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Top 5 Reasons Why I HATE the Auxiliar Program in Spain

auxiliar program in Spain

Why is it that my top 3 most popular posts on this blog are the ones that are the most controversial? Are you guys trying to tell me that you like my biting sarcasm and wit and when I get sassy and borderline inappropriate? Or maybe is it because you like reading something painfully honest, wait…..EVERYBODY HALT! OMG a blog being CANDID AND NEGATIVE?!?! Shocking.

ALL of us bloggers (with the exception of Will Peach) are guilty of creating a fantasy travel bubble filled with rainbows and unicorns, where our lives are literally picture perfect; where we journey around the world without a care in the world and if anything does go wrong, it ends up as a cutesy-comical-learned-my-lesson anecdote on our blog, if mentioned at all. Hey, I’m equally guilty of this. I want my blog to be a happy place, where I share the best experiences I’ve had traveling and show others how to achieve the same.

But there are three things I can’t tolerate in life: unfairness, bullshit, and mayonnaise (nothing ruins a burger or sandwich like that nasty white stuff in a jar). And if something has been nagging me for years, I’ve gotta stand up and say something! Maybe I am just on a high from the success of a recent article I wrote about how Kaplan Killed the Hopes and Dreams of 42 Bloggers. Maybe I’m just bitter and hormonal from my breakup with Spain. Either way I am about to break it down for you.

auxiliar program in Spain

I have been living in Spain for the past two years with the English teaching assistant program through the Spanish Ministry of Education (auxiliares de conversación), and you know what? IT EFFING SUCKED! Not the living in Spain bit, that was awesome, rather the program itself.

I literally have hundreds of emails, messages, tweets and comments asking me questions about working in Spain as an auxiliar, whether about visas, apartments, taxes, money or even if they should apply or not, I hear it all. And I almost always give the same answer, “yeah this program is great. I love living in Spain. Bulls. Flamenco. Paella. Sangria. Yada yada yada.” But here it is, my REAL, uncensored, unedited thoughts about coming to Spain with the auxiliar program.

AND I am going to break the cardinal blogging rule here and put HATE in the title of this post. I’ll put in all-caps for good measure. Maybe I’ll lose a few readers. I’ll probably get enough hate mail to make me want to off myself by tomorrow (seriously, you anon readers can be wicked harsh!) but I feel honor bound to share how I really feel about this program on my blog, especially since such a large part of my audience are past-present-future auxiliars. Someone needs to say it. Might as well be me. And according to my stats, this is the kind of stuff you like to read. Don’t shoot the messenger!

Just remember guys, I’m not a hater, really I’m not! If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting me, I am bubbly, blonde and happy. Just indulge me this one time on my tirade.

auxiliar program in Spain

Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why I HATE the Auxiliar Program in Spain (you know, top 5, because I can think of more than 5)

1. It’s a disorganized clusterfuck

To put it mildly. In fact all the things I hate about this program are so disorganized in my head from all my problems dealing with the disorganization with the Ministry, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll elaborate in bullet points:

  • The application process. Who actually understands it? 3 years down the road and I don’t! Don’t even get me started about renewing. What if you’re switching regions? What if you are renewing for a third year and switching regions? Where do we send the documents? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of these answers available to us on the application page? The only information we get from the Ministry are monthly newsletters in comic sans font sent every three months to half of the mailing list that don’t say anything valuable and look like they were designed by my 11 year old sister. Why are all the regions in Spain listed on the application when the program has been cut from several of them? Oh that FBI report you had to get for your application? Yeah, you have to get a whole new one for your visa because they expire and we didn’t tell you! Do we have orientation? Who gets to go? Where is it? When is it? Also, everyone is assigned a number upon submitting an application, first time renewals get placed first, then first year applications and third year renewals. Except the Ministry doesn’t always follow those rules and places people willy nilly. I can go on and on
  • Hey remember that one time thousands of people didn’t get paid for 3 months? Oh wait, that’s every year!
  • It is not unusual for ministry officials to give out conflicting information about everything, if you can get a hold of them at all. In fact, many of the schools aren’t informed about what your role as an assistant is, leaving you open to all mannars of interpretation. You could spend your year sitting at a desk in the back playing solitaire or you could be left alone in the room with 25 screaming 3 year olds. Hopefully you end up somewhere in the middle.
  • Pretty much the people who run this program don’t know what they are doing, so don’t expect clear answers. Inconsistent information is the name of the game with the auxiliar program in Spain. Get used to it. 
  • Have you read my post about how I spent over 4 months being jerked around by the guys who run this program in Madrid and why I ultimately left Spain?

The upside? You get a visa to live in Spain, which is nigh on impossible to get any other way as an American.

auxiliar program in spain

2. A total hit or miss

Your experience as an auxiliar can be a total hit-or-miss and you might not have any control over it. From my own observations, it seems applicant’s names, regional preferences, city and school type are all thrown in a giant jar, swirled around and plucked right back out. i.e., it makes no sense.

You could end up working at an amazing concertada (semi-private) modern school right in the city center with amazing goal-oriented teachers and well-behaved students. Or you might end up in a village of 5,000 people, in rural back country Spain where your students don’t know the difference between England and America, the English teacher doesn’t speak any English and you have to commute an hour to work every day. The range of possible situations you could end up with is HUGE and they will either positively or negatively impact your year, depending on how flexible and open minded you are. 

For example, this year I had an amazing schedule. I worked Monday through Thursday, 9am to noon at 2 schools in the center of Logroño. I had to take a 10 minute bus ride to get to work every day. Totally feasible. I had other friends who were placed at schools in villages over an hour away, that they not only had to commute to, they had to pay the teachers to let them ride with them to and from work, over 100 euros extra a month, and they were given schedules with huge breaks in them so they were stuck in their villages for hours without classes.

auxiliar program in spain

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I think my year would have gone a bit differently under those circumstances. My schools were generally flexible with my schedule if I wanted to travel, I could make up hours. Other schools don’t let the auxiliars miss any days or hours and some even give them schedules where you would have to work Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri. Complete hit or miss, you have no control over. 

I’ve worked with 2 teachers who really wanted to take advantage of having a native speaker in the classroom to help the kids. They understood what a unique opportunity it was to have an American there helping the kids learn English. The other 10 teachers I’ve worked with ranged from they really didn’t give a damn to they wanted to use me so they could get out of doing their job.

Be warned, some teachers will take advantage of you in the classroom. Know your role. We are assistants, not the teachers. We provide supporting material and help, but we don’t plan the lessons. We’re not supposed to be alone with students. I’ve had friends who were forced to do everything, spend hours at home planning lessons and even forced to work more hours or face having a “horrible” schedule or be complained about. I had huge problems with this my first year and getting taken advantage of in the schools. Don’t let it happen to you.

You could get paid on time every month since you start. You could go months without being paid. Unless you are a trust fund baby, I expect that would make a BIG difference in how your year goes.

The upside? You could have the best year of your life! I am a true believer that experiences are what you make of them, so even if things don’t go exactly how you’d for them to, try to focus on the positive! You get to live in Spain!

auxiliar program in Spain

Me and the lovely Liz of Liz en España and now A Midwestern Life

3. The funcionarios who work for the Ministry

Is it just me or is everyone who works for this program (from the Spanish consulates in the US to the regional coordinators to the directors in Madrid) a certified straight up d-bag?

Of all the people I’ve dealt with over the years with this program, I’ve known one, ONE nice, helpful person! And they fired her after a year!

In case you didn’t know, funcionarios are government employees in Spain, and they basically make a lot of money and can never be fired, simply put. Here is a video that explains them to a T. Ok, sweeping generalization but that’s how I feel about these guys, along with many Spaniards.

Not only do they generally have no idea what’s going on, they are also rude and unhelpful in general. I can talk to them for hours on the phone or in person and leave the conversation not knowing anything more than I did when I started! And on top of that they make you feel bad about it! I have even had them intentionally hang up on me when I was demanding to know when we would get paid in La Rioja last year, sparking my most popular post. I would go into a meeting with the program director’s to ask when we would get paid, and I would leave feeling like everything was my fault for not being ok with not being paid! WTF?!

auxiliar program in Spain

“Normally we use Christians but in times of crisis, substituting funcionarios has been very successful.” Source

They are probably so unhelpful because they aren’t informed themselves. But last time I checked in the real world in a professional job, when you don’t know something, you say, “you know what? I am not sure. Let me check and get back to you” instead of “this is so-and-so’s responsibility, go ask them” that is, if you can get a hold of anyone at all.

I have scheduled meetings with coordinators and they have shown up an hour late, most of the time they don’t answer my emails or phone calls. In fact, the only time they call me back is when I threaten to go to the US embassy or I call them directly out on not doing their job. Then I get a phone call from some official all fussy and upset by my insinuations.

For example, my first year in Córdoba, we weren’t even provided with the contact information for the regional or city coordinator. If we had a problem, we didn’t have anyone to talk to except with our schools.

If I had a euro for every time I got a runaround answer from a ministry official in Spain, I would be as rich as Iker Casillas.

The upside? You learn to take things into your own hands, I guess. Honestly, I can’t really think of an upside to this unless you miraculously end up working with amazing coordinators and directors. We’ll go back to the you get to live in Spain thing. Big upside.

auxiliar program in spain

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4. The Visa Nightmare

I call it a nightmare because every time I had to think about my experiences with the visa and NIE, I want to die. The entire paperwork process from applying for the visa, applying for a NIE, renewing your NIE, and the details of living in Spain with a student NIE could not be more stressful and complicated!

I understand that this process is not really within control of the Ministry of Education, but at the same time, it is a government sponsored program, and one of the guarantees is a NIE. I think the Ministry needs to do two things:

  • Provide a better guideline for auxiliars about how and when to apply for the visa and the NIE and how to renew it. Really, it cannot be that hard to put something together. In fact, it would be great if that was what they talked about at orientation instead of 2 hours of how the Spanish education system works in rapid-fire Spanish that I am sure half of the first years do not understand. Shouldn’t the English bilingual coordinators speak English?
  • Coordinate with the local extranjerías about the auxiliar program. They need to understand this program, what dates should be given on the NIE’s, renewals, ect. It is not that hard to go meet with them and explain so that everyone is on the same page. This would avoid so many nightmares

This all goes back to the disorganization and hit or miss. For example, some people are given papers that expire exactly one year after they submit the paperwork, so September or October of the following year. Some people are given cards that expire exactly on May 31. The rest, somewhere in the middle. It makes absolutely no sense. You could end up completely screwed like with what happened to me. If I was given the correct papers with the correct dates, I could still be in Spain right now.

It gets even more complicated when you try to renew your papers, and if you try to switch regions. Some regions will let you renew no problem. Others make you go back to America and get a whole new visa. Hit or miss. Some regions even let you submit the paperwork in the fall to renew and then told you a month later you needed to buy a last minute flight to America and get a whole other visa. It’s actually ridiculous. Try buying a $1000 flight home when you haven’t even been paid!

Sometimes it takes so long for the offices to process your paperwork you can go the whole year without getting a NIE! Or they give you appointments after your visa has expired.

The upside? You (hopefully) get papers to live in Spain! It’s almost impossible to get a visa otherwise as an American. That is if you can survive the deathly obstacles thrown at you 

auxiliar program in Spain

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5. Kept blind and in the dark

I think singlehandledly the thing I hated most about the program besides the disorganization is the fact that the Ministry did a terrible job of informing us of ANYTHING!

It’s one thing to be disorganized but at least tell us what’s going on. Here are the 3 main things the Ministry should keep in contact with the auxiliars about

  • If there are going to be delays with payments, tell us! It’s not that hard. We shouldn’t have to complain and whine about it to the newspapers and American embassies into shaming the Ministry into paying us, or at least saying when we’ll be paid. Last year they weren’t planning to even tell us in La Rioja about the delays until dozens of us called and emailed and demanded to know what was going on.
  • When the government cuts hundreds of auxiliar positions and even whole regions, it is their duty to tell us! You shouldn’t have to find out everything on facebook or through me. In fact, I think the government should be contracting me since I have been doing half of their work for them for YEARS!
  • They should explain clearly what our job is, what it entails, our benefits, our rights, ect.

This lack of Ministry information directly leads to mass hysteria on the dozens of facebook groups and expat forums about this program. When I mentioned that to a director in Madrid he yelled (literally yelled) at me about how we shouldn’t listen to these things on Facebook. I kindly replied that it’s the only way we learn anything or know what’s going on, which led to awkward silence…

The upside? You learn to be patient or you just lose your marbles

auxiliar program in spain

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The point of this post is not to whine and moan about the auxiliar program in Spain. It is to share an actual and honest opinion of a program that has been glamorized far too often. People have been asking me for years about what I really think about it, and I feel it’s high time for an honest answer. Negative hate and all.

Are you an auxiliar in Spain? What was your experience like with the program? Have or heard any horror stories? What did you hate the most about it?

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202 Responses to Top 5 Reasons Why I HATE the Auxiliar Program in Spain

  1. Trevor Huxham November 28, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    This article needs to be required reading for everyone even thinking about applying for the program–and current language assistants, for that matter. Before applying, I read your horror story about late payments and the renewal process, so I knew what I was getting into, but my desire to live in Spain, practice Spanish, and travel outweighed my fears about the Spanish government’s ability to function.

    I’m two months into this program already and, while my experience at my school has been VERY fortunate (paid on time, great colleagues, free carpooling to the school’s pueblo), I’ve read so much on the forums/FB groups of people getting screwed over, never getting paid, TIE cards expiring on May 31, and failed bilingual education.

    The fact that the government has had this program for 5+ years and STILL can’t get their act together really paints Spain in a very bad light, which to me is a real tragedy because I love this country deeply. The lack of coordination among different levels and branches of the government, lack of communication from the Ministerios and Consejerías to the language assistants, and lack of consistency even within the same province all add up to a big red flag for anyone wanting to apply.

    Despite all these misgivings, I’m planning on renewing the program for a second year. I simply can’t pass up this great opportunity to practice Spanish and travel across Europe–I know it’s cheesy, but it’s living the dream right out of college.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Thanks Trevor :) I’m so glad your year is going good! Are you gonna change regions?

      • Trevor Huxham November 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

        While I love Andalucía, the accent is nigh upon unintelligible, and I’d love to explore the north of Spain after seeing much of the south this year. I’m stuck between Asturias, Castilla y León, and Galicia.

        • a. November 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

          Come to Galicia, Trevor (or anyone else who wants to live someplace dirt-cheap, where you get paid on time)! At least where I’m at, we have almost none of the issues Liz mentioned in this post. Which I feel extremely thankful for, since I know that is not the case everywhere.

          I think everything here is definitely important for anyone considering the program to see, but I just wanted to note that not all experiences are like that. For example, Galicia’s orientation did a really good job of walking through the NIE/TIE application process, and they clearly laid out for the school coordinators what was in our job description, and what wasn’t. I’m not going to claim everything is sunshine and roses all the time, but I can honestly say I don’t know anyone in my city (and there are 25-30 of us) who have had a truly hellish experience with anything related to their school or the Xunta.

          • Liz November 28, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

            wow, I wish I had had that experience! Sounds like Galicia has everything in order!

            Trevor, come to La Rioja :P

          • call_in December 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

            Galicia is great, but not everyone gets paid on time. Those of us who depend on the Xunta have received our salaries, but the auxiliaries who are paid by the Ministrerio haven’t received anything yet. I have no idea what the difference is, but I have a friend who works at a school right down the street from my colegio and she hasn’t gotten a single dime yet. na-da.

            It is dirt cheap though (I pay €135 rent for a flat in the middle of my city!), and there are some gorgeous beaches and really beautiful forests. My only complaint would be that many of the locals I’ve met have been a bit cold. Aunque hablo castellano suficiente para comunicar, todavia no tengo ninguno amigo español! Todos son internacionales, y la mayoría no habla ingles entonces no es un problema de idiomas. No sé—it’s like if you ask someone at a bar a question to try and spark up a conversation, they’ll give you a short answer then turn around and keep doing what they were doing. I went out by myself a lot at the beginning trying to make local friends and came home every time with my tail between my legs. I’ve traveled a lot through Northern Europe, cultures that are stereotypically introverted and closed-off, and I had a WAY easier time meeting people in Sweden or Norway than here in Spain. Maybe it’s just bad luck!

    • Allison Fedor November 28, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      Trevor, hello!

      Which city are you in? I’m assigned to Sevilla, but have been facing many visa issues and misunderstandings. I’m set to arrive on Jan 9, if my visa comes through that is. And I’m happy to hear the payments are on time, I’ve been concerned about not getting paid, as I do not have the fund to take care of three + months w/o a check!

      Liz — this is great! I am already up to my ears in frustrations about it all, but since it’s been two months of being frustrated, I’m finally over it, and just letting the chips fall where they may. Although, I am looking into alternative employment options in case I don’t get to go at all. :-/ Fingers are crossed!

    • Tara Clifford November 29, 2012 at 4:09 am #

      I’m glad I have read your posts about being an auxiliar Liz but I am in agreement with Trevor that my desire to live in Spain, practice Spanish and travel far outweigh my fears in the Spanish Government’s ability which is not over-exaggerated. I lived in Granada all last year as a student and can’t wait to return as an auxiliar but I do know it could be even more of a hassle than getting my visa has been and all the paperwork I had to get for the student visa last year.

      I think some people might read this differently than they should as it is all true, but if you want to visit Spain you realise that these issues are not just bound by the auxiliar program but the disorganisation, misinformation,customer service/general help are all qualities of those with authority in Spain. I guess you just have to remember in countries like Australia or the U.S where we pride ourselves on ‘honest’ practices (however true it is), efficiency, quality services and hospitality, we often do so at the expense of the things we love about Spain- the relaxed nature, slow pace and a strong national culture.

      Having said that though, I really REALLY hope I get paid on time as I am already REALLY low on funds and with my ticket bought I hope everything is ok with my visa! Oh and I totally agree with how shit the application process is… and was so annoyed when there was an ad on La Comunidad de Madrid’s page about “last minute positions” that was a major let down and run around. I told my really good friend who had lived with me last year but forgot to apply to send an email with her details as the ad said… after being extremely excited about our reunion in España she received an email saying Aussies had to apply via the website Profex… funnily enough it was still as closed as ever:/

  2. Trevor Huxham November 28, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Also, for those brave enough to take the plunge into this program, I can only offer two pieces of advice:

    1) Bring a VERY laid-back attitude, and
    2) Bring a LOT of savings

    • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas November 28, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Trevor, I think you’ve pegged the nail on the head. EVERYONE knows the payment issue, yet everyone acts so surprised! I came with my savings and scholarship payouts, not expecting to be paid on time, and I was always given my money on the last day of the month. Call it luck, but I gave my best at the school always.

      I also think the MEC doesn’t have the manpower or the budget to improve the program. I live across from the central office in the Seville province, and their office is a gigantic mountain of papers with two women running the whole thing. The recortes have and will continue to affect the program, so it’s up to someone who is willing to take it all on to put up with the lack of consistency.

  3. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas November 28, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Liz, I love you, but you should have led with the fact that the experience depends LARGELY on where you’re placed and how the teachers treat you. I am a huge proponent of the auxiliar program because it gives you the visa (I’ve had to do the student visa thing on my own, and without ministry paperwork, it’s a huge, expensive, jerk-you-around headache).

    I worked in a high school outside of Seville for three years and had perhaps my most positive experience of Spain. Having worked now as an auxiliar, at an academy, at a private (dictatorship) school and running a summer camp, the auxiliar program was definitely the most rewarding while not having to be a ton of work. I’ve been SHOCKED with all of the complaining the crop of them in my province have been doing about working just 12 hours a week, about being placed in a small town in the neighboring province, about loads of things. They KNOW it’s a crapshoot, they know there’s no way to guarantee being at IES Madrid Center and that the payments always come late. That actually has little to do with the Junta in your province, but with the EU, where the grant comes from!! And whoever said that Peace Corps or Fulbrighters always go to destinations with budget airline hubs, with fancy transportation systems and with a Starbucks down the street? I would have been fine moving to a small town for a year if it meant learner more Spanish, living in Spain and finally perfecting a tortilla. If someone isn’t willing to do this, they should just not come, period, and leave the job for a person who will pack their bags and leave immediately.

    No one ever said moving to another country wasn’t full of red-tape. Yes, perhaps Spain’s top-down way of doing things is far from efficient, but watch what you’re calling those functionaries – my fake husband is one!! I agree that the whole program is kind of a big ass clusterfuck, too, but the relationship between you and your director should be based on flexibility. I suffered through six weeks of going to class on Fridays hungover, then was rewarded for my hard work by three-day work weeks when my schedule was rearranged. I was given two weeks off to travel to China because I asked in advance and offered to work extra hours. THAT’s because I took the auxiliar job seriously and because I showed up every single day ready to work. I gave the classes myself because I wanted to, not just waste 12 hours of my life each week sitting in the back of a classroom.

    Any traveler, I would think, would be open minded to these kinds of issues and possible problems, because that’s what travel is, more often than not. I came to enjoy teaching because of my experience, which is why I’ve stuck with it. I often get the same emails as you about people wanting to teach abroad, and I’ve got a guest poster writing about his experiences applying to the program, still convinced that the bureaucratic mess is worth living in Spain: http://sunshineandsiestas.com/2012/11/28/my-journey-back-to-spain-again/

    I know our experience were worlds different, but I think there should be a bit more balance in the article about the positive aspects of the program and its aims, even if they’re not always met.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      I did mention that it depends on where you are placed, but not even that, but if you are happy where you’re placed. Getting placed near Sevilla is really really lucky Cat! But it’s hard to compare experiences when you end up at a great school at a great location with someone who has to spend an extra 20 hours waiting and commuting to theirs and have to pay a ton extra too. It sounds like your school was really flexible with you, I’ve been at schools that were the opposite and I had friends at schools that treated them horribly. For example in Córdoba, I worked my ass off and it only led me to be taken more advantage of, a horrible situation arose which I never actually talked about on my blog. but it sucked. My point was that it’s a hit or miss, big time, on your situation and you don’t have much control over it unless you have an open mind and a major laid back attitude.

      For me it was worth it, I got to live in Spain for 2 years, which I think my blog is a testament too. I just felt like someone needed to say something concretely and in one place about the negative sides of this program, something I think most people aren’t aware of until they get here.

      I was only hating on the ministry and extranjeria funcionarios, not your fake hubby :P

      • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas November 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

        Don’t forget that you tried for a third, so there were obviously things you liked about the program, too. I’m sure that the moments where you taught were special and ones you won’t forget, even if you never do it again. I’m anxiously awaiting what you DID like about the program, and like I said, I think that raining hate from the get-go was a bit stinging and not so “fair and balanced”. I know my experience was the best among my friends, but I would agree that it’s all about luck.

        • Randy March 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

          Cat of Sunshine, you are sounding like a total troll. It’s like you didn’t pay any attention to what you just read… Btw, Spain rules!

        • Cameron January 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

          She doesn’t sound like she’s “raining hate”.
          She sounds like she wants to help people by letting them know what frustrations they may face if they’re unlucky.
          She’s being honest, there isn’t a hateful tone to her blog-her tone is one of frustration and desire to be helpful by relaying her experiences.
          She makes it clear that it’s a crapshoot.

  4. Alex @ ifs ands & Butts November 28, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Go girl. I think it’s so important to be honest with your readers about the experience. I try to be with those who email me about au pairing saying that I was lucky and I also know lots of people who ended their time early.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      thanks, that was my whole point. The whole living abroad scenario gets idealized so much on these blogs, mine included, I felt I just had to lay it all on the line and point out the problems too

  5. Matt Coultas November 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    From a UK perspective, not much is different. The people at our home university didn’t want to help, and the one person who had a good idea of how the system works (working for the British Council) got promoted to another department a week into the programme (and seemingly wasn’t replaced)!

    Never had an issue with VISAs thank god, however the NIE is just as difficult to attain whether you’re from UK, US or Swaziland.

    Like you, I was in a school 10 minutes bus ride away, and my teachers were very laid back and didn’t expect much from me, which did allow me to really enjoy my year.

    Best piece of advice, is team up with fellow auxiliares, moan to them/about them/with them, and you’ll soon find that its not just you having problems, but (as the Spaniards would say) “Todo del mundo”.

    Buena Suerte

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

      Totally agree,

      The only thing is that the application process for the NIE is very different for Americans than Europeans. That’s why so many brits can work legally in Spain whereas American’s cannot. It is a far more complicated process for non-eu citizens than EU or UK citizens when it comes to the paperwork

  6. Season November 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I haven’t even read the post yet and I already love it!! I’ve only read the title! I did the auxiliar program for two years and tried for a third only because I love Spain so much! I have to get to work but I’m excited to read this post when I get home from working tonight! Way to put it all out there and be honest. Kudos to you!

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

      haha :D

  7. Shannon November 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I wrote a similar post on my blog a few months ago. I agree with you on a lot of points. This program is really great in theory, but not so great in practice. If there was more communication across the board, I think that it could be a huge success.
    One thing that bothered me the most was the inconsistency regarding placement of third-years. The Ministry says that they will be placed behind first year applicants and will have no priority. Yet, I know a handful of third years who received placements before first years! A bit of false advertising, no?
    Another thing that bothered me was that my school really didn’t have any idea what to do with me, and I really don’t think this was any fault of their own. I just don’t think the Ministry ever really communicated to them what I was there for (and I had a vague understanding myself). Even though my school was an hour commute outside of Granada, I worked with very nice people and didn’t pay a cent to carpool. My year could have been AWESOME if the teachers knew how to use me. I was willing to put in the work and eagerly tackled projects when they were given to me, but I think that my school was nervous of “overwhelming” me with things to do (aka they couldn’t speak English very well and it made them nervous to talk to me, so they were unable to tell me what to do….) So, like you said, I was one of those assistants who pretty much spent the year staring out the window. Not to mention the fact that I was there 20 hours a week because of carpooling…needless to say, I got a lot of personal reading done. I mentioned a few times to my coordinator that I would happily do more, but was never given anything and it was hard to initiate anything on my own with the very poor internet connection and hardly any resources

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      totally agree about the third year placement! That was the final straw for me!

      I was on the phone with the coordinators in Madrid and when I told them there were third years who received placements before 1st years and other 3rd years and had higher numbers then me, they told me I was lying. But then he said I should give him the names but to bear in mind they would be kicked out of the program if what I said was true. What a douche!

      My first year I spent over 20 extra hours commuting and waiting around my school. It was awful, just awful

  8. Liz November 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    That picture of us is cracking me up. What a fun night! Anyways…hit the nail on the head, guapa. Yes, obviously most of us were really greatful to be able to live in Spain for so long, no one would ever say we weren’t, but I really think the program takes advantage of that eagerness. Yes, we all know things are done at a different pace (maybe some people actually don’t know that), but at least be honest about things like payment, etc.
    I had an amazing experience-a great school within walking distance, nice teachers and students, and minimal payment issues, but when I see the things some of my fellow auxiliars had to go through it’s unbelievable!
    If you go in with this knowlege, it makes it easier to cope, but the point is we should have to wonder when we’ll get paid, or bring upwards of $5,000 with us to finance everything before payday. I’ve written to my university asking them not to promote this program anymore because it’s simply not organized enough. You can make it an amazing experience, but it will cost you in one way or another.
    Props, Liz. Can’t wait to read what the haters have to say!

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      I think the program definitely takes advantage of our eagerness to be in Spain and our willingness to put up with a lot. Willingness or the fact that they know we can’t do anything about it. They know how much we want to be in spain and leave the job means leaving spain. it’s completely unfair and I think they take advantage of that, which is really low!

  9. Shannon November 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Wanted to add that these issues aren’t stopping me from reapplying for 2013-2014! Even though there are aspects of the problem that sucked, it gives you a legal way to live in Spain for 1, 2, 3 years…to me, it’s worth it.

    Need to start saving money, though. Can’t help but point my finger and say “Told ya so” to all the first years moaning about the payment problems on Facebook. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be a surprise at this point!

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Seriously, it’s been happening for years, even before I started doing it in 2010! Definitely the rule, not the exception. Also, it’s the same people who were like, “I don’t care about the money, I just want to live in Spain!”. It’s a little different when you’re not getting paid, eh?

      • Liz November 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

        yeah except you can’t reply hold everyone to reading the facebook groups before coming, that’s just not fair.

        I didn’t participate them until my second year, once I realized what a great and terrible resource they were

        • Cassandra December 1, 2012 at 9:18 am #

          I agree about the facebook group–I had no idea these resources existed until my second year!

  10. Miriam November 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    I was also an auxiliar in La Rioja. I had great schools that were in small pueblos. The teachers and headmasters were FANTASTIC. I still keep in touch with them. I send my kiddos books in English so they can practice reading more than just their textbooks. I loved living in Spain it was absolutely incredible and I hope to go back someday. I agree that the program is very disorganized, but then again, what do you expect from a country that is disorganized in every sector of its being? I might be different from other auxiliares in that I went to Spain for the experience of teaching children in another country, so my anger subsided when my schools so graciously lent me the money until the ministry of education could get its shit together. I also knew that this had been going on for the entire history of the program. So, when I considered going back, that played a huge factor in my decision. In the end, I loved my schools, my region, the teachers, and my kids, but if the payment situation (my very livelihood) was going to continue being messed up, why would I go back? I don’t know. I guess, I’m just the type that if I don’t like my situation, I change it. I don’t see the point in complaining and then going back again, over and over again. It’s like being in a fucked up friendship or relationship with someone that keeps screwing you over and you keep going back to that person. Why? I don’t know, that’s just my opinion. I see where the anger comes from though. No one likes working for nothing.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Hi Miriam!

      That’s so nice you were able to build a long lasting relationship with your kids! I did that my first year but this year was tougher because I split my time between two schools and then had a day one and day two schedule which meant I only saw them twice a month. It was a lot harder that way but I build a lot of good relationships with my students at my academy and in my private classes. I still talk to them a lot and I have to send them christmas presents!

      I wholeheartedly agree with you about if you don’t like your situation, change it. The ministry offered me a spot this october in Madrid but I’ve said no. I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. and now that I’m out of Spain I have cool opportunities I can try!

  11. Katherine November 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I would like to reiterate that it is really hit or miss. I was placed in Extremadura in two schools in two different cities (one in a city and one in a town). Scheduling has been a nightmare (sometimes I am at school all day with so many free periods in between) and going to the town is a hassle as I must commute with teachers, but must walk a half hour to a spot where teachers are willing to pick me up, plus another half hour commute. Doesn’t sound so bad but in the rain or cold it sucks pretty bad. That’s not so bad in itself, but the schools do not take advantage of me well – I am in a “bilingual section” with kids who do not even understand the question “where are we now?” supposedly teaching them science in English. I also frequently get left alone in the classroom with no teacher with no advance notice. Basically, my experience with my schools was full of problems my fellow auxiliares do not seem to have experienced. I think it’s bad luck – I came with a highly open attitude (this is NOT my first year living abroad), but it just has not been a positive experience so far.

    Also, settling in in Extremadura was a challenge – people here are not used to dealing with foreigners so even simple things like getting a phone, internet service or bank account are nearly impossible until you have your NIE, which of course takes time.

    I was hoping to spend 2 years or so in Spain, but I have now decided it will be a major challenge to finish out the entire year. I fully intend to try, as nothing is worse than quitting, but it is not something I will enjoy, unfortunately.

    Like the others said….hit or miss.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      good luck with your year! When I was having a lot of problems my first year in Andalucia I threw all my energy into blogging and planning trips, it saved me!

      Don’t give up! I gave myself a second chance and moved to la rioja and had the best year of my life! Not to generalize but northern spain and bigger cities have a much more “modern” with it attitude about foreigners and things in general, it made it a lot easier than in a pueblo :)

      Buena suerte chiki

  12. Bobby C. November 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    It’s difficult to start to unpack all of the problems i have had this year in my attempt to live and work in Spain as an American. The frustrations began before I even arrived to such a degree that my wife and i both had to take on an attitude that was built on the idea that we would not let Spain take us down or defeat us. My wife and I were both officially accepted and placed in Madrid, specifically. Weeks passed as we waited to get our particular school placements. She got hers, I did not. However, I did receive a request to re-apply to a different region through Profex many additional weeks later. Turns out no one over 35 can teach in Madrid. Pretty sure that was not listed anywhere and also seems problematic in that I had already been cleared to teach in Madrid. The only remaining placement that would work through the Ministry for me would be in Valladolid. It was conceivable that I could take the bullet train a few times a week north and I could still be with my wife in Madrid. Let me make it clear that we planned on living in Madrid because we wanted to be able to travel easily and cheaply by air or train to other locations in Europe and the pay was/is higher. Our combined incomes would allow us to live well and travel. Awesome, right? Well, this was no longer going to happen. There was also no other region where my wife and I could be together at such a late date, or at least no one would tell us of such a location. So many emails were exchanged with so many government workers who had so little to say about any of it, really. We soon (upon finally arriving in Madrid at the very beginning of September) realized that me commuting to Valladolid and spending 300 euro a month on transport while only making 700 (as opposed to 1000) was rediculous. I resigned my position and was soon picked up by another program entirely. Awesome, right? Sure. Now I work 20 official hours a week. What i mean is that my schedule is M,W,Th from 9-4:30 and T,Th 9-1. M,W,Th include that lovely Spanish 2 hour unpaid siesta (which really just serves to make my day longer). Fridays after work, I am required to attend courses that the program conducts so that I can claim “student” status for my visa. The classes are typically 5 hours. My Fridays can be 9-8pm days. I do not get paid for these hours. This is all part of the program I am in (It’s a very well known one.) My current school is an hour outside of Madrid by two (sometimes three) metro trains, each way. That’s two hours of commute time per day. Additionally, I am required to come early at random days by a half hour to meet with teachers about curriculum every couple weeks. Also, unpaid. I make 850 euro for 20 “official” hours (although I encourage anyone to do the actual math on this). The job itself? I love the kids, they save me. However, almost from day one I did in fact find myself in a room full of thirty 3 year olds all by myself. Happens ever day. My job also consists of me taking half the class (3,4, or 5 year olds) to a separate room (basically a meeting room the size of a closet) and teaching them English in some form that I have devised. No supervision or direction. Totally on my own. I have to be the disciplinarian for 15 kids jumping around in a closet. I’m starting to get the hang of it though, and teaching myself child psychology, basically. All the while, I’ve been sick. I really mean all the while. Since the second week I got here. So…two months or more. Four rounds of antibiotics and I’m still not good. Strep/upper respiratory infection, we’re still not sure what the problem is exactly. I can never be out without having a doctor’s note when I get back. Can never legitimately stay home to simply be sick in bed if I dont have a note say that I can be in bed on that specific day and time. Traveling? When? I can never get out of my schedule. Take a day off and make it up like some do? Not an option at my school. Oh, and my school is an officially licensed bilingual school…but no one speaks English. And my Spanish sucks.

  13. Bex November 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Ahh, an American in Europe. Could it not be that you expected too much that things would run as smoothly as in your home country?
    I’m a Brit in Greece and teach English – believe me, what you’ve written here pales in comparison to what’s going on in Greece. But you know what? We all make choices – so I learn from it, suck it up and make the most of my experiences.

    And I don’t always show the sunny side, unicorn happiness, gold at the end of the rainbow side of living abroad: it’s tough going and lonely at times.

    Check out my blog: – you might like it, you might hate it ;0)

    I feature, every Wednesday, a new expat on my League of Expat Writer’s page (LEW). If you think you can kerb the swearwords and would like to contribute, do get in touch.

    Bex

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

      thank you for your comment but I’m gonna have to pass

      I’ll curb the swear words if you curb the condescension, deal?

      • Bex November 29, 2012 at 10:01 am #

        Deal! You show me where the condenscension is, you’re more than welcome to feature :) After all, you are an American in Spain are you not?

        • Kate November 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

          Well said Bex

      • sara November 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        haha i agree-that was probably the most condescending and rude comment anyone could write. the Brits say Americans are ignorant & dumb, but they are some of the biggest assholes i have met! at least about us/to our faces.

  14. Melissa November 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I just wanted to say I appreciate your candidness. I am having a great experience, but I got really lucky with my school – and they have also had bad experiences with auxiliares that didn’t show up very often, or speak Spanish!

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

      thank you very much!

      I definitely know of auxiliars who take advantage of this program. the guy who worked before me used to skip school all the time and nap in the teachers lounge haha

      though the program doesn’t really require you to know spanish before coming and I think they intentionally market it towards the whole “come have an adventure in spain, learn spanish and spanish culture blah blah blah”

      It all comes down to a lack of control and organization within the ministry.

  15. Val November 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Hi Liz, I throughly enjoyed reading this more candid take on the program because I like you, definitely try to portray my experience as more positive, be it through Facebook, my blog or when talking to my friends and family. Because you are right, who wants to always hear about negative experiences, and I think a positive outlook does really help the situation sometimes. I have been fortunate in that my school, bilingual coordinator, teachers and students are amazing, I love them dearly. They have been so warm and welcoming and I can already tell I will be sad to leave come June. This is my first year teaching and I was warned about the possible pay delays but luckily my first month payment was on time and it looks like my second will be on time. I prepared myself with tutoring jobs as soon as possible though to tide me over until my first paycheck. Keep in mind, I did this through a pre-organized program, CIEE. Although it was very expensive, they secured me the job placement and put us up for a few weeks in Sevilla in a homestay and hotel, gave us Spanish classes and orientation and then put us up for a bit in our teaching destination to give us time to find an apartment. It was definitely nice to have a sounding board for any questions or problems and I definitely needed someone there once or twice. I think if I decideded to do the program again though, their guidance would have prepared me sufficiently to apply through the Ministry. The only big pain in the ass with CIEE is you have to do the visa on your own, which SUCKED! I had to go to New York City (which was at least a 5 hour drive for me) after jumping through countless hoops to get all the damn paperwork and then pay them like 200 bucks after I had done all the work just to get a freaking stamp. And I was literally in and out of the consulate within 20 minutes. But I digress.

    My only major problem so far has been the TIE. Ay dios mio. It took me 5 separate trips to the comisaria in Fuengirola to finally get my card, and that was after some serious runaround. First they told me I had to go to Malaga to apply for the card, which I knew for a fact was not true. Then I ask the British volunteer working there if I had the right forms and if I really had to go to Malaga and he told me to ask the other person who spoke English and that required me waiting in line for 5 hours because I didn’t have a number, and was never told I needed a number previously. After the horrible wait, she finally tells me I am in the right place but that I just need to pay the taxes. So I get the tax form and have to come back because by that time they are about to close. So when I can, I go back with the forms paid for by the amount they told me. I go in expecting it to be a breeze. No. First of all, the guy told me the wrong amount for the tasas, and then they acted like it was my fault for not knowing that it was wrong and were quite rude about it, and made me go pay additional taxes and them come back AGAIN. Oh and they also gave me slack about my DNI photo being too big even though I asked for a DNI photo and brought what I got, and gave me a hard time because I didn’t have a big enough photocopy of my passport, even though the English lady had previously looked it over and not mentioned anything was wrong. I just feel like they expect you to know how everything works, even if it’s your first time. I also feel like figuring out Spain is like some kind of game for newcomers, nearly nothing is obvious or laid out and it takes tons of extra time to figure out how to do everything (opening a bank account, getting the NIE, etc…) than if they just gave clearer instructions for everything.

    But all in all, I live in a small town, with access to bigger towns very easily accessible. And I love my school and the people I tutor. It could definitely be worse, and I definitely am glad I decided to do this. But that is not to say it’s been without its challenges so far.

    • Ashley November 29, 2012 at 12:24 am #

      Everyone does the visa on their own. We didn’t have any hand holding for it. You just go on the consulate website, read the requirements, see which documents you need, and get it done. A five hour drive would have been nice, I had to do 17 each way to get to my consulate. You were lucky. ;)

      • Liz November 29, 2012 at 12:50 am #

        except for the consulates all have different requirements and they change them all the time without notifying anyone in advance. I had huge problems because when I prepared for my visa appt in 2010, they changed the website reqs. right before I went in Boston and I was left scrambling and running all over town and almost got denied. It was just awful.

  16. Teresa Lostroh November 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    This post certainly matches what I’ve heard and what I’ve experienced thus far as an auxiliar in Extremadura. Potential auxiliaries MUST be mentally and emotionally prepared to launch themselves into the bowels of Spanish bureaucracy because that’s where you end up as part of this program. It’s pull-your-hair-out frustrating without a doubt, but like others have said, everything hinges on your placement. That’s unfortunate because it’s luck of the draw, really. I know several people whose teachers don’t show up for class and don’t bother to alert them, even though being a free substitute teacher is nowhere within the scope of our job description (who knows what our job description is, anyway? Every school interprets it differently, for better or for worse.) Several of friends have had screaming matches with students an teachers in the classroom, which isn’t professional, sure, but neither is leaving your class to an uncredentialed assistant while you tomar cafe con leche.

    I’m one of the lucky ones, sort of. I applied for Valencia, then Cataluna and then Extremadura. Much to my surprise, there were no vacancies in Valencia, but of course I wasn’t notified of that until placement, rather than at application time. And guess what? They cut the program in Cataluna (they did, didn’t they?) after a disastrous year up there. So by default I was given my third choice. I’m one of those people placed in a rural pueblo who spends way more time at school than the 12 hours I’m paid for. But my coordinator worked her butt off to give me the best schedule possible between my two schools, and I’m always busy in my free time, whether it be planning trips, planning lessons or talking with teachers. I do plan lessons and teach classes, but I am never left alone. I guess I wouldn’t say I “plan lessons,” per se. I teach math, geography and English, so my teachers alert me to the topics we’ll be covering, and I read the material so that I’m prepared. If I think of a good activity, I have the students do it, but if not, there’s no pressure on me to plan something extravagant. I really enjoy the degree of responsibility I have because I definitely feel like I’m providing something valuable but I’m not bogged down.

    So, if you want to partake in this program, you have to be prepared to take the good with the bad. For some people, there may be more bad than good, but that’s a risk you take to have the chance to spend a year in Spain, legally to boot.

    Best of luck if you’re preparing to apply. To Liz, thanks for being one of the most reliable sources as I prepared I join this mess of a program. I’m having the time of my life – it’s a shame that not everyone can say the same.

  17. Teresa Lostroh November 28, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Also, I would add that Extremadura hasn’t been a bad place to end up. It is what you make of it. Luckily it’s not touristy, which I like because that means fewer English speakers.

  18. Jess November 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Just wanted to leave a comment and let you know that I love your blog, this post included! I am an auxiliar-hopeful and will be applying to participate next year. Your blog has been such a great resource so far and I just wanted to let you know I am so grateful to have found this wealth of information! This post continues to be exactly the kind of information I need about the program because like you stated, they basically tell you NOTHING about ANYTHING. Despite all of the programs shortcomings (that I haven’t even experienced first hand yet, good heavens!) I know that this is one of the only ways, if not the only, for me to live in Spain again. It all totally depends on the school you get placed with, of course, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that if I do get accepted, I am put into a good school but I am starting to prepare for the fact that I might NOT get a great school. After studying abroad in Alicante in 2011, I have known that I NEED to go back. I know that it won’t be the same the second time around, but my heart is still in Spain and I need to go back, at least for a little bit. Thanks so much for all of the great info, you better believe that I will be referring back to your posts if I get accepted for next year!

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      Thank you Jess! You rock!

      You clearly understand what the whole point of this post was about!

      I have some other posts on here that are guides for auxiliars before coming and such, once you get your region, get in contact with them asap and try to request a good school!

      there are things you can do to help you have a good experience if you plan in advance and it sounds like you are on top of things!

  19. Michelle November 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    I agree about Galicia. I haven’t seen any of these problems. True, the application process was complicated but if you take it step by step and makes some calls to your own Capitol building it’s possible to get all of your paperwork done in one day. I got my background check at the State Patrol and then went over to the Capitol building for my Apostle all on the same day. i didn’t have to wait for anything. As far as applying for the Visa, well it gave me an excuse to take a trip to Chicago :) it’s not that bad. Sure you will stress out because you are not sure you are doing it right, but all of that is over quickly and you can enjoy Spain.

    As far as the people that have to travel an hour to school, well that is also kind of their choice. If they really wanted to they could easily move into their village if they need to. Yes it’s not ideal, but they are quite charming. My school is actually 2 hours away by bus and 1 hour 15 min by car. I actually don’t mind the travel time at all. It’s my me time to see the beautiful scenery, read, or take a nap. I actually quite enjoy that time. I have never had a reason to contact the functionarios so I don’t know what that’s about. In Galicia we were all paid the first week of November. I’m by no means a trust fund baby and worked my ass off for the year before coming here. Bring some savings and you will be just fine. Just be smart about your money. Don’t go on a shopping spree or massive drinking binges when you first get here.

    Lastly, if your teacher is putting you in the back of the room, then you need to stand up for yourself and ask what she/he would like you to do that day, or offer suggestions. If you are being asked to do all the lesson plans ask her/him to help you or what they think would be a good lesson. Force them to be a part of it or for yourself to be a part of it. Honestly, I think they program is best for people interested in the education field and if that is the case, then your experience will be great for improving as a teacher. You have to stand up for yourself and not be afraid to address issues with your teacher-like being left alone in a classroom if you are not comfortable with that.

  20. Jen loves Liz November 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Sometimes I still have pesadillas about getting my NIE.

    And then you have the people that go to Africa for 3 days because every 90 days you have to leave the country for something like 72 hours. Ridiculous.

    Nobody loves Spain as much as we do and it’s because we love it that we can also criticize it… and you even left some stuff out that you could have thrown in :)

    You’re my favorite procrastination from grad school. Write more things for me to read.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

      um, LIZ LOVES JEN back!!! Best title ever haha!!! I love you!

      I just really felt like someone had to say something about this! It’s all glitter and butterflies in the blogging world and i think it’s unfair to paint an unrealistic picture of the situation, best to know in advance and prepare accordingly!

      I will write more things for you! Promise!

  21. R November 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    But

  22. RJ November 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    Liz, your complaints strike me as incredibly zealous and over-reactionary considering the amount of time you have been in Spain. Above all else, your problems are with the Spanish government and its bureaucracy, NOT with the Auxiliar program. I have a friend who is in the BEDA program (cconcertadas/catholics) and she is having to go through the same runaround with the NIE/TIE and such. So regardless of which program you are doing, you’re still going to have problems. And complaints such as ‘hit/miss depending on school’ is no different then getting a real job but being stuck with lousy co-workers, an overbearing boss, or horrible commute in the states. And all the other complaints are your perception (and in some cases, reality) of the way you are being treated because you are a foreigner. Whether you know it or not, foreigners in the USA deal with the same perceived/real hostility, cultural clashes, and frustrations. Essentially, and I know you’ve heard it and thought it hundreds of times, if you really don’t like it, then just stay back home. All your complaints are valid, but they are miscategorized and misguided.

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

      Hi RJ, thank you for your comment. I understand where you are coming from though I think your conclusion is rather harsh.

      My problems and many other people’s problems stem from this program (el ministerio de educación), which is a branch of the Spanish government. The NIE issue was only a small part of this post, and something I made sure to point out isn’t exactly within the control of the ministerio. However, since this a government sponsored program and it is so large, I think there should be better communication between the program coordinators and the extranjeras, which has happened in some regions. Especially since these problems have been occurring again and again over the years to the point where the US embassy has to intervene. However, if you compare your situation and mine, you are on what, your 3rd or 4th renewal in La Rioja? Something that was denied to me because of a paperwork mistake at the extranjeria and something our coordinator couldn’t be bothered to do anything about. Hardly seems fair, don’t you think? Call me overzealous, but I wonder if you would have the same attitude if our roles were reversed. In your opinion my complaints are just a perception, probably because you haven’t had to deal with some or all of them yourself.

      Again I don’t think you can really compare the auxiliar program with working in the US. This is not a normal work experience, we move abroad because of it for a short time, and once we are there, it’s not like we are really in a position to leave willingly. It’s once thing to leave a job in so-and-so town but it’s quite another to give up on a year living your dreams in Spain. I think the ministry knows this, knows how much it means to us to live in Spain, and takes full advantage of it, knowing we won’t leave. Which is shitty.

      Can you really read this post and disagree with my 5 points? Do you really consider this program organized? Do you think everyone who has a “miss” experience deserved it? Do you think the funcionarios who run this program are doing a great job? Do you think the problems people have had with their visas and NIE’s are unwarranted and do you think this program has done a good job of keeping us informed of what is going on?

  23. Ashley November 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    I’m a second year assistant and honestly it’s really hit or miss. I think you have to be proactive about embarking on a program like this and do your research. There are dozens of Facebook groups and forums where people discuss issues like the late pay, the rural school placements, etc. While it would be nice for the ministry to be a bit more candid about some of the downsides, you have to be pretty dense to be unaware of these things before coming here. I can only shake my head at the people who didn’t come prepared for not being paid on time. You know it happens, it’s been happening for years, and it’s probably going to continue happening. If you can’t save enough to get yourself through that possibility, you shouldn’t come. End of story.

    And as for having an hour commute and having to pay to carpool: that’s a personal choice. It’s no one’s fault but our own if we choose to live an hour away from our schools. This program requires flexibility above all else. If you want to make life difficult for yourself and live in a big city which adds an hour to your commute every day, that’s sort of on you. Yes, it’s preferable to live in a larger city/town. But it’s not required, and you aren’t entitled to being placed in, say, Sevilla. You just have to make the best of the hand you’re dealt. After all, no one’s forcing any of us to be here. It’d be nice if things went smoothly but they won’t always, so just roll with it.

    I’ve lived in six different countries in the last ten years and this program doesn’t even come close to being the biggest clusterfuck I’ve encountered. Try handling the immigration bureaucracy in Turkey. It makes everything here in Spain seem like a walk in the park. ;)

    • Liz November 28, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      I dunno, I get a lot of emails from people who have no idea about the payment problems. I also think it’s unfair to assume that everyone should know about it before coming, it’s not like the ministerio keeps you up to date on it. You’re saying you shouldn’t come if you didn’t know about it advance? For example my first year I didn’t even know about the facebook groups. Not everyone is made of money and when the program itself tells you to come with a certain amount of money but it turns out to be completely wrong, that is not your fault.

      Also, it’s not really fair to compare experiences between rural and city school placements. For example, there was no way I was going to live in my village of 3,000 people my first year, with only 2 bars and a bank. not gonna happen. and the commuting that year and not having to commute this past year made for a COMPLETELY different and happier experience.

      Do you have to commute to your schools? where are you placed?

      We get that it could be worse, but I wonder how many of the current auxiliars were considering woking in a country like turkey? not that many I’m guessing, so again, you can’t really compare the two.

      Something to think about

      • Ashley November 29, 2012 at 12:21 am #

        My first year I was placed in a small village in Andalucia (about 5,000 people) and commuted for the first half of the year. Then I realized how miserable it was making me and moved closer to my school. It made a world of difference. My Spanish improved, I made friends who weren’t Americans, and I was far more involved at my school. This is a job first and fun second. I’m wary of people who complain about not living in the middle of a big city, because to me that comes across as them being annoyed that they can’t go out and get plastered every night. I realize not everyone thinks that way but the predominant complaint is that the villages don’t afford the type of social life a person was looking for. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

        Regarding being financially prepared–I agree, most people aren’t made of money. I’m certainly not. But anyone with a lick of common sense should realize that the paltry amount the program website suggests you bring with you is insufficient. You apply almost a year before you arrive in Spain. That’s more than enough time to save $3-4,000. If you can’t manage that then again, you probably aren’t responsible enough to move to a foreign country to begin with.

        Now I live in central Madrid and commute about 30 minutes by metro to my school. The best advice I’d give to anyone doing the program is to request Madrid. There’s a limit to how far away you’ll be from the city center (the region is only so big, after all). If living in a big city is the only thing you care about when it comes to this program then Madrid’s your best bet.

        And I’m not sure you understand my point about Turkey (which wasn’t Turkey specific, just an example; I’ve also worked in South Korea, Germany, Russia, and China in the decade since I graduated university). You absolutely should keep in mind that your complaints about red tape in Spain pale in comparison to how bad it is in other nearby countries (and yet even in those countries people manage to complete the process). I take it you haven’t really experienced much in terms of working outside of the US and Spain if you think Spain is a nightmare. I’ve gone through the visa, NIE/TIE (and renewal) processes in Spain (including changing regions) and it’s so incredibly easy as long as you stay on top of things and are proactive. Once you’ve had a bit more experience with these things in slightly less modern systems you’ll pine for some good old fashioned Spanish bureaucracy.

        • Liz November 29, 2012 at 12:55 am #

          I don’t think you understood my point about Turkey…it’s not exactly relevant to this discussion

          We’re not talking about Turkey, Germany, Russia, China or South Korea. We all applied to be assistants in Spain with certain expectations. Of course if I was going through the visa process in China, I would expect it to be different and probably more challenging.

          My point is that it does absolutely no good at all to say “well, I’ve been through way worse, you are lucky in Spain”-it’s unhelpful and not proactive.

          Kind of like saying, “oh you lost an eye? Well it could be worse, you could have lost two eyes”

          The point of this post was to share possible scenarios and information with future auxiliars. I really feel people should know what they are getting into so they can make informed decisions themselves about it. I wish I could have read something like this 3 years ago

          • Ashley November 29, 2012 at 1:18 am #

            Ok. I think it’s a useful post for sure, and highlights some shortcomings of the program. All I meant to point out by talking about my experiences in other countries is that the red tape in Spain is really not as bad as you’re making it out to be. In fact you’re one of the only assistants I’ve come across (via blogs or the Facebook groups with thousands of people in them) who seems to have had so much trouble. Maybe you’re just an outlier. I renewed my NIE/TIE while changing regions like you did and had no trouble at all. But yes, it’s helpful for people to read your post, because you seem to have found yourself in the worst case scenarios more often than not.

            Difference of opinion aside, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed post.

        • sara November 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

          Ashley, i have to say i think its a little unfair to say that we should have saved up the money, otherwise we aren’t responsible enough. i was emailed in February, and told that i did not meet the requirements and my application would not be considered. why, they did not tell me. then, lo and behold, June 24th (pretty damn late to be notified anyways) i was received an email telling me that i had been accepted to the Madrid program. once again, no rhyme or reason, no explanation. LUCKILY, i had been saving, because i was planning on going on a month long trip to India. i know this exact situation has happened to three other people, and a LOT of my friends got notified of our acceptance way after we were told we would be. but if I didn’t have the money saved up, that would have been due to the ministerio’s shitty organization.
          also, i commute every day because i choose to live in the city, but it is not so that i can “get plastered” every night. it is because there is a lot more to do in the city, besides drinking. more restaurants, more museums, parks, etc. etc. etc. i rarely drink on the weekdays, and i still would NOT want to live in rural Madrid. and, i want to be in the city during my weekends.

          • Ashley November 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

            Not being able to save money isn’t what makes a person irresponsible, it’s deciding to do the program anyways knowing you have no savings to fall back on that makes you so. Most people apply for the program in November/December, and have until October at the earliest to save up. If you’ve applied then you should start saving, even if the chances are you’ll get a late placement. I certainly didn’t wait until May when I got my school placement to begin tucking money away.

            The ministerio is not responsible for someone’s inability to save money. That’s entirely on you. Could they be more organized? Of course. But we should organize ourselves as well. I busted my ass for two years to do this program. The first year I applied I fell short of my savings goal. So I didn’t come. Because that would have been pretty silly. I continued to save and by the next year I was in a good financial place and could afford to come (and stay, even if I had payment problems). That’s the responsible thing to do. Spain’s not going anywhere, postponing for a year to be better prepared won’t hurt anyone. And it saves you a lot of stress, because you won’t have to kill yourself with private classes the minute you step off the plane and you won’t have to pinch pennies waiting to get paid.

  24. Angel November 29, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    Well, you can see its not the same problem everywhere. Some regions having problems, as La Rioja, you said, but not all fo them (f.e. galicia, as Trebor or Cat of Sunshine and Siestas said)

    Appart from that, as RJ says, in my oppinion, the main problem is due to the Government, or the Ministerio de Educacion, the one implicated in the Auxiliares program. But not a problem with thr program.

    The problem about the NIE, is just burocracy…. Try to get a healthy insurance uin UK, try to get the equivalent of the NIE in Germany, try to work, or live in the States being a foreigner, and you’ll probably see almost the same everywhere, being a foreigner. Not only in Spain.

    Miriam said “I agree that the program is very disorganized, but then again, what do you expect from a country that is disorganized in every sector of its being?”

    So….. why did u come here? Not being racist, probably, but thats not fair. Huge economic crysis all over the world, you know? if we start talkign about several countries, we could probably find lots of defects.

    And Liz, when you said that: “In case you didn’t know, funcionarios are government employees in Spain, and they basically make a lot of money and can never be fired, simply put. Here is a video that explains them to a T.

    Not only do they generally have no idea what’s going on, they are also rude and unhelpful in general”

    Really unfair commnt

    Let me tell you that a funcionario, not always earns 100000000000€/month and obviously, they can be fired. Not as common as woking in a factory, for example, but they can be fired too.

    Next time think a little bit more how to describe them…. ot do u really thingk a doctor, firefighter, police man, teacher, juez, soldier (all of them are funcionarios) are just lazy dumb douchebags?

    There kind of topics/stereotypes are not always true/fair, as you know….

    Un saludo ;)

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 2:39 am #

      Angel, the problem is the program and the program is run by the ministerio de educación, it’s their responsibility to do their jobs, end of story.

      If you had ANY idea what I have gone through with the funcionarios in the ministry of education associated with this program combined with the funcionarios who work in the various foreigner’s offices in Spain you would not think it is an unfair comment. The level of unprofessionalism and laziness (yes I’ll say it, LAZINESS) is insane. One time I waited in the extranjerias office in Córdoba for hours, watched the workers take a break every half and hour while dozens of people are waiting, I even saw a worker leave and go buy groceries in the middle of her shift! and they only work 9-2! that is just the tip of the iceberg, I have a post in here somewhere about what I had to go through to renew my NIE last year. just a nightmare

      Another time I scheduled to meet the woman who runs the auxiliars in la rioja last year at a specific time to discuss getting paid, you know a very important issue, and I had to wait almost an hour because she had gone out to have a coffee. A COFFEE! And on top of that, her assistant chastised me thoroughly for not understanding that “B really needed a break to take a coffee because she had been working really hard.” I kid you not!

      If you read my post clearly I was NOT referring to all funcionarios in general, I was specifically talking about the people who for the ministry regarding this program and the ones who work in the foreigner’s offices. Granted, I am sure there are some decent ones around Spain, I just have yet to experience the pleasure of meeting. I’m sure I would faint in astonishment when it happens.

    • Kaley [Y Mucho Más] November 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      I agree that it’s unfair to criticize all civil servants (funcionarios) in that way. It’s unfortunate that many DO act in that way, because I know civil servants who are hard workers and who care about their jobs. My father- and mother-in-law were both civil servants. My father-in-law, a teacher, is the hardest worker I know. My mother-in-law is a hard worker as well.

      Nonetheless, having a job where being fired is next to impossible means that you may slip a little. If a worker in a normal company slacks off, they run the very real risk of being fired; if a civil servants does the same (e.g., goes to get a coffee/get groceries/etc. NOT on their break time), I don’t think they run that same risk. This could (stress on could) be a problem if they take advantage of this lax attitude.

      • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

        I definitely agree too, I try to avoid speaking in absolutes at all costs, especially on my blog, which is why I tried to be clear I was referring to many of the funcionarios within the extranjerias and the ministry in charge of the program bc my experiences with them have been just awful!

        If only could have recorded the conversations I’ve had with them, I have never been treated like that in my life. Rude is an understatement, which is awful and gives other hard workers a bad reputation. I am sure there are some good ones out there within the program and in the foreigner’s office, sounds like the ones in galicia rock, but man, by experiences from cordoba, salamanca and logroño have been pure hell

  25. Joanne November 29, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I agree with lots of what you said, but, I, fortunately was very blessed and had a great school outside of Madrid in Parla. When the government couldn`t pay us, the school did.

    What I most agree with is that the major problem of the program is lack of organization. Lots of times the teachers didn`t know how to utilize the auxiliares correcty, and I think that the program could be much more successful if there were clear guidlines. There needs to be a uniform policy outlining our duties in detail. Also, it would be helpful to have a workshop at the beginning of the year with both teachers and auxilares together to be able to develop teaching strategies. In Madrid we had our “orientation,” but we weren`t with our teachers, and I think it would be much better had they been there.

    That would have been super helpful, because sometimes I felt like I was in the classroom just standing there, not being able to contribute as much as I could, because the teachers either didn`t want to offend me by asking to do more, or didn`t know what I was supposed to be doing.

    In the end though, this really is the best way to live in Spain legally, and overall my experience was amazing, although I do know that not all people had the same luck as I did.

  26. Lauren of Spanish Sabores November 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Well, you certainly summed it up! For all the haters that have said:

    a) People should be aware of the money situation because it’s been happening for years

    Not true. No one has the obligation to waste time in Facebook groups prior to moving across country. If you don’t have Facebook or read blogs, I don’t think it would have been possible to have known about that problem. I did use Facebook and read blogs and still didn’t even realize the problem was happening at my own school! After nearly two years I learned my school was paying me out of pocket.

    b) Quoting Ashley: “You apply almost a year before you arrive in Spain. That’s more than enough time to save $3-4,000. If you can’t manage that then again, you probably aren’t responsible enough to move to a foreign country to begin with.”

    Tell that to any of my friends in the US who came out of college and either couldn’t find a job or were lucky to start at $25,000 a year, in a big city. After rent, car insurance, car payments, phone payments, and student loan payments, most couldn’t afford to go out for dinner, let alone save to move abroad. I guess if you live with your parents rent free and work your ass off waitressing prior to moving you’re right (I saved $8,000 before coming doing just that) but that is NOT the case for everyone. Do you realize there are auxiliares with children and families too? Are they not responsible because they didn’t save enough?

    c) Quoting RJ: “Above all else, your problems are with the Spanish government and its bureaucracy, NOT with the Auxiliar program.”

    The auxiliar program is a educational grant offered by the Spanish Ministry of Education, AKA a government department. Therefore, I can’t really separate the two in my head, being that government employees are the only ones involved in planning and executing the program. Also, as someone who worked two years in the auxiliar program and part of another year with BEDA, I can say that they were NOT the same. BEDA has its own issues, but my school was well prepared to receive me, I signed a contract specifying my duties, they took the rule that I couldn’t run the classroom alone seriously, etc.

    d) Quoting Bex: “believe me, what you’ve written here pales in comparison to what’s going on in Greece”

    Umm, Bex, are we talking about Greece here? Comparisons don’t work in this case, sorry. We are talking about a discrepancy in what was promised to us, and what we received. By the way, does Greece’s Ministry of Education even have an auxiliar program?

    Overall, Liz is right about most of what she talks about. Even if you had a rewarding experience you cannot tell me that this program is organized or that it’s not “hit or miss”. And whoever compared it to any job (some you love your boss etc. others you don’t) that would be a valid point, IF auxiliares were free to change jobs and therefore their unhappiness. That’s not the case here. And while identical situations would be impossible to replicate, program rules shouldn’t change depending on the school.

    I wrote a much more subtle criticism of the program last year, take a look if you’d like: http://spanishsabores.com/2011/10/16/reflections-on-life-as-a-language-assistant/

    • Ashley November 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      “Tell that to any of my friends in the US who came out of college and either couldn’t find a job or were lucky to start at $25,000 a year, in a big city. After rent, car insurance, car payments, phone payments, and student loan payments, most couldn’t afford to go out for dinner, let alone save to move abroad.”

      Then those people shouldn’t move abroad. End of story. No one is owed a year in Europe. If you can’t afford it then you wait a year and try again. Coming to a foreign country without adequate savings is just stupid.

      • sara November 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

        you’re right, no one should get the chance to move here unless they are “smart enough” to save up 3000-4000 euros. totally fair. also, 1000 euros/month is definitely decent enough to live on, so i am sure a lot of people believe that IF they are paid on time, they would be okay. and no, they shouldn’t “know” beforehand. i didn’t know there was an auxiliaries page, and i actually had friends that were auxiliaries, and they NEVER mentioned a payment problem. i personally love this program, but you cannot deny it has its flaws, and i think you have an incredibly unreasonable attitude about this.

        • Ashley November 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

          You know what? Fine. Everyone come to Spain with as little cash in their pockets as possible. Also, don’t spend ten seconds googling anything about the program. Preparedness and personal responsibility are, like, totally stupid, right?

          Some of you guys are ridiculous.

    • Jada November 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

      I agree with Ashley. If you have so many bills to pay, why move to Spain to do this job especially knowing you’d only get paid 1000 euros? That’s a bit ridiculous. I had bills to pay before I moved here, but I made sure I saved money because you never know what’s gonna happen to you, especially in a foreign country.

      • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

        @ Ashley and Jade – according to you guys, if you have bills and other financial obligations you should not have the opportunity to live abroad? That is the small minded attitude that far too many people suffer from and convince themselves they can’t travel the world and live abroad. 1000 euros is more than enough to live on in Spain if you are actually paid. besides the 1000 is only for madrid, 700 is for everywhere else.

        Besides, when the people who run this program tell you to come with a certain amount of money saved, that should be accurate. Why would you question that if you didn’t know about all the problems with the payments? According to them it’s sufficient savings, so you have absolutely no right to criticize people who listen to that and then end up short of money with the government can’t pay them. If you come with less, then you might be asking for trouble, but the bottom line is that the ministry needs to give accurate information and pay everyone on time.

        I just think it is way too harsh to call everyone stupid who doesn’t come with more money saved then the program itself tells you

        And no one is owed a year in Europe? Where did that come from? doesn’t even make sense.

        • Jada November 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

          Oh wow Liz, way to put my comment out of context. I never said people shouldn’t be given an opportunity to live abroad if they got bills to pay back home. I live in Madrid and I STILL DO HAVE my student loans and other bills to pay back in the US. But I made sure to save up some money before I came here because as I’ve said, you never know what’s going to happen to you. Yes, we’ve been told that we’re supposed to get paid 1000 euros every month, but shit happens so we need to prepare for the worst. Don’t go telling me I have a small-minded attitude, and I never called anyone stupid. JFC.

          • Liz November 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

            Did you even read the comment you said you agreed with?

          • NG November 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

            Liz, did you read Jadas? You didnt even spell her name correctly?

          • Liz November 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

            Autocorrect on my phone, but thanks for pointing that out!

            The point is its extraordinarily unfair to call people stupid and ridiculous for not coming with what, more than double the recommended amount by the program, according to Ashley and agreed to by Jada,

            Bottom line, aux should be paid on time not 3 months late, don’t you all agree with that?

          • NG November 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

            Of course! I’m waiting now. And if we’re not paid by January, Im out by default.

        • Jada November 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

          Next time I’ll tell people not to save a good amount of money before coming here then and just hope and pray they get paid on time. If heaven forbid they don’t, and they have no funds they can use for the meantime, well… fiesta!

          • Liz November 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

            It’s not about whether or not they should save a good amount of money, it’s about the program being dishonest and disorganized. I have other posts on this blog warning people to bring more money than you’d think and how to make extra money once you’re here. The point is that they shouldn’t have to, you know? The govt. should pay everyone equally and in time. Basically the ministry needs to get its shit together And it’s no ones fault but the ministry if people run out of money bc they aren’t paid on time

        • Ashley December 4, 2012 at 3:24 am #

          Just thought it was interesting that you yourself advised people just last year to come with $3,000. Guess it’s only an acceptable amount when *you* suggest it, but when others use it as their benchmark you go on the attack…

          http://youngadventuress.com/2011/12/angry-expat-auxiliares-de-conversacion.html#comment-659

          • Liz December 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

            Good lord once again you missed the point, of course I tell people to come with as much saved as they can, I have several other posts saying just that. My point is its the ministry’s responsibility to give accurate numbers of what you should bring and warn of possible pay delays. And it is irrational and unfair to call people stupid who listen to what the govt says to bring and then they run out because the don’t get paid on time. You shouldn’t have to come with that much saved if you get paid on time. End of story.

    • Cassandra December 1, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      I agree with you on all of these points, Lauren. When I read some of this criticism I wonder if they’re coming from people who have actually done the Auxiliar program.

      • Liz December 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

        I agree as well. Either that or they are auxiliars who haven’t experienced these problems, or maybe even auxiliars who HAVE experienced them and were prepared enough to look down on those who didn’t.

        • Lauren of Spanish Sabores December 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

          There is a weird thing happening here– very interesting actually. I feel like a lot of people who either didn’t have these struggles, or did (but got through them), feel so proud of the fact that they survived here that they are looking down at any sign of weakness (your post). It’s like how no one can talk bad about someone else’s mom– they know their mom is crazy, but no one else is allowed to say it!

  27. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] November 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    I’ve definitely had my fair share of problems with the visa/NIE situation, but getting my NIE wasn’t nearly as difficult as it is here in Madrid. I’ve gotten two NIEs: a student one in 2010 and a “familiar” of a EU citizen in 2012. Both of them I’ve gotten in Zamora, which makes live 1000% easier. Getting it in Madrid seems like a nightmare. In 2010, I applied for it in October and got it in November, easy as pie.

    The auxiliar program should be run better. Saying that you should come here with more than $3,000 is just crazy. I don’t think it’s silly to expect to be paid and to be paid on time. I don’t understand thinking that “Oh, it’s just Spain; come here with upwards of $3,500 just in case.” It’s a job. They hired us. Yes, it’s technically a “beca,” but come on — they say they’ll pay you = they should pay you. If we show up on time to work, do our jobs, etc., we should get paid on time. Our bills won’t wait, even if it is Spain.

    I’ve had two very distinct experiences. In Zamora, I worked as an auxiliar and it was awful. The kids were mean, had very low levels of English, and the school was out in the “boonies,” so to speak. Here in Madrid, it’s close by, the kids are smart and try hard, and I love it. So, yeah, luck of the draw, I guess.

    • Ashley November 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      “Saying that you should come here with more than $3,000 is just crazy.”

      It’s absolutely not crazy. Moving to another country costs money. Plane tickets, hotels, deposits on apartments, the first month’s rent, food…come on now. Even if people don’t take an hour out of their life to do a *little* bit of research (to learn about the payment problems) before hopping on a plane and moving country for a year, at the very least we all know that we won’t be paid until, at minimum, the end of our first month here. Do you honestly believe it’s wise to just bring pocket change and hope for the best? We’re all adults here, we should take some responsibility for our lives and prepare before coming here. This is common sense.

      It’s amazing how ill-prepared so many people are for this program. It’s not study abroad, it’s not a year of partying, it’s not just a place to use as a home base for traveling. It’s packing up your entire life and living overseas. Use your heads.

      • Kaley [Y Mucho Más] November 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

        Ashley, I was not ill-prepared for the program — if it works well, and for me it did. I moved to Spain with $1,500. Enough for two or three months rent, food, and other expenses in my town (Zamora). More than enough, because I was paid on time. So yeah I think $3000 is a lot of money. Maybe in Madrid, maybe.

        If I moved to another city in the US with $3000 I’d say that’s a pretty damn good cushion, especially for someone right out of college. So more than that, to me, seems unnecessary IF (and only if) the program works well. I don’t think it’s too much to expect people to do what they say.

        Anyway, I agree that many come here unprepared and with the wrong sorts of expectations. Not my case.

        • Liz November 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

          I agree with Kaley. I also came with the same amount of money and picked up classes right away, thank goodness. I knew when we were supposed to be paid, and budgeted smartly. I didn’t do much going out or travel the first couple months, and I was pissed when I didn’t get paid on time.

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get paid on time or to expect answers as to why the pay isn’t coming in, instead of getting the runaround. If you can’t afford to pay that many assistants, cut the number and make the program and application process more competitive. That way they’re more likely to get better qualified people and pay them on time.

  28. Val November 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I think Liz’s main point here is that there is a huge spectrum of possible experiences here and some of us have had great ones and others have unfortunately had negative ones. There’s no use in saying who had the better or worse experience. This is Liz’s opinion and if you didn’t care about it, then you wouldn’t be here on her blog.

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      OMG someone finally understood the point of this post! Thank the lord!

      Alls I wanted to do was to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions so that people know ALL the possibilities and can prepare accordingly.

      This article is something I wish I could have read 3 years ago

  29. Frank November 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    I think your article has some validity. However, I think that some of these comments while may be true are not just about this program, but cultural. Most of the disorder and being unorganized is very cultural. We are often American expats. We want to expect our cultures standards, but cannot – it’s not our country. A classic example. Vuelva Ud. Mañana, by Larra. A great example of how Spain is now and was in the 17th century.

    I am not saying I don’t get frustrated, but it’s taken me a while to appreciate the “relax, and have a café con leche enviroment that is Spain.

    Good article. A good read and lots of truth for those expecting something they may not find. I should also say that I have an opinion of what this program should be. I think we are very well paid for our little 16 hours of work, but I think they should cut people, pay 1400 euro for 25 horus and recruit freshly graduated teachers from educational programs in the US that are looking for adventure, lacking jobs (because there are none at home right now), and want teaching experience. That is, I think you should have some teaching formation to do this program. Then again…this is Spain. Where else can you pretty much do very little, work four days a week, travel, often have free breakfast at school, and make what some people make her with a MA and 40 a week!

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

      Hi Frank, you do realize that “the relax, and have a café con leche enviroment that is Spain” is quite possibly the most sweeping cultural generalization on this entire article?

      I’m glad you think my post has “some validity” of course there are cultural differences but that is no excuse for the abhorrent behavior by the ministry. They shouldn’t advertise themselves as one thing and act in a completely different way. If we followed your logic, then no one has a right to complain about not being paid for 3 months because that is something rampant in spain and thus a cultural difference, no?

      besides, spaniards will be the first to disagree with you about that “relaxed” easy going attitude, laziness and disorganization, many of my friends and colleagues HATE that stereotype about Spain and work very hard against it, but by saying it’s “culture” you are in fact attempting to justify it!

      Though, I couldn’t agree more with what you think the program should be. I have definitely pondered similar scenarios in my head. they actually do have something similar, not that many people know about because the ministry does a crap job of organizing and explaining these things where they bring in a small number of teachers to do just what you said. though from what I understand it’s really competitive and it’s only in a few select schools.

  30. Jada November 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I am totally with you on your feelings regarding how disorganized the program is. I absolutely hate how they’re like, you need this and this to get your TIE BUT bring this and this just in case. Why is it so hard?? Just let us know what we need to do, and we’ll do it.

    I do have to say though that commuting an hour (2 hours back and forth) everyday is not really bad. I do it, and it’s fine. It’s only 4 days a week, and after that you’re pretty much free to do private classes or whatever. Also fortunately, I work in a wonderful school with wonderful teachers who treat me and my fellow Auxiliares really well. In fact, it feels like family. I guess I just got really lucky.

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

      I’m glad commuting 2 hours a day works for you! though I think it is a bit unfair to hold people to the same standard. I did the same commute my first year and I was more or less ok with it until my school decided to make my life a living hell, then I became absolutely miserable.

      I just wish the program would organize a proper manual, something really helpful about everything! It can’t be that hard!

  31. maureen November 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I wish I could email this to my last director and some of those teachers that took advantage. Good work. REALLY!

  32. Nicole Marie November 29, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    thank you thank you for writing this! i’ve only been here for 3 months and already so many people emailing asking about the program so i’m just going to forward them this post. I don’t have experience with the renewel stuff yet, but the whole placement thing, and being taken advantage of i am well aware of. so thanks again for writing the real behind the scenes.
    obviously everyone continues to do it because we want to live in spain but it’s definitely not all rainbows and sunshine and holy f spain get your s together!!

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      haha thanks! I have a lot of posts on here about the auxiliar program and how to guides of moving to and settling down in spain.

      I get so many messages which is why I just word vomited this post out so I can just point people here. I really think people need to see all the sides of such a big situation!

    • Cassandra December 1, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      Ha, Nicole, didn’t you mention that you were thinking about writing something along these lines for our program?!

  33. Erin November 29, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    lol I like how everyone getting so worked up while reading this has apparently forgotten about the entire rest of the blog you have devoted to all the things you love about Spain and the children you enjoyed teaching.

    Anyway, as someone who has had her eye on this program for over a year and kept lurking tabs on current/former bloggers and their experiences, I find this post lines up with much of what I’ve read and heard elsewhere about the “worst” of the program. Even those that were prepared for it all have things to complain about because sometimes, things get frustrating!

    That said, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve always underscored the value of this program and if anyone reading this is seriously deterred by what you said, maybe it isn’t the right program for them after all.

    • Liz November 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

      I know, right?!?!?!

      My blog is a dedication of how much I love Spain and living here, but man, one negative post and everyone goes berserk!

  34. Sam Rosenthal November 29, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Liz: This was an extremely well thought-out and expressed piece that very directly addresses many of the issues with not only the Auxiliares program but also the Spanish experience in general. What this post does a great job of is clearly outlining the real issues that Auxiliares face, as well as some MAJOR PROBLEMS that the Ministry of Education has needed to improve for a long time. Kudos for calling out the program on things it needs to be called out for. What I will say is that a lot of these issues are just part and parcel of living in Spain — there’s a reason the country is in the economic shape that it’s in, and much of that has to do with its bureaucratic inefficiency. Auxiliares are far from the only ones affected; there’s a reason there have been so many strikes and protests. The Spanish people are fed up. I personally don’t think it’s the worst thing for Americans to live abroad and deal with some of these things. If there’s one critique I have about this article, it’s that you cannot expect Spain to work the same way America works. There is a good and a bad to that — I’m back in the States now, and the things I would do for a good botellon … Anyway, the points I want to stress are: A) If you are considering the Auxiliares program, pay attention to the issues Liz raised. You WILL have to deal with some of this stuff, hopefully not all of it. B) Someone mentioned the not getting paid part on Facebook. That is the one inexcusable thing going on, and it needs to be fixed above all other issues. That just can’t happen. C) If you are considering this program, DO NOT let this post over-scare you. Do, however, let it give you a real representation of what you will encounter in Spain. If you decide to do this program, you will not be in Kansas anymore, Toto. As the Spanish people sometimes say, “eSpain is different!” You will meet wonderful people and do amazing things, but you will also have days when you pissed the f off because of something that would never happen back home. Maybe it takes them a month to install your internet service. Maybe your renewal application gets lost (happened to me). Maybe you get placed in a rural town where almost nobody speak English. That is all part of the adventure. If you are ready for those possibilities, this is a tremendous opportunity to do something most people aren’t brave enough to do, and it can be an incredibly rewarding and fun experience. I wouldn’t trade my two years in Spain for anything. But you do need to be aware of what’s ahead of you, and if you’re someone who is easily flustered by confusion, inefficiency and things not going your way all the time … you need to seriously consider this. Spain is great, but it can be a very difficult place to live if you can’t adapt to the “No pasa nada!” lifestyle.

    My personal experience: I was an Auxiliar in Madrid region for two years, at a school 40 minutes outside the city. I chose to commute every day. I never had problems getting paid, and my school was relatively flexible, but I did need to be there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, with two-and-a-half hours of break time during which I couldn’t really leave. And I applied to renew my NIE in November, didn’t receive it until mid-May, when it was only valid a month longer. I had to get three Autorizaciones de Regreso in the meantime. Lots of fun. I dealt with tons of headaches and BS and things that could’ve been avoided. At the same time, I made friendships that will last hopefully the rest of my life, learned a new language, and enjoyed so many amazing experiences.

    I have written about many of these experiences on my own site, Feel free to read about my travels or email me with any questions, samrose24@gmail.com

    And Liz, thank you very much for taking the time to write this.

    • Liz November 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

      Thanks for writing this Sam :)

  35. J (Liz posting) November 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    This is a thread from FB that J’s said I can copy and paste onto here. It’s about her experience in Murcia last year, and I think people applying should see it and take into account

    “I hope I don’t sound like a total PESSIMIST but I do NOT recommend the region of Murcia to anyone.

    So maybe I exaggerated a bit but I’m just so over Murcia! Our FIRST paycheck came 4 months LATE! Yup, 4 months with the “run around” of our deposit date! Then, we were told we would NO longer have our medical insurance benefits included as our ORIGINAL contract had stated. Luckily, there were many Auxiliares who complained about “the new law” and we got our insurance back (for free). Things KINDA “picked up” for about 3 months and now we’re back to the same situation. We’re still 2 months behind on our payments and no sign of getting paid for the month of March. This is my second year as an Auxiliar, last year I was in Andalucia and I never had this problem.

    Last year I was in Cadiz (better than Murcia), I worked extra hours at the same school, made more money and of course, NO late paychecks! Who would’ve thought!

    Jackie Blue If I would have known, I would have renewed my contract to stay in Cadiz, I don’t like Murcia at all! But thanks to this experience, I’m looking for different jobs & I’m very HAPPY about going back to the States and being with my family, friends, and in a place where I’ll have better opportunities of finding the job of my dreams. I can’t wait! Yup, we CERTAINLY learn from every experience!

    Nothing’s worse than NOT getting paid for the work you’ve already done. I think that if the education department would have told us the TRUTH about not having funds to pay us, or whatever the problem was, I would’ve been a bit more patient but it got to the point to where I told my coordinator I wasn’t going to show up to work until I got paid for at least one month. Then I was concerned because I know my reaction had made me look a bit bad but as I said earlier, I’m ready to go back to the States and try to find a job and if I don’t find one right away, at least I’ll be at home with my family. That’s the ONLY one thing I thank Murcia for!”

    • x June 12, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      I just got accepted into this program… did you ever end up receiving payment for all of the months you worked?

  36. Briona November 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Hi there,

    I’ll preface my comment by saying that I have thought long and hard about replying to this post mainly because I’m British and therefore to quote Sara (seriously, what’s her problem?!) ‘one of the biggest assholes’ an American could ever meet. Moving swiftly on…

    I live in Madrid and I know a few auxiliares, and by all accounts the programme does seem to be an absolute shambles. This in turn leads to very variable experiences. So I can see why you wrote this post. I do think that it could have been a little more balanced but I understand that when one is in full-on rant mode, only a rant will do. I have been guilty of the same myself.

    However, I object to two things, the first being this quote: “‘And I almost always give the same answer, ‘yeah this program is great. I love living in Spain. Bulls. Flamenco. Paella. Sangria. Yada yada yada.’ But here it is, my REAL, uncensored, unedited thoughts about coming to Spain with the auxiliar program.” While I accept that people will probably make their own decisions regardless – and several comments reflect that – I don’t think it’s fair to outright lie to prospective auxiliares. Worse still is to lie to them and then slate them a few months later for moaning about non-payment, being places in schools in the arse end of nowhere and having horrible commutes. Just as Australia or Canada is the dream for many Brits, Spain (or elsewhere in Europe) is the dream for North Americans. There can’t be much worse than realising your dream only to have it crushed… Other than realising your dream, having it crushed AND being slated left, right and centre by your fellow North Americans. And I thought you guys were generally MORE supportive than us Brits!

    The second issue I have is to do with the theme of the post. I don’t have a problem with the odd rant – as I said, I am guilty of posting one or two of those myself. No, my problem is that YOU wrote it. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t bother me either, but I happened to read a really scathing comment you made on some poor girl’s blog this summer when she posted something similar. So why do I feel the need to comment now? Well, you said above that there are three things you can’t tolerate in life: unfairness, bullshit and mayonnaise. Surely then, in the interest of challenging unfairness and preventing bullshit (I have no mayonnaise-related charges to pin on you) I am calling you out on that comment.

    This particular auxiliar had had an awful time on the programme and clearly she wasn’t the only one. However, when she dared to post a bit of a rant on her blog in which she questioned the ‘sunshine and rainbows’ outlook favoured by most bloggers, you took her to pieces. She was only voicing the same anger you have voiced here, albeit not so directly at the programme. I don’t understand why it’s OK for one person, i.e., you, to rant and not another? That’s all I have to say on that front.

    My advice to all auxiliares is to be aware of all the problems you might have (late payment, isolated schools, long commutes, a very low salary, schools that don’t really know what to do with you, etc), to come prepared – I definitely agree with Ashley that you should have some kind of financial cushion behind you – and to accept that you will have to jump through several hoops to fulfil your dream of living in Spain. Finally, I have to say that despite my apparent ‘attack’ on Liz (for which I will probably be termed a ‘hater’ – don’t worry I can live with it!), I think she has the right idea most of the time – she focuses on the positive and makes the most of what life throws at her. When bureaucracy gets you down, remember that you live in Spain.

    Briona

  37. Liz November 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    I really hate the Brit vs American comments going on, I think both we’re out of line. It shouldn’t have a place in this forum

    I’m sorry if you inferred that I was lying to auxiliars, something that was certainly not the case. I get an unmanageable amount of questions about this program along with many other blog related queries. Feasibly I cannot sit down and lay out all these thoughts in every email. I almost always say its a great opportunity to live in Spain but sometimes there are problems. But I mean look how long it took me to elaborate on just some of the negatives here! To elucidate on the positives is easy and pretty obvious to anyone applying, the negatives are where it gets trickier which why I was trying to create a resource for future applicants with this post, somewhere I can just direct them too to see for themselves my own opinion but also those of the 100 other people who have commented

    My comment on Lauren’s blog is trickier and I can definitely see how you would think I’m a total hypocrite. I also want to add that is the one and only time I have posted a negative comment on some else’s blog, not that it probably matters.

    Anyways, I don’t really consider this post I wrote as a rant, rather as an informative opinion about this program, something peoe need to read and know about the auxiliar program. I wrote in an intentionally sarcastic and borderline controversial style to draw readers bc above all I want people to know, like you said it’s not fair for people to have certain expectations only to have them crushed. I believe every word I wrote. I think this post is constructive criticism- you wouldn’t believe the feedback I’m getting from future auxiliars thanking me for sharing this so they can plan and prepare accordingly, which was my whole point.

    However, what I criticized Lauren about was how much she was attacking other travel bloggers and people like us who have found happiness in Spain, critiquing and mocking writers and travelers who try to focus on the good and simplicity found in Spain. She offered no positive criticism and her post offers no constructive feedback. What do you learn from it? Lauren had a shitty time in Sevilla and is hating on those who didn’t. Her post was bitchy and condescending and extraordinarily unhelpful. I stand by what I wrote on it. She flat out insulted travel bloggers and implied that everyone who is happy in Spain is simple and cannot have real ambitions and goals in life. And you still think she’s a “poor girl?”

    Please point out on my post where I attack other auxiliars or writers, the only people I criticize are the ones in charge of this program for not doing their job. Do you disagree with any of my 5 points? My post is negative to be sure but hopefully with a positive outcome which is what I intended, provide information! Keep people informed and aware!!! Not to whine and complain!

    At any rate I’m glad you took the time to comment, no matter what! I want people to be able to look through all of this and decide for themselves

    If you look through my other posts you might see more in depth the problems I’ve had with the bureaucracy in Spain. I’m no longer in Spain because of it, I was defeated by it in September, so I can’t console my beloved self with Spain as much as I wish I could since I’m back in the US

    • Briona November 30, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      Thanks for the reply. I mentioned the fact I was British in response to another poster’s totally uncalled for comment that I took issue with – honestly, if it were my blog I would have deleted that comment. I also mentioned it because it is relevant when it comes to commenting on this post. You asked me if I disagreed with your five points. I’m not in a position to disagree with the last three because I have no first-hand experience of them – I have never had to deal with the Ministry, I don’t need a visa to work here (although getting an NIE number was hardly the smoothest process) and not being part of the programme I have no need to be kept in the loop. From what I’ve gathered from blogs and other auxiliares, the first two points are probably accurate.

      I suspect we’ll have to agree to disagree but I feel as though you’re moving the goalposts. First, you say that you tell prospective auxiliares how everything is fantastic but when pulled up on it you say that you also tell them the negatives. I have read countless auxiliares’ blogs and most of them portray these amazing lives filled with parties and weekend trips to the feted European capitals. Very few dare to admit that in between their weekends in Paris or Prague and their puentes that life in Spain may not be quite the dream they had envisaged. And that was what (I felt) Lauren was objecting to.

      Yes, she absolutely stuck the knife into fellow auxiliares, some of whom were probably quite identifiable, but it wasn’t those bloggers’ lives that she had a problem with so much as their portrayal of constant happiness – no one’s life is 100% awesome all the time. Strange then how some people are so afraid to admit it…

      Like you I prefer to blog about the good times and the things that are going right in my life. However, life isn’t always good. I lived in Vietnam, Portugal and Poland before coming to Spain and while I’ve had some amazing times in each place I’ve also had some pretty awful ones. Though I have very few readers (my blog is private and you need to be invited to see it), I believe in accurately portraying my life, telling it as it is so to speak. And more often than not seeing a couple of moany posts on my blog spurs me on to go and find something good to write about.

      I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time so I know about the problems you’ve had with bureaucracy, which incidentally are not so different to the ones we Brits have. I also knew that you were back in US and I couldn’t help but wonder whether you’d have written this post were you still in Spain. After all, one tends not to bite the hand that feeds them. That said, if Spain is your dream, I hope that you find your way back here one day.

      Briona

      • Lauren December 1, 2012 at 1:24 am #

        This was recently brought to my attention. I might chime in with something more drawn out later. For now, just wanted to say thanks, Briona, for hitting the nail on the head:

        “Very few dare to admit that in between their weekends in Paris or Prague and their puentes that life in Spain may not be quite the dream they had envisaged. And that was what (I felt) Lauren was objecting to.”

        I realize I said my piece in terms that Liz found unsavory. I also wonder if Liz might have quickly read through my post without considering the context of the rest of my blog (which never pretended to be an advice blog; my blog was just as self-serving as any other). And even if she didn’t, her response to the post surely put her reading comprehension skills into question.

        But hey, at least we can all agree that the auxiliar program is a disaster.

        Best,

        Lauren

        • Liz December 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

          Hi Briona, I’m really sorry but I am deleting this comment. It was a lovely but it belongs on Lauren’s blog, not mine. Like I said in my earlier response, I prefer to keep this discussion relevant to the post at hand.

          If you guys want to continue that discussion about Lauren’s blog, feel free to email me.

      • Liz December 1, 2012 at 1:43 am #

        Hi guys,

        I don’t censor my comments unless they are way way out of line, people can say whatever they want, good or bad, no matter how much it depresses me. Literally today was the worst day ever.

        I wrote this post in an intentionally sarcastic, short style, but I think it’s a bit unfair to chastise me for not adding a sentence about oh yeah this program sucks. What a post this would be if I added a “but” to everything I say!

        I never said I told them the negatives, this is what I wrote: “I almost always say its a great opportunity to live in Spain but sometimes there are problems.” literally word for word that is usually the sentence I give when asked and then elaborate if questioned further, which most people don’t.

        I’ve had this post drafted since before March, when I started to go through the same problems again. I held off for 2 reasons, I was really hoping things would work out and I would not go through the same bureaucratic hell from the year before and two because I knew it would be controversial and contrary to popular belief, I hate drama and I am uber sensitive. Ever the optimist I was hoping Spain would get its shit together.

        My old post about the auxiliars not getting paid rather bit the hand that fed me big time. Or rather was it the hand that starved me for 3 months? I also thought this would be a good time since the application period is opening soon, and I am getting a fresh slew of auxiliar related emails.

        To be honest, I never read Lauren’s blog until that post and I didn’t read any of the comments after I posted mine, left a unsavory taste in my mouth. I only heard about through other bloggers who felt like you personally insulted them, though I would prefer not to drag that issue into the comment section here any further than it’s already gone.

        At any rate this point of this article was not to create drama, It was to lay out 5 very real issues I have with this program, 5 things I cannot stand about it.

        1. It’s disorganized
        2. Your year could be a big hit or miss
        3. The people who run this can be helpful jerks
        4. The visa and NIE process is a nightmare
        5. The program doesn’t keep the auxiliars well informed

        I question anyone, ANYONE who has commented or might comment if they think any of these 5 conclusions I’ve drawn are inaccurate, false or incorrect. Ultimately that was the point of this post, end of story

        • Briona December 2, 2012 at 12:17 am #

          Without doubt I should be the bigger person and just walk the hell away from this conversation and consign your blog to the bin where it obviously belongs. But I can’t.

          You repeatedly state that you stand by everything you say, the irony being that you are so inconsistent that couldn’t possibly be true. Take this ‘Brits vs Americans’ thing for example. You seemingly chastise me for daring to mention my nationality and thus somehow dragging up this whole nasty business which you insist has no place on this blog while conspicuously failing to remove the original inflammatory comment. Only after I had posted my response did I notice that you had stoked the fire further by accusing Bex of “living up to the stereotype that Brits are negative douches”. And this from the girl who “hates all this Brits vs Americans comments going on” and claims that “it shouldn’t have a place on this forum”?! So now I’m confused – is this Brits vs Americans stuff acceptable or not?! If it is, why chastise me (though neither Bex or I resorted to name-calling)? And if it isn’t, then why add fuel to the fire by painting us Brits as negative douches?!

          Then, as further proof of your utter inconsistency, when challenged on having left the inflammatory comments online, you sweetly state that you don’t censor your comments unless they are “way way out of line”. In fact, you go on to say that “people can say whatever they want, good or bad, no matter how much it depresses me”. Except that yet again it’s complete and utter bullshit (ironically from the girl who professes to hate bullshit). And you know how I know it’s bollocks? Because you censored not one but TWO of my posts and certainly not because they were ‘out of line’. First, you remove the link to Lauren’s blog from my first post and then you delete my short but nice and polite response to her comment. And for no other reason than they weren’t to your liking. Or perhaps you were afraid that people would read your bitchy comment on Lauren’s blog (the one you claim to still stand by) and sympathise with her? Either way, it’s yet more proof of your double standards.

          No doubt this post will be quickly deleted too – after all, you can’t run the risk that the odd person might agree with me, though I’m not looking for or expecting support. No matter – this is certainly not a blog I shall be visiting again – I simply wanted you to know that you can present any kind of front you want, I for one can see through your bullshit. But you just keep telling yourself ‘haters gonna hate’.

          Over and out.

          • Liz December 2, 2012 at 1:13 am #

            Thank you for your comment and your feedback; I’m really sorry you feel that way about my blog

            I always try to delete links in my comments, it’s nothing personal-it’s a professional decision. Yours was only one of several I removed from this thread.

            I told you I didn’t want to continue discussing someone else’s blog on my comments section, it’s not the point but you continued. I’m sure Lauren would love to hear your comments concerning her post on her own blog, where they belong.

            You’re right, I was angry when I wrote that comment; it was in response to one of the rudest comments I have gotten on my blog. I agreed with you when you pointed it out though.

            Contrary to your opinion, I don’t delete comments that aren’t to my liking, something I think is fairly obvious in the comment section of this post.

            Anyways, like I said, I’m sorry you feel that way about my blog. It was not the point of this post.

  38. NG November 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I don’t know. I feel like the post has some constructive criticism of the program and that that maybe was its aim, but because of its list format and title seems bitter and has rubbed may readers the right way. I’ve definitely had those I hate Spain, I hate the auxiliar program moments (maybe once a week during a good week). But hey you’ve got the blog, not me! I think its important to remember that the program gave you a gateway to Spain and to all of the good experiences that you also write and blog about. Given that you came back a second year it seems you were willing to put up with its faults for the opportunity to live abroad. And had you been excepted before you arrived home, I assume you probably would have stayed. For that reason it seems that the post is prompted partly by your unhappiness with how it worked out; your not being able to stay for a third year.

    It isn’t wrong to state the reasons why you are unhappy with the program especially not on your own blog. But how you have responded to some of the readers for me personally, is a little upsetting. You preface your article with the statement that you know you will get a lot of flack for writing this article. So you expect it. But they when your readers write either constructive (or ignorant) replies that question or are simply in opposition to your own you become extremely sensitive and curt (I notice the fellow bloggers aren’t castigated as strongly though). I think maybe you should take all of these replies with a grain of salt. It seems you are taking them as attacks against your person instead of civil disagreements.

    Spain is a hassle. I think everyone will agree it seems everyone loves bureaucracy and there can be a lack of responsability and accountability among some workers. However, from reading this post it seems (seems not necessarily true) that you are unwilling to take the responsability for some your own unhappiness while in Spain.

    Commute: Its the same thing for teachers here. Did you know that (I cant speak for all of Spain but at least in Andalucia) teachers don’t even get to pick their schools? They too are assigned and can only move once theyve accumulated a certain amount of points (by years of teaching, projects, etc). So imagine how they feel when teaching maybe their only option in a crippling economy. Furthermore, commuting is the same as in the states. This issue isnt endemic to Spain. If you live get a job in a rural town in the states and you dont want to live there you commute. Done. You didn’t want to live in a town of 3000 (NO ONE NO ONE can blame you. Lol) so you live in the city. It was a choice. Commute or live in a ghost town. Hard choice; but it was yours nonetheless.

    Pt.1 – You’re right their aren’t always clear answers
    Pt. 2 – It’s not luck. It’s not destiny. It’s attitude. Yup you could end up with a horrible schedule. You don’t have to stay in a class with 30 undisciplined kids. You’ll get complained on? What are we 5? Complain first. Forced to work more hours? Impossible you’re an adult. Walk out get a cafe. Of course you may not have a job later but hey you can’t be forced.
    IDK these are all observations. But it seems you had a lot of major problems with the program and with your school. I wont suggest they were all you. I feel like in Spain blame gets pushed around that way sometimes. Its enough to drive anyone nuts. But I also feel like the post and subsequent comments conveys a lack of open-mindedness, a lot of stereotyping and at times a condescending ethnocentric approach – whether intended or not. This isn’t written with malice just an addition to a lively discussion that you prompted.

    • Jada November 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      THANK YOU. Best post in this whole post.

    • Liz December 1, 2012 at 2:15 am #

      Hi NG thanks for your comment.

      The title was for SEO purposes, and I think I have rubbed readers the right way, the majority of the feedback I’ve gotten has been very positive and constructive.

      Thank you for reminding me that the program gave me a gateway to Spain, I did occasionally mention that in the upsides section of this post, not to mention I have an entire blog with over 200 articles dedicated to how much I love Spain lol. One negative post shouldn’t cancel it all out. if you haven’t ventured beyond this post to read other things I’ve written, I’m sure my love of spain will shine through. Many of the problems didn’t surface til midway through my second year so I think it’s a bit unfair to play the whole I should have known card. I guess I hoped things would get better.

      I’m also rather astonished that you accuse me of being unhappy in Spain! Have you read my blog?

      I wholeheartedly agree that your happiness depends on your attitude, In fact many of the situations haven’t applied specifically to me, even with commuting, if you read it carefully you would see I wasn’t always talking about myself, rather close friends and all possible situations, which is why I wrote, “The range of possible situations you could end up with is HUGE and they will either positively or negatively impact your year, depending on how flexible and open minded you are.”

      HOWEVER, there are limits to openmindedness, Can you really compare someone who works at an amazing school with a 5 minute commute paid on time with someone who commutes an hour to work everyday, has to pay the teachers for rides, has a horrible schedule and a horrible classroom experience who hasn’t been paid in 3 months? can you really blame someone for being negative? Don’t you think that future auxiliars should be aware of that possible scenario?

      at the end of the day, do you really think my 5 points are way off base?

      • NG December 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

        Liz,

        Let’s not confuse what I wrote. So I’ll quote myself, “I think its important to remember that the program gave you a gateway to Spain and to all of the good experiences that you also write and blog about.” So I personally am not denying that your blog is full of your “good” experiences in Spain. I’m simply saying that that this post seems to have rubbed a lot of readers the wrong way NOT because of WHAT you said but more of the fact that these problems that are related to but not necessarily caused by the auxiliar program. Furthermore, by the fact that you seem to not want to take responsibility for some of the factors that you did have control over. I’ll use myself as an example. I too haven’t been paid by the M of Edu. However knowing the situation I saved. After receiving a pay check the first month I figured I had no need to save – that I would continue to get paid. Well I haven’t. And no its not fair that I havent. But I have to take responsibility for the fact that I chose to purchase a really expensive camera that could have paid my rent and made a trip to Madrid. So no it isnt justo that I havent gotten paid; but I was warned. I use myself, not to make a comparison between your situation of not getting paid and mine and how we dealt with it economically but of the need to take responsibility.

        AGAIN my words were taken out of context in paragraph two. So I’ll continue to quote myself. You say “I’m also rather astonished that you accuse me of being unhappy in Spain! Have you read my blog?” But lets look at what I said, “For that reason it seems that the post is prompted partly by your unhappiness with how it worked out; your not being able to stay for a third year.
        It isn’t wrong to state the reasons why you are unhappy with the program especially not on your own blog.”

        Not once did I suggest you were unhappy in Spain, but with the program. Which after all is what this post is about right? Or with your unhappiness with how it worked out i.e. not being accepted to a third year until you returned to the states. The last part of which I can understand completely.

        Commuting: It seems you were talking about yourself. Ill quote you,
        “My first year I spent over 20 extra hours commuting and waiting around my school. It was awful, just awful” AND again, “there was no way I was going to live in my village of 3,000 people my first year, with only 2 bars and a bank. not gonna happen. and the commuting that year and not having to commute this past year made for a COMPLETELY different and happier experience.”

        So I guess the point I don’t agree with is the hit and miss. Yes, I have about an hour commute. And I haven’t been paid for Nov. But I can honestly say the teachers at my school are the awesomeness and have really been extremely helpful and kind. But I also know that when I started and I was only reading English sentences all day or sitting in the staff room, I knew I had to do something else so I took the initiative to start making things for each lesson. And even though its not in our job description I would much much rather do this and be in classes then sitting in the staff room biting my nails and trying to stay awake and maintain a front of professionalism.

        So I say all this NOT to make your day worse but just to explain without cursing and nationalistic fights what it seems like a lot of readers are trying to say. All of us who are broke have to take a measure (like 1/8 of a tablespoon) of responsibility and that we should be Consistent (and take other comments in context) in what we say of the program. Cause I have to say even with the pay thing if I get accepted Ill be here next year. I am cautious about recommending it now and I let friends no up front to save a million dollars. But even with the bad days (mira seno mira, I can do a cartwheel; no no puedo sentarme dame cinco minutos. really??) and no pay this has been a really great experience for me to learn castellano and travel with a visa. That said, if I dont get paid in January I’m callin it a 4 month vacation and I’m off to korea or somewhere else where they pay for your apartment.

        • NG December 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

          Ahh I see the other part where I said, that you are unwilling to take the responsability for some your own unhappiness while in Spain.” I was talking about auxiliar related unhappiness as mentioned in this last post.

          And another think I have noticed is that the more pro-active I become the more responsibility I’m given. Of course this isn’t what everyone is looking for a lot of people come to have the experience of living in Spain; hey I’m not knocking it. But for me, I love ESL and kids (esp. the ones doing cartwheels in class) so I have found the more I do on my own the more the teachers trust me. That was in relation to the teachers not letting you in class comment by you? or someone else? So there are lots of materials in the staff room, I just ask about the topic and start making content related stuff. So maybe it will work for whoever made the comment. Maybe not but if you want to be involved its worth a try.

          • Liz December 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

            I’m confused, first you said I rubbed readers the right way but now you are saying the wrong way. Was it just a typo?

            I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You said, “these problems that are related to but not necessarily caused by the auxiliar program.” I think all of these problems, my 5 points, are directly result of disorganization and mismanagement by the ministry, i.e., the auxiliar program, with the exception of the visa, which incidentally you didn’t mention. Do you believe the auxilar program is organized and run well by helpful people? Do you believe that some people have great experiences while others don’t, and for those who don’t it’s their own fault and not the ministry’s?

            You said, “Furthermore, by the fact that you seem to not want to take responsibility for some of the factors that you did have control over” and compared it to you spending your money on something risking that you might not get paid. Well, I think it’s rather unfair to hold me and other auxiliars to that standard, especially as last year I had no idea I about the payment delays in advance. What do you say to auxiliars in other regions who have never had a payment problem? What do you say to auxiliars at schools who initially said they would have the money to pay them and then changed their minds? What do you say to the fact that every year the government promises that they will fix these problems and they don’t. Not everyone is as skeptical or pessimistic about the payment situation, yourself included. I doubt that you would have spent all that money if you knew for sure you wouldn’t be paid on time. Ultimately, the government needs to pay us on time, end of story, and to blame ourselves for not accepting that just reinforces the idea that it’s fine to pay us 3 months late.

            The fact that you were proactive worked for you and that’s great! I’m sure it worked for other people to. But if you read some of the other comments, Casey’s for example, sometimes the teacher wouldn’t let her in the room. Rather hard to be proactive that way. I worked with a teacher first year who refused to let me be involved or venture outside of her syllabus. I would go with some ideas for activities or songs, even holiday related stuff in the US that other teachers loved for me to use in the classroom, and all I got was, no sorry we don’t have time. This all comes back to organization within the program and the fact that the schools are not properly informed of what the role of the auxilar should be.

            I feel like you are trying to hold people to your standard of tolerance and acceptance which isn’t fair, which is what I said in my original comment, and i think ultimately you agree with my about this post, though you have a very roundabout way of commenting about it. You say you would be cautious about recommending this program in the future too, I am rather curious what you would say about it though. Do you really think that my 5 points were way off base? Or do you think they are an accurate warning of the possible/probable problems auxiliars deal with?

  39. Jada November 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    THANK YOU!!!

    • NG December 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      Oh yeah. That was a typo. I meant wrong way. Yes I think 2 and 4 dont really have much to do with the ministry but rather the person and or who is in the visa office at the time you go.

      I too thought I would continue to get paid (by my school). So I say to myself, whoops! should have saved my money. If you read it on the forums and for second years if it happened before it maybe a good idea to plan for it just in case. Furthermore in the manual (subtly) and in orientation they practically tell you it will be a while before you receive payment.

      And as for class experience. Yes, that’s true. As I said before it may work or “maybe not” but its just like with student teaching. A teacher could let you get involved or not. I will acknowledge that the M of Edu must accept a lot of responsibility for this. But even if they informed the teachers who is to say that all of them would follow a manual?

      And maybe I am unintentionally pushing my own belief of tolerance and open-mindedness. This wasn’t my intention. But I simply feel that living in another country, amongst another culture takes a large measure of tolerance and open-mindedness; and yes it’s frustrating but I think when one becomes so critical people can sense the disdain and it can make the experience worse and people less willing to help. If a foreigner had written this about a program in America (and I not even a little ni un rato patriotic) I would think why not go home then (but I guess thats what you did). I don’t agree with a lot of the things that have happened to you and other auxiliars; but I also feel like we have to take some responsibility and that as long as I am here in Spain I have to look at everything openly (not necessarily 3 month wait on pay) but points 2 and 4. Something can be learned for everything.

      But whatever I think you’re right agree to disagree. I think its starting to become similar to a are Catalans Spanish or not fight. Lol.

  40. Cassandra December 1, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Liz, I cannot believe there are already 107 comments on this controversial entry! You can really tell that it has struck a nerve; I’m glad you wrote it to fill a niche and give a sounding board to these issues.

    First of all, I think the biggest thing to highlight is that your placement is hit or miss. I realize this has been stated and restated a million times among the comments, but it bears repeating. The variations between my school and my friend’s schools were always surprising—from being involved in teaching to getting paid on time, the experience depends largely on your school.
    I had a terrific school where the teachers cared about me and were concerned for a foreigner living far from home. Co-workers were enthusiastic about exchanging English-Spanish expressions, made sure I knew about school events, and saw to it that I was paid on time—often juggling the accounts when my money hadn’t been sent by the government. The problem was, no one really knew what I was supposed to do in the classroom. I was the first auxiliar my school had ever had, and they didn’t understand what my duties were. I arrived expecting them to guide me, and this just wasn’t the case. You can imagine how this resulted in a few awkward and frustrating first months.

    Someone commented previously that, “if your teacher is putting you in the back of the room, then you need to stand up for yourself and ask what she/he would like you to do that day, or offer suggestions. If you are being asked to do all the lesson plans ask her/him to help you or what they think would be a good lesson. Force them to be a part of it or for yourself to be a part of it.” The feasibility of this advice is laughable. That first year, I was with a teacher who refused to let me be a part of the lesson, often refusing me entrance at the classroom door. On the other end of the spectrum I had a teacher who expected me to do everything with no guidance whatsoever. Both situations are impossible to fix if the co-teacher has no desire to change. In the first case, the situation was only improved once my coordinator decided my time was better spent with another co-teacher. The second was never remedied.

    Finally—paperwork problems / being informed. Renewing my second year was definitely a nightmare, and here’s why: I had always been interested in renewing, and was closely following the instructions I had been given by the head office in Madrid. I finished the Profex paperwork in early 2011, only to be sent an urgent email in March saying that there had been a change—I not only need to submit these docs electronically, I now needed to also send a hard copy to my corresponding Spanish consulate in the US. Oh, and by the way, the paperwork had to be received by the end of March—a mere week away!

    I flew into a frenzy getting all of my documents together, and looked up a way to send documents via 2-day express shipping. I spent over 50 Euros shipping the documents to the states, only to have the consulate send them RIGHT BACK TO ME IN MADRID. Worried and angry, I called my contact at the Ministry of Education, who told me that there had been a miscommunication and that I simply had to bring my documents into her office.

    In the end I never found out what happened—all of my friends who were renewing had indeed had to send their documents to the states and had no problems with this. The idea I took away from this was that internally there was a lack of cohesion when it came to set processes. When considering to apply to or stay in the program, it is important to remember that requirements and conditions can change unexpectedly—will you be prepared?

    • Liz December 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      LOVE you! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      I can’t believe the feedback from this post either. I never imagined it would be this big, which speaks volumes about the issue at hand! I’ve been getting a lot of messages and emails about it too, people are definitely touchy about this. But no matter how many comments I get, at the end of the day, this stuff needed to be said, clearly in one place. There is no excuse for what has been going on, this program has been around for years, they need to get their act together.

      It’s curious because most people aren’t objecting to my 5 points, they’re objecting to the nitty gritty details from what your mentality should be like, to cultural differences to a lack of openmindedness. But they aren’t contradicting the fundamental base for this article, which is interesting.

      I can’t believe what happened with your papers. It makes me sick to think how much money I wasted on similar incidents, hundreds of euros thrown away on trying to renew my NIE first year. I mean how can you compare that with someone who didn’t have to go through something similar? Who are they to pass judgement? It could have been worse, a friend of mine had to buy a last minute flight home to California in July to get whole new visa when she should have had too, thousands of dollars wasted over the incompetency of the Córdoba extranjeria and ministry in Andalucia.

      Above all, you are right, it’s a hit or miss and you don’t have much control over it. You can control your attitude, your openmindedness and your tolerance, but at the end of the day, we all have our limits.

      Thanks for commenting and for sifting through the whole post plus 100 comments!

  41. Julia December 3, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    Hey Liz,

    Thanks so much for this post. I am applying to the Auxiliares program for 2013-14 and am so so glad I saw this. Definitely something that everyone should read before applying! Although the cons are pretty overwhelming, I appreciated the “but’s” at the end of each section. For me, living in Spain and adventuring is worth the complication, but I will definitely be heading in with lots of savings, an open mind, and PATIENCE :)

    After your experience with the program, do you think the CIEE fee is worth it to have a sort of middle man between you and the government? Have you heard much about that program?

    Thanks again :)
    Julia

    • Shannon December 3, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      I’m not Liz, but a lot of my friends in CIEE (in Granada) had just as many issues getting paid. Two of my friends didn’t get paid until January. CIEE didn’t help them out at all.

      • Shannon December 3, 2012 at 11:28 am #

        this was last year, by the way, just to be clear :)

        • Julia December 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

          Ah, really? Good to know, especially since Granada is where I want to be! Thanks for letting me know :)

          • Liz December 6, 2012 at 12:15 am #

            Thanks Shannon, I had no idea about CIEE. I was always hesitant because it is A LOT of money to pay from what sounds like not that much guidance.

            I know friends placed in Granada on the regular program. I think it’s key to apply early and then as soon as you are accepted, send off an email or 10 to the auxiliar coordinator in andalucia and ask :) good luck!

  42. Amy December 3, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    It’s only appropriate that I’m reading this sitting in my school, on a day when I’m spending 5 hours here, a total of 9 hours away from home when you add my commute, and I’m teaching a grand total of 1 hour today.

    I had two wonderful years at two different primary schools, but my luck ran out this year (Apart from the incredible luck of managing a third year). I complained to the Junta about how unreceptive my coordinator was being with me, not communicating what the teachers want from me then telling me they’re not happy with me because I don’t bring full planned lessons with me. I’m pretty sure I got him in big trouble because my schedule is changing to much better hours (can’t do anything about the commute though). I’ll have to deal with a boss who hates me the rest of the year, but I stopped him taking advantage of me.

    As many have said, the moral of the story is it’s hit or miss.

    Julia, I did CIEE my first year. Feel free to ask me any questions, or read what I wrote a year ago about the two programs. http://teachlearnrun.blogspot.com.es/2011/11/want-my-life.html

  43. amelie88 December 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    This is the post I always wanted to write, but never did because I knew it would be controversial in the auxiliares de conversacion blogosphere. I have a lot of issues with the auxiliares program, including many schools claiming to be “bilingual” when in fact they aren’t. That’s a whole other kettle of fish I won’t go into, but it strikes a nerve in me for personal reasons.

    I didn’t go through the Auxiliar program, I got a scholarship through a private company that places native English speakers in the Madrid area. I got paid on time, I worked 25 hours a week, and the pay was pretty good. I definitely made more money than Auxiliares since I was working more hours. However many of the bullet points you provided apply to the program I did too.

    1. disorganized mess.

    The visa/NIE process was no easier for the people doing it through my program. The coordinator of the program did email us updates when she got information from other auxiliares who would go to the police station for the NIE application/renewal process, but the information would change daily. I have to say, the coordinator did her best to email us up to date information, but it didn’t stop my American friends from running all over Madrid paying tasas, getting forms, and what not. I didn’t have to deal with this because I have French citizenship, I merely got a certificate that said I was an EU citizen and that had my NIE number listed (with misspelled information including my place of birth listed as Princeton, New Jersey, France). However, the disorganized mess is due to Spanish bureaucracy and wasn’t my program’s fault.

    2. Hit or miss.

    I actually ended up switching schools after 2 months because I tried to stand up for myself in the first school I was placed in. In our contracts (we had contracts that specifically stated our rights and obligations that we had to sign, I don’t know if the Auxiliar program has one) it explicitly stated we were not to be left alone in the classroom. My first school didn’t care and treated me as a teacher in which I was expected to grade tests, give homework, and prepare lessons. When my fellow auxiliar and I complained, we were sent packing and switched schools. The program we worked for couldn’t really do anything about it. If the school wasn’t happy with us, the only solution was to send us to another school.

    At the following school, the teacher didn’t leave the classroom but here I got absolutely no direction at all from the staff. I was the “science” teacher and I had a book but I had no idea what do with it.

    At this school, the staff had no clue how to use the auxiliares. They tried to get me to put on an English play with some of the 5th and 6th graders–never mind I had no theater experience, or knew the first thing about putting on a play! In the end, some of the music staff took over and helped me out and the kids got really into it. But before that happened, I was stumbling in the dark.

    3. lack of communication between all parties: the schools, the coordinators of the program, and the auxiliares!

    The lack of communication brought about so many misunderstandings and mishaps, I can’t even count!

    In the end, I decided teaching English wasn’t for me and staying in Spain a third year wasn’t worth it (I originally came over in 2010 for a master’s and stayed a second year teaching English). I could have gotten another job because I have EU citizenship, but ultimately 3 reasons made me leave: 1) The only job available to native English speakers seemed to be teaching. 2) the looming economic crisis 3) I missed my family. 4) I wanted to do something I actually enjoyed doing.

    Like you, I kept the negativity out of my blog. However behind the scenes, it was really bad. The Jefa de Estudios at my first school reduced me to tears when she met with me privately twice in her office. She told me I was doing a horrible job when the truth was the school was violating my contract. I was also blamed for one or two incidents that were beyond my control. I felt like such a failure and it took me awhile to realize I couldn’t take it personally and that I was in way over my head.

    I love Spain and I may end up again there someday, but it won’t be through teaching.

    • Nedra March 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

      Amelie! Im not sure you remember me but I was on the Malaga program with you at Dickinson and the same thing happened to me in terms of the Jefa de Estudios… they can be SOOOOOOO mean!

  44. w December 3, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    As a third year auxi who has struggled through all of these problems I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fantastic opportunity but poorly executed. It’s taught me patience I never would have known otherwise. Anyone considering doing this program should be fully aware of what he/she is getting into. On the plus side it definitely seems to depend where you are. After 2 years in Madrid commuting over 2 hours each day, never having a renewed NIE, and getting the run around from teachers I am now in Galicia and couldn’t be happier. I don’t know why but frankly, they really have their shit together. More organized and helpful than I ever could have imagined. Plus the scenery is beautiful, the food amazing, and the people in general are ridiculously nice. Come north!

  45. Olafur December 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Pathetic! Get a life! :D

  46. Ana December 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    First off, I think complaining about things in a foreign culture is a definite walk the line situation. This program is in the cultural context of Spain and cannot be separated from it.
    I think it’s great to want to warn future auxilars to possible problems. But couldn’t the post have been like that: 5 warnings (you may not get paid on time, you might not get placed in downtown Madrid, the paperwork is a drag, the civil servants can be confusing to deal with, etc) instead of a full on attack that in part insults the culture of the country (and culture isn’t just about food and museums, it’s about values, ways of approaching things, how people work in groups, etc)?
    For example, you say some teachers were not interested in your help. That they “Don’t give a damn.” But that happens in a context. Unemployment is high in Spain (25% general and 50%!!! for folks the age of auxilars). Maybe it rubs some teachers the wrong way to see foreigners (without a required education background) coming in for a relatively “cushy job” (there are lot of people here with language skills, education, and experience that are not earning even 1000 euros a month at their 40+ hours a week job). Or maybe they don’t want someone “watching” how they give class. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences with past auxiliars. Who knows? I don’t but I do think you have to look at it from their point of view.
    I understand that it is frustrating to not have control over where you are placed. But many Spanish teachers are in the same boat ( check this description: http://schoolinspain.blogspot.com.es/2009/02/getting-teaching-job-in-spain.html). They can get posted in random places (and these are people with families to support and maybe a mortgage). And that’s for the people who pass the extremely demanding exam to be a teacher, and there are far more applicants than teaching spots available. There is a lot of contreversy this year because teachers are losing their jobs and being required to work more hours for the same pay. What I mean to say with this is that a foreigner can’t come to a country and expect better conditions than the very citizens.
    Next, it is a very blanket statement to say that all the funcionarios are d-bags. Also, while it is difficult to fire them they don’t all have super salaries. And with the cuts the government has been making they are losing some of the benefits they had. You had bad experience, very stressful, and many Spaniards complain about funcionarios, but to go from that you saying they are all d-bags? It just seems so harsh and stereotyping. Again, look at it from their position. Maybe there aren’t given all the information they need, maybe they need to save face (these are cultural things that an outsider might not get), maybe they are tired of dealing with people who don’t have advanced Spanish skills (yes, it is part of the job but it might get old anyway), or maybe it has to do with how one’s job is understood here. In other words, I don’t understand why it seems that many funcionarios can be difficult to deal with but I can’t really say it’s because they are a bunch of a-holes. I think there are dynamics working here that people who come to the country for a short time aren’t going to see up front and that makes it hard to jump to conclusions.
    “When the government cuts hundreds of auxiliar positions and even whole regions, it is their duty to tell us! You shouldn’t have to find out everything on facebook or through me. In fact, I think the government should be contracting me since I have been doing half of their work for them for YEARS!” I have to say, I don’t understand what exactly you are saying here about doing half their work? And do they really have any “duty” toward you? I think we have to think about what the relationship between the government and the people is, or what relationship dynamic between employers and employees might be. At any rate, we can’t just assume it to work like it would in the US. We just can’t. Culture isn’t just the food, the music, and all the things that typically catch our eye. It’s all these other concepts that are so hard to pin down and at the same time are in constant flux (concepts of responsibility, problem solving, patterns of decision making in groups, concepts of fairness, what’s considered rude and polite, etc). It’s what makes it hard to come in the judge it, because we are not from the same tradition. It’s like we are wearing different “glasses” through which we view the situation.
    So again, I think it would have been of great service to just present the possible difficulties that Americans might encounter with the program without getting so harsh and black&white about it.

    • NG December 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      How eloquent! I think you vocalized in a fair and just way what other’s of us couldn’t necessarily organize the words to say. I love in Malcolm Gladwell’s book The tipping point when he talks about how we as humans always look to see things in black in white. That people or countries or whatever object can’t be more than one thing at the same time. That we look for labels to make it easier to understand or even justify things. Its a way of over-simplifying. I feel like this article attempted to simplify the issue and then judge it through an ethnocentric way. Judging a culture based on another cultures standards.

    • Ve February 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      While I think Liz’s rant was pretty fair regarding how she feels about this program — and frankly, a good way to warn future auxiliares of what can go wrong, just so we can be prepared — I also think this is definitely its best criticism. Well done.

  47. Brian December 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Having read the post and only a handful of comments I’ll just say it’s a wonderful summary of some pain points that can happen to ANYONE living in Spain as a non-national. I moved to Spain this year for work indefinitely and of course absolutely love life out here. The good experiences and contrasts heavily outweigh the not-so-good but as with almost any new endeavor you are bound to hit a few bumps in the road.

    I’m not sure why so many people are all up in arms or in a “me defiendo” sort of mood about this. It’s someone sharing experiences that give an honest truth to prospective candidates. I know nothing about the auxiliar program in Spain and didn’t even know of its existence until following this blog but I think of this post like researching colleges while in high school. You’ll see the pamphlets and all the highlights of what schools interest you but you’ll always want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. It might sting to hear things you don’t like or disagree with but it always helps in the long run. I am confident there are many prospective auxiliaries reading this and will be that much more prepared mentally and emotionally for their experience out here. There are others who read this and decide that they don’t want to risk the ambiguity of it all. Both are totally fine.

    I loved the video about the funcionarios. I couldn’t stop laughing. It makes the California DMV seem like Disneyland. I’m still going through the NIE spin cycle but you’ve just got to keep smiling, have patience, then keep calm and chive on.

    Again, wonderful post.

  48. Tiana Kai December 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    We’re not in Kansas anymore, are we? Italy is the same in terms of no one in governmental roles knowing anything… even bank tellers are not helpful. This puts a big strain on me b/c I then have to explain to my Italian husband why I couldn’t even get a bank account. This means that he has to take time from work and help me get things done. Getting any paperwork here is a joke and at one point I cried at a bank teller asking her to tell me what I need and she didn’t even know. No one seems to have any sheet with any guidelines: getting married, getting a medical card, getting an id, getting a license, getting a bank account… the only thing that was straight forward was what the Immigration Office needed for my Permit of Stay (like a green card)…they needed 5 things and I had them all thank God!

  49. Britt December 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Wow, Should I even consider going?? I’m a late placement and I’m planning on leaving at the end of this month.

    • Liz December 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      yes you should definitely still go if you really want to live in Spain, just remember all this and prepare accordingly haha! Where are you placed? Try to contact your schools now to see about the payment problems, buena suerte! :D

  50. Camila Maria January 3, 2013 at 2:33 am #

    I did this program for the 2011-2012 school year, and there were MANY things that I sincerely disliked about this program. However, luckily I didn’t experience getting paid late and getting my TIE was pretty much straightforward (and I got the same NIE I had when I was studying abroad). Now getting the visa, both the first (for study abroad) and the second time (for the auxiliar program) were quite frustrating, I believe I cried both times because of all the stress.

    You are so right the program was totally hit or miss when it came to your school. I worked in two centers, both within 10 mins or so to the center of the city. I totally had complete reign over my students for my 45 minutes. We had fun in some classes, not so much in others. What I hated wasn’t the time alone with them and the responsibility of doing lesson plans, but the lack of support and guidance from majority of the teachers I was working with. Oh, and the lack of communication. And the two-facedness of many of the teachers …and students for that matter. I had adults, so it was a whole different ballpark.

    I also hated the schedule I had. It was split up in 2 weeks that alternated Week 1 had one set of classes I would see ranging from 2-5 different classes each day, and Week 2 had a different set, so I would only see one given student or class every other week, or sometimes there was a longer time because of puente, etc. I hear from other people around the world teaching ESL in a foreign country generally goes like this. I’m teaching ESOL now in the states in the DC area, and I see my students EVERY day Monday-Thursday. The consistency is SO much better for me and for the students. We can actually develop rapport with our students. And none of it was fake. I’ve shared so many stories, laughs and tears with my students here. And they appreciate me so much more. Alas, I still have the travel bug, I’m thinking about going to Korea (they pay loads more than Spain!)

    Also, my school wasn’t very lenient when it came to missing days, whether it was due to travel, sickness, or life. I almost cussed out the director of my school because she was bitching about my missing about 1 week n half of school because I went home to go to my Dad’s funeral. I had told my coordinator and she told me not to worry about it, and don’t worry about classes, just worry about going home. Apparently she got the memo, but was like normally we only give teachers 3 days off for the passing of a relative. I live on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean lady, it takes me a bit longer to get home, and I’m not a trust fund baby, so we also had to get the funds together. One would think she’d be understanding. I’m sorry to use this word, but I thought she was such a fucking cunt.

    That’s basically what I didn’t like about the program^^^ But I loved living in Spain, meeting people from different parts of the world, exploring Galicia, eating pulpo, and I travelled way more this year during my stay in Europe compared to when I was studying abroad. During study abroad, I was living in Valencia, Spain, but only travelled to Canary Islands (Gran Canaria), Barcelona, Zurich (on a 13 hour layover going home for Christmas, so it was a short trip!), Alicante, and some small towns in Valencia province Sagunto and Xativa. This time around I got to see England, France, Portugal, Morocco and then Italy at the end, along with some trips around Spain!

    Travelling is not always rainbows and butterflies….you’re so right. I try to highlight the good and the bad, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from travelling to Spain, or any other country. I want to encourage and inspire others to travel instead of simply living vicariously through me :P

  51. Camila Maria January 3, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    Oh I forgot, I hated how when I went to my coordinadora for support in finding a place to live after being denied a place to live due to some racist landlords. They acted like it didn’t even happen, and didn’t offer any support or consolation. It wasn’t there fault no, but a “wow that sucks” or “you should report them to so&so, that’s illegal” would have sufficed. I think I still have the emails to prove it. It wasn’t all in my head. SMH

  52. Liz January 13, 2013 at 12:48 am #

    This is not a response to any one post in general, but to various things I see in this thread:

    1. When moving to another country to work for a grant program, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to be well prepared in all aspects. This means doing your research about the program, both from the program organizers and other venues (google, facebook, etc.). If you take the 5 seconds to type the program name into facebook search, you’d see most of the groups, and thus would be able to well inform yourself of the payment issues.

    2. Being well prepared also means saving your money, because even WITHOUT KNOWING about the payment issues, you should realize that different countries operate payroll differently, and many countries have a monthly pay system (actually, a lot of people from my university in the USA were also paid once monthly). This means you need to have enough money to cover your bases and account for the exchange rate. If you physically can’t scrape up the money, wait another year until you’ve got enough saved. I put off doing the program one year (even though I had actually received a late placement) for financial reasons. Worked out to my advantage. The following year when I went, I was prepared for the late payment issues, and was able to travel to most of the places I had wanted to see that year.

    3. My biggest issue with what Americans in particular say about this program is how awful the school experiences can be (trust me, in some aspects I understand, I had major issues the first week of my placement this year). I hear a lot of people saying that the kids are so much worse than in the USA. Well most of the auxiliares I know did not come from teaching programs from university, and didn’t do a year of student teaching in recent years. I did. And I student-taught at what “should have been” a good school…a typical rural/suburban midwest school where the parents are very involved. Those kids were horrible. Some classes were worse than others, but the behaviors that on occasion were so frustrating I wanted to cry are the same frustrating behaviors I see in my students in Spain. It’s not all sunshine and butterflies in the American classrooms either.

    Do you know that in the teacher’s contracts in Detroit Public Schools, K-3 can have up to 40 students, 4-5 up to 46 students, and 6-12 up to 61 students? Can you imagine trying to teach such large groups, in a school system with very little resources of any kind, with some students having behavioral problems that make our Spanish children look like complete angels? Have you had lawsuits hanging over your school’s head for the stupidest little thing, such that the teachers are forced to pass a kid who didn’t deserve passing grades? I’m from Michigan and this is what is happening in my state. All of my screaming, bratty, can’t-speak-English bilingual classes in Spain suddenly seem like a piece of cake when I think about where I could be working if I were back in the USA.

    • Liz January 13, 2013 at 1:23 am #

      Those numbers for Detroit schools are the numbers of students they can have in one classroom at a time.

      • Ned July 31, 2014 at 10:13 am #

        In Pacific Rim countries classroom size is NEVER an issue and significantly LARGER than US limits and Spain. The reason this works is because kids are MOTIVATED. Their culture emphasizes knowledge. ANY TIMSS scores from ANY year are evidence of that. It is a different mindset.

  53. Diane January 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    If you changed the title to the France teaching assistant program, I could have almost written this exact post (give or take a few details). Late pay, no one knows anything, etc. BUT I managed to get through it and arrive on the other side unscathed. And I have to think it helped me in ways I was probably too mad at the time to realize. Since then, I’ve moved back to France and just laugh when I think back to those days. Cool post!

  54. Lauren February 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    I’m applying to Auxiliares for this coming year and also to BEDA along with one of my best friends. This post has really helped us consider all possibilities and I thank you for that. It’s hard to decide between the two programs because as of yet I have found nothing to compare the two (perhaps a new blog post suggestion…). Thank you again for your sincerity on the program, it has helped me better prepare for issues that may arise if I am accepted. :)

  55. Maria February 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    I’m afraid one can find the same problems in the US!
    I’m a Spaniard working as a teacher in California and the bureocracy here is not better than in Spain! It took me years and money to get my teacher credentials. I ended up taking more classes than I had to because no one seemed to know how to validate my 2 degrees in Education. Every time I sent the required documents, I was told there was something missing…it was a nightmare. I got different answers from my school district, the Commission of Teaching Credentials, the County of Education…you name it.
    Not to mention the endless paperwork required by the principal, superintendent or the State that changed constantly: one year our lesson plans had to be based on the National standards, the next year on the State standards, this year on the Common Core Standards…

    Many schools here are old and often vandalized. My classroom is a portable with mildew, holes on the wall and dirty carpet. Last year someone broke into it and stole my laptop, projector, and other valuables…After turning in reports, receipts and talked to different people in charge, I was told I would not be reimbursed.

    We do a lot of safety drills to prepare ourselves for “the big earthquake” and for intruders bearing guns. Now, that’s scary!!!

    My students don’t know anything about Spain. They think it’s located in Latin America and they are surprised to learn that we don’t eat tacos or spicy food. They’ve never heard of tapas, siesta, or flamenco…Many of my students don’t care for my accent and some parents even complain that I don’t use Mexican words.
    I hope I don’t get a lawsuit ;)

    I don’t commute but I live in a small rural town which can be depressing since I was born and raised in Madrid. I don’t often go to the nearest big town since crime rates are high, there are Mexican gang members and shootings everywhere.
    Socializing here consists of going out for dinner to be back home before 9:00. I miss aperitivos, bares, cafeterias, and paseos!!! I need the car for everything!
    Talk about cultural differences…

    • Samantha March 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      Thank you for this post! Living abroad I am always very curious about what people would say the other way around. I suppose that it’s hit or miss wherever you are, because your experience in California sounds very different from my high school in the midwest, and here in Spain I have worked at one very positive (and clean!) high school, and at another very negative one where I identify several of my classes by the graffiti on the walls–and one by the orange that has been smashed there the entire year!

  56. Ve February 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I lived in Seville for a while during 2011 – 2012, and while I’m applying for this program to be able to legally live in Spain again, and with a year-long visa in case I want/need to renew it (a certain someone is one of my reasons for returning), I’m also applying to a couple other programs so I can hopefully have some options. In addition to posts/articles similar to this that I’ve read, I had a couple of friends in Seville who were doing this program while I was there and they had similar comments – one didn’t get paid until December, one hated her school, especially since she was a legit foreign language (French) professor here in America. As you said, some people have a great – or at least, better, time regarding this program, so you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into in some aspects.

    This has a list of available programs to teach in Spain: http://upcycledbliss.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/options-for-teaching-english-in-spain/

    This is from someone who chose the Beda program instead:
    http://ladyinspain.com/2012/12/18/beda-faq/

    • Ve February 22, 2013 at 4:11 am #

      Oh okay, I figured this was automatically denied since it contained links :-p

  57. Ve February 22, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    While I’m essentially applying to the Ministry’s program to be able to legally live in Spain long-term, as I lived there for a while during 2011 – 2012 and would like to spend some more time there for a few reasons (a certain someone is one of those reasons), these criticisms are pretty fair and a good warning so future auxiliares know what could go wrong, for those who don’t know anyone who’s done this program. When I lived in Seville, a few girls I met did the Ministry’s program – a couple didn’t get paid until December, another hated her school/the students/the job itself (loved her boss though), especially since she had been a foreign language college professor in America.

    I applied to a couple other Teach in Spain programs, as I do have experience teaching, a TESOL certificate, speak advanced Spanish, etc. I’m “admitida” to the Ministry program as #870, so since I definitely have that option it’d be nice to have a couple more.

  58. Tyler Schatz March 3, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Liz,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. This sums up the experience very well: fun living in Spain, but horrible working here. Thanks again.

    Tyler (Working in Murcia, got paid for Oct, Nov, Dec in Jan and now it’s March and haven’t been paid again since)

  59. Summi March 6, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    I’ll admit, I stopped reading the comments several pages ago. But I read every word of this blog. I’m so glad you put this out there. I was supposed to be a visiting professor in Spain last year. As with all the rest, I’d quit my job, moved out of my house, sold my house (or so I thought), etc. when mid July after 2 months of us hounding them for info, and them (the ministerio) telling us to go ahead and get our paperwork together and to be ready for our letters of guarantee… They finally called us to tell us the program was cut. We were all out of jobs, many homeless, sad, and pissed! Then after that was all said and done they offered us the auxiliary program as a consolation prize… It was less than 1/3 of our promised salary as visiting professors.
    I never made it to Spain. It’s still a dream, but after last summer, I can’t go through that process again.

  60. Auston March 7, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    This info is super helpful. I am in the process of applying for the same program. Looks like I need to spend a few hours on your site ready your tips! Thanks for taking all the time to write this stuff. Need to submit my application next week!

    • Megan March 18, 2013 at 6:37 am #

      Hey, so I finished the application in mid Feb and had my BF who is a Spaniard go to the ministerio in Valladolid, and express his concern for my placement there, and hopefully I get the whole Visa shi* dealt with, but considering I was living in Spain for 3 years and this will be the point of return for me…. Im hoping not to face much of the issues you mention, (although there are some serious valid points about Spanish bureaucracy).

      Can I ask you how you managed to find the other Auxiliares? I have friends and bf and what not, but I think it would be really helpful to be able to discuss this stuff with people while going through it. Are there orientations? Or FB is the best form of contact?
      thanks for the comments

      • Megan March 18, 2013 at 6:39 am #

        OOPS.
        ps.
        I thought i should have posted my fb profile to the post before I submitted but forgot.
        thanks. haha

  61. Katie March 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    You have SOO many comments on this post so it’s not as if another will make any difference, but I just had to share with you how absolutely SPOT ON this is. I’m currently an auxiliar with BEDA and although we do get paid on time, everything else you have described seems dangerously familiar!
    Great information for anyone thinking about applying. It really is just a close your eyes and hope for the best sort of thing over here.

  62. Raphi March 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Thanks for such an informative and honest article Liz, I will still go ahead with my application but it’s nice to at the least be informed of what I may be getting myself into.

    I’m a Brit currently working in Barcelona for a program called “CAPS – home to home”. Many Americans are working in this program also teaching 25 hours a week (although often expected to be in school 8-5 every day, they didn’t tell us that before we signed up) and we are also “assistants” but most of us are expected to plan and teach our own classes with no other teacher present. We live free with Catalan host families (although not exactly free as we are expected to spend time speaking English with them) and we are paid only 150euros a month. The program is also highly disorganised, and charge the schools quite a lot for us to teach there but pay us very very little. There are many other programs in Spain and other countries offering similar deals, many are disorganised and don’t pay on time also. Still many of us Brits on the program feel lucky to have jobs and a roof over our head considering the situation with high unemployment for young people in Britain.

    In terms of TEFL teaching in Spain it’s standard for a qualified and experienced teacher to be paid just over 1000E a month (net) for 25-30hrs teaching which in reality is more like 50hrs work. As much as issues with the organisation / obtaining visas / not being paid on time are really frustrating working only 12hrs a week for 700E a month still seems like a great deal for me.

    Some of the things I’ve heard other bloggers complaining about this program seem pretty pathetic. Okay the program is not perfect, but minimum wage in Spain is less than 700E after tax for working a 40hr week (and you are making the same only working 12 hrs!!), England is a little higher but so are living costs, before I was living in Greece making 400E a month for a full time job and no insurance and I was considered lucky by most just to have a job. Mostly it’s Americans complaining about the program and somethings that have been posted about this program make them seem a little spoiled. Of course not being paid for months is unacceptable but when people are moaning about having to commute or having long breaks between classes or not living in the area they would have preferred I do feel like mentioning the unemployment statistics across Europe now and how very lucky anyone is to be making a full time salary for working 12hrs a week anywhere in Southern Europe. All I can assume is the quality of life in America must be very high for people to complaining constantly about small problems when they have what seems to other Europeans to be a pretty sweet deal.

    I am not criticizing this specific article which is actually very informative, just some of the comments after and other posts I have read from other bloggers.

    • Ve April 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      I agree with a good amount of this. When I lived in Seville, the average EFL teacher’s salary was apparently a little over 1000E/month for those employed by academias. Nowadays many Spanish professionals are not making 1000E/month working full-time jobs that require specialized education. One of my private class students was a computer engineer and I find it amazing, and a little sad, that I could be making a similar salary as him (I’m hoping to be placed in Madrid, assuming I can raise enough money to head out there in the first place)

      Re: the small complaints — Having lived in the Chicagoland area for most of my area, I’m actually a little excited at the thought that my commute may at worst just be an hour or so each way. Also, having free time during the work day may actually be a good thing, as I’d have some time to myself to get some work done.

      That being said, it’s good to know what to expect/what can go wrong, for major/minor reasons alike.

  63. Kristin April 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I totally agree with you in every aspect. I am in love with Spain, but all of the things you mentioned are some things that really DRIVE me nuts! There’s is nothing wrong with the honest truth.

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  65. Jessi July 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    OMG I wish I had found this post earlier … my experience was SUCH a nightmare back in 2010-2011. Like you, I loved the living in Spain bit, but it was all such a headache. The director of my bilingual classes strongly disliked me, I had issues with my apartment, no one was willing to help me even when I asked nicely, my co-workers basically had the you’re-on-your-own attitude, it took me 6 months to set up internet, I had to move 2x because my landlady didn’t keep the place in workable order, they forgot to pay me over the Christmas holidays and I had no money, … my director joked that the program was out of money and I might not get paid .. and he thought that was FUNNY… god I could go on forever…

  66. Pedro August 20, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Hola Liz,

    While i do like your blog as it’s always interesting how americans change their opinions about Spain once they reside here, i mean, you are in the USA so you think Spain is bullfighting, flamenco and its people dark haired (mainly because of andalucia) then you happen to come to Spain, visit Castilla and the north, and oh my god! suddenly Spain is really green with forests and valleys, amazing landscape, its people may be as blond as any ‘guiri’ from the UK or people playing bagpipes.

    Well talking of your post about how you hate the program..well…well….let me say that you look really upset to such degree that you look…you look like a moaning Minnie! lol (no offence)

    You ask yourself who actually understands the program….well i think the application process is quite easy to understand…. you moan about the FBI report….well you must get it so the Spain’s authority is sure you have no major or important crimes…what’s the problem with that? as far as i know Spaniards who want to study, work or live in the USA must get firstly a report from the Ministry of the Interior about criminal records, then they give it to the US consulate in madrid in order to get their visas…so what’s the problem? are you suggesting that americans getting an FBI police report is more embarrasing or worse than Spaniards getting just the same thing?

    As for not getting paid for three months i must say that it is regional goverments’ fault, not the national goverment’s as in Spain the ‘school system’ was transferred to regions. The ministry may give money to regions, and it is the regions that pay, and i tell you that regional politicians in Spain are lazy and don’t give a rat’s arse about anything save for being corrupt (not different from any other european region).

    As for “you might end up in a village of 5,000 people, in rural back country Spain where your students don’t know the difference between England and America”….well i really doubt that students in rural Kansas or Nebraska know that Spain is a european country. Anyway i think us Spaniards do know the difference between England and America, as the english people are everywhere along the mediterranean sea, in fact there are towns where you think you’re in England rather than in Spain because of the many english restaurants, bars and the large british community….as for America we think of one continent consisting in many countries and divided into 3 parts, north, central and south. But because you mean the USA and i do know it, i think that everyone in Spain does know the many differences between England and the USA….well everyone except for the elderly who hardly know that America means the USA as it means to US citizens/americans, and children who learn later the America/USA issue.

    As for your friends being placed in villages an hour away from where they reiside…well if you are placed one hour away the best to do is to reside in that location…as for paying teachers to let them ride with them to and from work…well at first sight it sounds nasty a bad, in fact i would never charge anyone for a month or two, ….but let’s be honest Liz, if it were to take a whole year i think it would be great to share the petrol cost! not that you pay the owner of the car but share petrol!

    Talking of the visas, NIE or the residence card being a nightmare….i don’t agree at all, it is quite easy, you get the visa after you have granted a job or any other thing you have applied for….then once in Spain and in order to get the NIE or the residence card you must go to a police station of the National Police, not to a station of local police that is a different thing, as different as an FBI station and a sheriff office. Please note that the police station must have an “oficina de extranjeria” which is the office that deals with foreigners, and not all police stations have it unless i’m wrong…..you must make sure you carry all the documents you need.

    Pedro ,)

    • Liz December 10, 2013 at 3:18 am #

      Hi Pedro, thanks for your comment but you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about – sorry!

      • Pedro Meca Garcia December 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

        please tell me exactly what i have no idea about :)

        is it about the NIE and the national police stations? is it about some people in rural Kansas or Nebraska not knowing that Spain is a European country?

        thanks for your reply by the way

        • Liz December 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

          I’m saying that you don’t have the same experience that I have since you’re Spanish – have you undergone the immigration process as an American? Have you worked in Spain as an auxiliar?

          Once you have, then your opinion will have some foundation.

          We are talking about Spain, not America, and saying well la la la it’s like that or worse in America is a kindergarten attitude and totally irrelevant – I have plenty of issues with my own country, but I am not writing for Spaniards moving to the US (because I have no experience immigrating to the US therefore I won’t offer an opinion), we are talking about Americans moving to Spain. Don’t flip the discussion.

          Also you clearly haven’t read much of my blog because you made sweeping generalizations about me and other Americans according to our opinions of Spain – I have dozens of articles backing up what you just said, for me Spain is wonderful in its diversity, and it’s not just bullfights and flamenco which SOMETHING I’ve written about TONS on here – which you haven’t taken the time to look through so right off the bat your argument has no ground.

          You’re just upset that I’ve written something that A. is true and B. doesn’t show Spain in a great light. But for me, and for most of the Americans coming to Spain with the auxiliar program, they would like to know the truth, both good and bad. I am not saying people shouldn’t come to spain, but knowing the truth about it helps us prepare – all of this is something I wish I had known before coming over.

          Everything I’ve written is based off of personal experience and I would LOVE for you to point out where I’ve made a mistake, lied or am wrong.

          • Pedro Meca Garcia December 15, 2013 at 11:45 am #

            here is where i think that you are wrong:

            you talk about being placed in a village where students don’t know the difference between England and America…well that’s not true…everyone in Spain does know that England is a European country, and that America is a continent discovered by Columbus in 1492, a continent divided into three parts: north, central and south.

            you say that civil servants (funcionarios) can’t be fired….that’s not true Liz, they can be fired of course.

            you also say that the Visa process is different depending on the region, that’s not true…. the process is the same everywhere in Spain because the Visa process and the NIE after it are processes that belong to the Ministerio de Exteriores (foreign office or state department) and the Ministry of the Interior (your homeland security department), the processes are the same because those two ministeries are exactly what you call federal agencies or departments in the USA, you know, a federal thing that applies to everywhere in the USA.

            you slag off the Ministry because of the delays of payments..well i think it’s the fault of regions, not the Ministry’s because as far as i know it is the region who pays with the money received from the Ministry…and in case that the Ministry delays, the region must have cash to pay….anyway you do have the right to moan about not getting paid in time.

            this is my opinion Liz, i am not upset of course, i do respect your opinion so please respect mine, in fact i think that to disagree with different opinions makes the world a better place.

  67. Lucia Villanueva August 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    As much as it seems like this entire experience is frustrating– I think it’s really narrow-minded American thinking to believe that this sort of bureaucracy and red-tape does not exist in the USA. Just as in Spain, there are a lot of incompetent and rude government workers, who likewise cannot easily get fired and if they are dismissed they are “laid-off” with a huge government payoff. Perhaps those replying to this blog have never dealt with such people in the US because you are used to managing everything through private industry.That doesn’t mean these problems don’t exist.

    Further, to state that in countries like “Australia” and “USA” honest practices are upheld as Tara Clifford did– implying that Spain is not honest in it’s practices is myopic. Clearly if you are not getting paid on time it is as a result of inefficiencies in government not a scheme by the Spanish to lure young impressionable post college 20 somethings to Spain and then cheat them of an honest wage.
    In addition, despite the appalling dysfunctions of the system and the program– at least Spain is attempting in some way to educate their populace in English as a secondary language. What is the USA or Australia doing for that matter?

    I studied in France as a graduate student and had friends doing the French Assistant program and likewise there were similar frustrations related to that program and the French government and I experienced to some extent the difficulty of navigating a European government’s bureaucracy and establishing oneself legitimately as a person in a country where one is a foreigner– but after 2-3 years of working as Spanish Assistant’s if you do not like it– then change your situation.

    To continue using it to remain in Spain while concurrently lamenting on how awful Spanish/EU governmental policies are reflects the extremely ethnocentric & anglophone mentally of those who have posted such arguments.

  68. Fann October 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Your passport looks a little crowded…
    I also hate spending much time in the labirinths of bureaucracy.

  69. Hailey February 13, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    I was an auxiliar de conversacion in Madrid for two years (2008-2010). I just wanted to say that I think Liz presented her experience with the program and the bureaucratic of Spain accurately.

    Because the experience is QUITE “hit or miss,” my friends and I shared in some of the same woes as you… while others, we didn’t. Even among my best friends who were also auxiliares, we had different experiences with our schools’ administration, teachers, parents, etc.

    There are certainly many benefits to the program (the upside of things!), but it wasn’t easy, simple, or straightforward. Ay… Espana…

  70. Ben May 14, 2014 at 3:30 am #

    I have had a bit of an issue with my school telling me one thing and later telling me another thing once I have done what they originally told me. Of course, I get reprimanded for it. Get everything in writing!

  71. Syd May 25, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    This is a good summary of some of the negatives of Spain as a country in general. All these things really suck and need to be sorted out. I’m English and have been living in Spain for 3 years, working as an English teacher. I’m considering applying for this program but the version for British people. I guess there’s less risk for me, I already have a visa automatically and if I don’t like it, I can pop home, it’s only 70 euros and 2 hours on the plane. I didn’t realise how sketchy it is for Americans on this program.

    For me the worst is never being taken seriously. I love this country, I want to live here but it’s as if I’m not real person!

    Thanks for the heads up!

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  73. Richelle September 3, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I just stumbled across this. Your old program sounds EXACTLY like the horrible program I went on in China. Such a disorganized clusterfuck and definitely hit-or-miss (my experience was a miss…). I wrote a review about the program that was extremely honest, thinking I’d get backlash from the company, but they actually thanked me for writing it! Apparently it was very “unbiased about where they could improve”. Maybe I should’ve been a little meaner… I didn’t scare enough people away!

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  76. Alfredo October 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    I completely agree with Lucia Villanueva’s comment.

    Get OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE. I am from Spain, have learned English since I was a child and have lived, studied and worked for many years in the USA. A lot of the problems you mention for Spain have happened to me in the United States as well.

    What did you expect from disgruntled government employees? A smile and a red carpet just because you’re American and make ridiculously obnoxious threats about telling bs to the “US Embassy”?

    I wish you could try to deal with “civil servants” in New York and see how incompetent and awful the bureaucracy can be in the United States with things like getting permits, renewing licenses for things or just simple paperwork. At least in Spain the workers speak the national language, because in the US depending on the area some of the employees working in the town hall can’t even speak English since they are Latin American and make no effort to learn English and work there because they are politically connected. This is a fact in Queens, New York, and some of the New Jersey towns around Newark, etc.

    Spain has rude civil servants, so does the US. You are acting as if though this was only a Spanish problem. Guess what lady? We Spaniards also get treated nastily by these employees because many of them make lower wages (their wages have been frozen for years and years) and many studied really hard and now were lied to by the Spanish government (the right-wing politicians who couldn’t give a crap about the welfare of our workers) thanks to pressures from…yep, US ECONOMY AND BANKS.

    I love the American people and 99% of Americans I’ve met are nothing like you sound. I don’t know you but you sound self-entitled and self-important in your comments.

    The biggest whingers in Spain tend to be British people (I have yet to meet a single respectful British person in Spain) but Americans generally make the effort to adapt and know this is not the US (NOR SHOULD IT BE).

    As others have pointed out, if you hate this country, you can always pack your bags and leave. When I was in the US, there were tons of things I didn’t like – the fake smiles in restaurants just to get tips, the passive-aggressive attitudes and fake ways of so many people and the general stressed out lifestyle. But, I made an effort to respect the country and know that I was nobody to tell American workers what to do or how to act. You seem to think you can tell our workers what to do or how to work.

    I hope you change your attitude.

    • Liz October 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Hey Alfredo, this article is for Americans coming to Spain with the auxiliar program, which I’m sure you have a lot of experience with, right? This is not an article about foreigners coming to the US because I have no experience to write about that – congratulations for making the article about you and missing the point entirely! I find it very childish when people flip things around and blame other people. I never said I hate Spain, which clearly you missed because you can’t see straight due to your anger towards me; I write one negative post in an effort to help young americans prepare for their move to Spain and it cancels out the hundreds of other wonderful things I said about Spain which I’m sure you read on my blog, right? Or are you making all of these judgmental comments based off of one post that you have absolutely zero background information on. Also this post is 2 years old, and since then I HAD to leave spain because the program I was with is an absolute disaster and pretty much everyone in charge of it is completely incompetent. I have never told spanish workers how to do their job, rather begged them TO DO their job in the first place, which is pretty much where are the problems originated from. So please, take your bitchy comments and judgements somewhere else and off my blog, thanks.

      • Alfredo October 15, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

        Considering I work EVERY day with the program, yeah, I most certainly DO have experience with the program since I work in “Extranjeria” and know all there is to know about NIEs, EU visas, the auxiliares program, etc.

        Yes, I read your article about having to leave Spain and I understand you are/were not happy with the program. Your problem, not certainly the thousand others who have nothing but good things to say about their experience in my country.

        That being said, you do what you have to do. I do not wish to “occupy” your blog or your time since you obviously have very set opinions about how we operate and that you are our supervisor making us “do our job”.

        I find your answer to be very angry as well. The reason I made a comparison with “my” experiences in the US is because in your post you make it sound as if though only Spain has incompetent public workers or disastrous programs. So I used the example of my own experience in the US to refute your arguments in these matters.

        That being said, don’t worry because I will make no further comments on your blog. There is too much life to enjoy here for me to worry so much about what ONE person writes.

        • Liz October 16, 2014 at 11:25 am #

          Oh good then I’m sure the extranjeria where you work is on top of things, have you also worked as an auxiliar too? I was writing from my experience with them in Cordoba and Logroño and I can safely say they were completely incompetent two years ago on multiple occasions, one can only hope they improve. I think it’s really ridiculous that I must only say positive things about Spain. Is the world so black and white? Just because I had problems with the program doesn’t mean I didn’t love Spain and also have positive things to say about – again did you actually read my blog before you made all of these sweeping judgements about me? But I am not surprised when I hear someone argue back saying well things are the same or worse in another place – I wasn’t writing about the US or making any comparisons. It’s like arguing with a child. So yes, please don’t worry with what I write, I don’t worry about your negative feedback either consider I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of messages, and thousands of views on this post over the years thanking me for giving an honest review of the program.

  77. Alfredo October 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    Liz:

    I know I am breaking my previous statement to not write again to you but I know you Americans tend to value free speech a lot and I really appreciate that about 99,99999999% of the hundreds of Americans I have met who generally give me the opportunity to defend my statements. I am only writing this comment in response to your latest one but if you wish we can continue with private e-mail so the thread doesn’t deviate.

    Yes, believe me my extranjería is on top of things – the problem is, again, Spanish government which doesn’t give enough resources to all the provincial offices. It’s not at all normal that for hundreds and thousands of applications for NIEs we have maybe two, maybe three workers. But that’s not our problem — Spanish workers do what government tells them to do and this government is totally stupid, incompetent and corrupt. That’s who you should be blaming, not the Spanish workers.

    No, I have not worked as an auxiliar but I have a lot of experience with how language classes generally work in Spain.

    No, please, you misunderstand me. There is NO REASON to say ONLY positive things about Spain. Believe me, you will find no harsher critic of Spain than me. I HATE many things about the way my country and other people here think about things in general so no, that’s not the problem. The problem is when you direct your criticisms at the wrong people. Again, this is a government problem. Employees are simply doing what government (incompetent, yes, but not civil servants) tell them to do. Let’s direct the criticisms where they should go.

    I still think you are directing your critiques at the wrong issues. You have had problems with your NIE. Write me an e-mail if you want and tell me what the specific problem was with your NIE or other paperwork issues. You probably have no idea how frustrated we are sometimes with idiotic people who don’t seem to understand simple directions (I’m not saying you don’t follow directions by the way, but there are many, many people, especially foreigners, who complain that they get yelled at here but then when you probe, you find that they just felt entitled to get whatever it is they thought they should get).

    And I didn’t make any sweeping judgments about you without clarifying that I do not know you, and am only judging from your writing here. I know you like Spain…I can read English too.

  78. Carla October 23, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    I would like to highlight some points that made me laugh:

    1. SALARY. The salary of an “auxiliar” is 700€ per 12 hours. Auxiliares don’t usually plan anything for the students. They just walk around the school and translate some words into English for the students as well as the teacher. A salary of an official Primary School teacher is around 1400€ per month and they work more than 30 hours per week. If they are “funcionarios”, they are very lucky because they work the whole year and get paid the whole year. There are other teachers who aren’t that lucky and they have to travel and work for some weeks/some months, called “interinos”, changing all the time the school they work and the place they live in. My point is: you’re lucky you get paid this salary, mostly the same salary as a Primary school teacher (12 hours/part-time employment here or even less) , who has had to study very hard in order to get this job.

    2. DON’T PLAN THE CLASS/DON’T BE ALONE WITH THE STUDENTS: don’t go to France, then. Auxiliares have to plan all their classes in France, and they are usually ALONE with the students. I agree with you in this point, it is stupid that the Spanish government pay American students to come here and do nothing.

    3. “Totally feasible. I had other friends who were placed at schools in villages over an hour away, that they not only had to commute to, they had to pay the teachers to let them ride with them to and from work, over 100 euros extra a month”

    Maybe this person would have stayed in the village, and don’t move to one hour distance. Otherwise yes, he/she should pay the teachers. These teachers are paying the petrol themselves and they might have families, pay the mortgage, etc. I have met a guy who was working one hour away from Granada and he never paid anything; teachers gave him a lift into the school FOR FREE. Some Spanish people are nice, aren’t they?

    4. Last but not least. I am Primary school teacher and I am highly offended with this article. First of all, I am TIRED to read/hear people from abroad saying that Spanish teachers/people don’t know any English. I have been to the UK and English teachers didn’t know any Spanish neither. What is more, they were teaching Spanish. People are spending thousand of euros and time in order to learn English in Spain. For instance, me, I didn’t study English at school, since I studied French, and I had to work very hard to learn English. I have been studying for 5 years and I have only been to the UK once. I haven’t had the opportunity to go to the United States because your country only offer 4 vacancies of “auxiliar de conversación”. WE OFFER 4.500 VACANCIES. To become Auxiliar in the States you must have studied Philology or Translation at the University. We don’t ask any related study to come as auxiliar in Spain. I have seen doctors, architecs, etc. Besides, the American government only gives 1000 dollars per month to live there, and I believe you have to pay the petrol to go to the school, or even worse, you need to buy a car. I don’t know how the cost of life is in the north of Spain, but in the South, any person who get 700€ per month with any family burden can live quite well.

    As I have said before, I am Primary School teacher. I don’t have any job, I have passed two competitive exams and my government didn’t give me the opportunity to work. I am not the only one; thousand of jobless people are studying and working very hard to become teachers in Spain. Many people are going to the UK and the States to work as an au pair or any bad- paid job in order to learn English. I will be very happy to have the opportunity to work in any school in order to get some experience and earn some money.

    By the way, do you know the “Programa de visitantes” in the States? I have read many blogs which report the same: teachers from the school don’t give you any help, you are alone with the students, you have children with special needs, you have to teach English. The American government give the worst schools to Spanish teachers from this program.

    I think you had problems to adapt yourself in Spain and you are blaming my country. Maybe you shouldn’t have had moved from your country.

    Footnote: sorry for my English. I have tried to make this message as accurate as possible, but I am not English speaker.

    • Liz October 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, but you are misinformed on many points on here. I am a big believer that if you are not 100% well informed on a topic you shouldn’t leave these kinds of comments, but most of all, I find it incredibly childish to take an article an compare it to other programs abroad, like you just did with france and the US. I am not writing about those places. To say “na na na well it’s just as bad or worse in France or the US” IS A FUCKING CHILDISH REPLY. Grow up.

      I almost wrote out a reply to each of your points but I am not going to waste my time. It’s clear, especially from points 1 and 2 that you have no clue how the auxiliar program is run all over spain, or at least how it was 2 years ago when I wrote this article. Once you’re better informed, I would love to hear your opinion, til then, please keep your assumptions and misjudgements to yourself. Thanks.

  79. Carla October 23, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    When I states: “I have to work with children with special needs” means that these teachers had to be alone with 30 students and 5/6 of them had special needs. Yet despite this, they are very happy because they are traveling and living abroad.

  80. Erin November 4, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    It sounds like you and others had culture shock with the bureaucracy and education system of Spain. You don’t get to play by or expect your country’s rules. It’s not necessarily disorganized, it’s just not the kind organization you’re accustomed to. The Min. of Ed. in Spain does not provide sufficient training or support in these aspects. It’s important people find resources on cultural integration before embarking on a stint abroad.

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