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

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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. :)

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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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  15. 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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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…

  20. 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!

  21. 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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