Wondering what it’s really like being an Auxiliar de Conversacion and what it takes to become one? This is the guide you've been looking for!
As a single female in her late 30s, assumptions about how and why I landed in Andalusia teaching English part-time as a Spanish Auxiliar happen frequently and are often accompanied by curious intonation. And although my personal travel journey is a unique story, my desire to live abroad while experiencing another culture and making a difference is far more relatable.
The content of this blog post will provide answers to your various questions of this remarkable assistant teaching position and shed some light on the qualifications for application. Along the way I’ll share some helpful tips, a bit more about my story, and dive into how to unlock your best life abroad in Spain and the Spanish Canary Islands.
What it’s like being a Spanish Auxiliar
As an Auxiliares de Conversación, the formal title of this position funded by the Spanish Government, my life at the time this article is published is spent disfrutando (enjoying) the Andalusian sun and olive-scented breezes of summer. During the academic year, however, my days are spent co-teaching bilingual classes at my assigned institute.
Being an Auxiliar de Conversacion in Spain means being adaptable and willing to teach the English language to children in primary or secondary level schools across various subjects. These subjects can include: biology, P.E., physics, and math, in addition to English.
Avoid making my mistake of assuming that because I am teaching English, that I would be doing so strictly within English language classes. Not true! It's a fun part of the job though, being able to teach the students English in a more natural way throughout their day, instead of in a 30-minute class stuck staring at an English language book.
An Auxiliar is contracted from October 1-May 31st each academic year. Pay is determined by placement, less pay for rural placements vs. higher pay in cities to offset living expenses (which by the way, are not paid). And although responsibilities and expectations for participation vary by location, each Aux is given a work schedule for four days totaling 12 (sometimes 16) hours per week.
As a freelance blog writer and traveler the part-time hours of this position along with living in Spain were some of the most appealing elements of being a Spanish Auxiliar.
Spain’s location in Europe also serves as a genius geographical jump-off point for my wanderlust. Being applauded into classrooms, legitimately spoiled by savory traditional foods, and receiving an abundance of homemade gifts are the unexpected, but humbly welcomed cream-cheese-flavored icing on my humanity-driven cake.
So what does it take to be an Auxiliar?
In one word, patience. Lots of patience.
A little Spanish doesn’t hurt either.
Like any job, however, there is an application process that requires a few prerequisites. Throw in the fact that the position is being handled by the government, and well, you can begin to understand the need for my aforementioned word of choice.
Let it be known that at the time this blog was published, there is no formal teaching experience required to apply as a Spanish Auxiliar. It goes without saying, obviously, that having valid experience (or at least a TEFL certification) provides a slight edge.
Another teaching program in Spain is the BEDA program. You can compare and contrast the two programs before making any decisions, or if you're unsure which would be the best fit, go ahead and apply to both and make your decision afterwards! This is what most people choose to do as they don't really mind how they're able to live and work in Spain, so long as it happens!
Personally, I had no formal teaching education when I applied. I did, however, have experience in training and development, gained exposure to teaching and facilitating children (and adults) during my time serving in the U.S. Peace Corps, and am TEFL certified, which I did online.
There’s also a first come, first serve approach to acceptance to the Auxiliares de Conversacion program and a limited window of time for applying (more on this below).
The later you wait to submit the necessary documents, the longer it will take to hear back, and the less likely you are to get highly sought after locations for placement (such as Andalusia or Madrid). This isn't meant to worry you, it's more so you're aware that if you're interested in working as an Auxiliar, plan accordingly so you're sure to apply as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of getting your dream location.
The requirements to become an Auxiliar:
- 4-year college degree (or a senior in their 4th year)
- 18+ years of age or older
- From a native English speaking country (with a valid passport)
- English or French as your first language
- Good physical and mental health (a medical clearance is required for the visa application, which comes after acceptance)
- Clean criminal background check (another requirement for the visa)
Now that you know whether or not you’re eligible for the position, you are free to begin gathering what will seem like your entire life on paper. Remember, all of these documents will be submitted digitally so I highly recommend having access to a scanner. There is a digital work around for this for those of us that are nomadic in nature; an application called TinyScanner. You can take photographs with your phone and have them emailed to you in PDF format and save them for future use. You’re welcome!
Whether you go for this job or not, let this serve as a nice reminder to digitalize all documents like the ones above to have with you on your travels. You never know when a job could pop up while you're abroad!
Here is a list of the necessary paperwork to apply:
- A color copy of the main page of your passport that shows your signature
- A copy of your college transcripts and/or diploma
- A signed and dated Statement of Purpose, which is basically a cover letter clearly stating your why (this can be in English or Spanish)
- A signed and dated letter of recommendation (some have been asked to submit two of these) from a colleague (request this be delivered electronically and on a formal letterhead if coming from an organization)
It may sound like a lot, but it’s truly not. Plus having these documents in a digital format only serves to be beneficial to anyone living abroad. Side note, be sure your signature on all documents submitted matches the signature on the passport being submitted. If it is mismatched, they may ask you to resubmit the documents, which will postpone your overall acceptance.
So what’s next? Actually applying!
The 6 Steps of the Application Process
There are five formal steps to the application process to be a Spanish Auxiliar: Inscrita, Registrada, Admitida, Adjudicado/Candidato seleccionado, and Aceptada. You might be surprised (and/or overwhelmed) that the steps are in Spanish but do keep in mind you're trying to move to Spain so the sooner you get used to your brain thinking in 2 languages, the better! It isn’t until the final step that you can actually bank on being part of the program (visa acceptance depending).
When I originally applied for this position back in January of 2018, it wasn’t until mid-June that the final stamp of approval was secured. My Adjudicado rolled into my inbox mid-May and my formal placement (town and school(s)) in June.
Remember our fun word from earlier? Patience. It’s a true virtue in this regard.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of each step of the application process.
Step 1. INSCRITA
The program is first come first serve and warrants upwards of 3,000 applicants. Though a cap has been rumored to exist, the actual maximum applicants number changes each year so I wouldn't focus too much on this number.
The inscrita is the number assigned to you and your application. Without this number, you can't skip to any other steps for the application process.
The lower your number, the higher chances of getting the placement you requested since the numbers are given out on a first come, first serve basis starting with 1. Receiving a higher inscrita doesn’t mean you won’t get your requested placement, it just makes it less likely. Further on this point, a higher number does not mean you won't get a placement, so don’t panic.
How to get your Inscrita
To receive your inscrita number, you must fill in your basic information, upload your CV (European for resume), and choose which region you’d like to be placed all via PROFEX. This is the digital system used by the Spanish Government where all documents and status reports will be delivered.
This website is in Spanish, so use Google Chrome to be able to translate the page to English (on Windows right click-->translate to English) in order to be sure you’re following the steps provided. This website can be a bit tricky so it will behoove you to lean on your patience here once more.
For school placements, you can choose to work with children (primary school) or teenagers (secondary school) and decide whether you’d like to be placed in a rural area (small town) or an urban (big city) area.
To select a region, choose your top three choices from six available regions, which are divided into three groups:
- Group A: Asturias, Ceuta y Melilla, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, País Vasco
- Group B: Aragón, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia, Islas Canarias
- Group C: Andalucía, Castilla y León, Islas Baleares, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia
Once all of this is completed, you will receive an email with your assigned inscrita number.
Now that you have selected the region and filled in your basic personal information to receive your inscrita number, it is required that you return to PROFEX to upload all of the aforementioned documents: transcripts, letter of rec, etc.
Please note, that's its been brought to my attention that Valenica and Murcia have had issues paying the teachers on time. This is not an issue with the entire program but seems to vary region by region. Keep this in mind when choosing your group.
Step 2. REGISTRADA
To get to the registrada (registered) stage, you will need to snail-mail a printed PDF version of your application form, which is emailed to you with the inscrita from PROFEX, and the signed and dated copy of your application checklist, also available in PROFEX.
There will be a manual available with a list of the appropriate contact(s) for the Spanish consulate in your state (or region) and their mailing address. This is who you'll actually get your visa from so it's important you double check where you'll need to send your paperwork in or in some cases will need to have a meeting in person.
Step 3. ADMITIDA
After all of your paperwork has been reviewed, you’ll be admitted! This status change will be visible in PROFEX (and likely emailed to you) and means that all of your paperwork was done correctly. There's still a few hurdles for you to jump over for it to be official but it's time for a little celebratory dance.
Congratulations for making it this far in the process! You’re that much closer to Spanish living as an Auxiliar.
Step 4. ADJUDICADA/CANDIDATO SELECCIONADO
After waiting, waiting, and even more waiting, you will finally receive your regional placement in your email.
You then have seven days to accept or decline your offer to work in the program. I realize this can feel like a short time period but it should be an exciting one.
Placements start in early May, beginning with second year renewals and then first year Auxs in order of their inscrita number.
If you choose to decline, your placement will be offered to the next inscrita number and you will need to wait for the next year to reapply.
It's not guaranteed that you receive your dream placement, you might instead get placed in a nearby city or town, or somewhere you've never even heard of before. I highly suggest you take what you get. While that might not sound like a good plan to you, you might just fall in love with a place that was never previously on your radar.
Step 5. ACEPTADA
If you’ve accepted your offer, your status in PROFEX will flip to aceptada. Which means, CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE GOING TO BE A SPANISH AUXILIAR!
Step 6. CARTA DE NOMBRAMIENTO
The “carta” is the letter received (via email) that lists the specific city or pueblo (town) you’ll be placed in and the school(s) that has been assigned. This document will serve as a golden ticket. The carta includes the assigned school’s email and address and I strongly recommend reaching out to the school via email and taking a walk around using Google Maps street view. Get acquainted even from afar.
Now the fun part begins, looking for housing, packing and the most fun part of all (note the sarcasm here) the visa application.
It’s important to note that all of the fees incurred for the visa application fall on the applicant and vary depending on the Spanish consulate in your country or region. There is no refund or rebates offered.
A quick Google search will reveal several existing (and detailed) blogs written about the visa application process for Spanish Auxiliars. Keep in mind, however, that the Junta (Education Department of the Spanish Government) will be sending more detailed information to you once you reach the final acceptance stage.
It can be beneficial to do some due diligence by researching where the Spanish Consulate near you is located and what their website states about what is required for the visa. Also, don't hesitate to email or call the embassy or consulate near you to ask for the exact steps of the visa process. It won't take much time for you to reach out but it will save you a headache later.
Further, all official documents must be dated within 60-90 days of the appointment date. I wouldn’t recommend pressing the green button on gathering any of the documents necessary until you have secured an appointment, which you cannot do without having your Carta.
Once your visa is good to go, get ready for one life-altering experience living your best life abroad in Spain.
Unlocking your best life as a Spanish Auxiliar
Living and working in Spain has been a true joy. This culture is rich in history, the people are passionate about tradition, and the food… goodness me, the food!
Understand the cost of living
But the most common question floating around those preparing to move to Spain as an Auxiliar is how much are living expenses. Personally I dislike this question with a passion. I’ll tell you why: It’s far too individual.
My reply is typically the same and rooted in the most important fundamental truth; Spanish living is cheaper than living in the US. The concept of needing a budget, however, doesn’t evaporate as a result.
As an Auxiliar your salary is predetermined by the region for which you are accepted. With proper budgeting, it is completely feasible to live off of this part time salary if one simply plans accordingly.
Get a roommate
Join the Facebook chat groups by searching “Spanish Auxiliar” and the academic school year you’ve been accepted to teach to network with other Auxiliars in your region and province. Doing so also sheds some light on whom you will be surrounded by for the next eight months to a year. As a result of doing so, I was able to locate and befriend the outgoing Auxiliar from my assigned school, who in turn helped me locate housing, gave me fun facts about my town, and understand what to expect from it.
This network group is large, but useful. Search for the Auxiliar program in the town of your assignment for even more filtered results. Perhaps another Auxiliar new to Spain (or that specific town) will be looking for a roommate to help offset living expenses.
I highly recommend this option for any first year Auxiliar as adjusting to foreign currency, pricing of items, and adapting to a new environment can be easier if not done alone.
Have some savings
Do not arrive in Spain broke.
Do not arrive without Euros for that matter.
If your placement is a rural town the chances of you having a location to exchange USD to Euros will be slim to none. Walking into a bank to request this service without a valid bank account will more often than not get you nowhere. Further, asking a local to do so is actually asking them to incur a heavy exchange tax. So be prepared.
Arrive with a hefty savings account to help get you settled - the first paycheck will not arrive until Nov - and apply the ideals of a minimalist approach to living and you’ll be fine.
Petition for private lessons
A great way to offset living expenses is by establishing private English lessons (think a private tutor). It's a brilliant way of setting yourself up for success, as well.
Lessons should always be held outside of your assigned work schedule. These sessions are paid in cash, which in turn can be used to pay for a cell phone provider, groceries, or that fun day trip on the weekend to a neighboring cave or whatever you choose. Be smart with your funds and they can work for you to help unlock your best Spanish-living life.
Some Auxiliars chose to use private lessons as a means of exchange. Meaning one private lesson in English in exchange for one private lesson in Spanish. This is a great way to meet locals and learn Spanish.
This is an amazing way to get integrated into your community and to make local friends. You can register with a popular website that allows you to build a teaching profile and lets people in need of a tutor come to you. Or you can make flyers to hang around your school to warrant interest as well.
Now you have a solid understanding of what it’s like being a Spanish Auxiliar, what it takes to be eligible and apply, and some fun facts about how to unlock your best life abroad teaching part time. The only thing that’s really left to do is to get you started!
Applications open early each year, will you be applying?
If you find you have interest in other opportunities to live and work abroad don’t hesitate to review the A Way Abroad site for awesome insights into being an expat and how to find jobs to make being an expat a reality for you.