will be able to take advantage of the public health care system in Spain and you will be given medical insurance by the government to cover you while you are living in Spain for the eight months. There are teacher orientations for all assistants at the beginning of the year, generally at the end of September or beginning of October. Depending on where you are located in Spain, your orientation may be located in Madrid or in your own region (i.e. Andalucía), or in some cases your own province (i.e. Ciudad Real, which is located in the region of Castilla la Mancha). To receive the grant you must apply for a student visa at your nearest consulate before coming to Spain. (Information on the consulates can be found in the "preparation" chapter).
Things to Think About
Before you apply you may want to think about some things, especially if you have never lived abroad!
1. Do you really want to do this? There are people who apply for this program and end up changing their mind either before they get to Spain or well after they are already in Spain. Many people apply for this position and would love to have a guaranteed spot. Do not apply for the grant if you aren't going to use it!
2. Can you really stay away from all of your friends and family for eight months without seeing them? Some people don't realize how much their friends and family really mean to them until they go away. Don't let the thought of this scare you from doing the program, if anything, it can only make your bonds with those you love stronger!
3. Are you ready to be an ambassador for your country? No matter where you are in the world, people are watching you and judging you and your country by your actions. Americans are some of the most scrutinized people in the world. Are you prepared to share your background and ideas with others to help promote cultural understanding?
4. Are you financially capable and prepared for this program? This program puts a big strain on people financially as they have to get a flight to Spain and then upon arrival they must pay up to three months rent sometimes, as well as buy necessities that they will need for the year. One could spend close to $3,000.00/$4.000.00 in the first month (including plane tickets, etc.). Make sure you are prepared for unexpected expenses as you may not receive that first pay check until the end of November or even December!
5. Are you able to live on a tight budget? Even in regions where the cost of living is relatively low, such as the south of Spain, 700 euros per month is still not much. While it is possible to live on this much, you will have to closely monitor your expenditures, and may have to find alternate ways to supplement your income. Keep in mind that in many areas of Spain, it is possible to rent a room in a shared apartment for just 100-200 euros per month, and the cost of food and drinks is also likely lower than what you are used to, depending on where you are from in the US. However, prices for things like clothes and other shopping is comparable or higher than in the US, so you will not be able to go on many shopping sprees with your stipend. It is possible to cover basic housing, food and other living expenses, but not necessarily comfortable, to live on such a small stipend, and you definitely won't be able to live a lavish lifestyle.
Auxiliares de Conversacion en Madrid -- BEDA Program Language Assistants Madrid (Facbook)
North American Language and Culture Assistants Page
Spanish Ministry of Education (Public schools)
ASK AUXILIARES - Guide for Auxiliares in Guipuzcoa, Basque Country
- All this information can be found by going to: http://www.educacion.es/exterior/usa/en/programs/us_assistants/default.shtml#