There are a few things I’m truly great at, and bitching about my life is one of them.
Seriously, do you want to hear about the time a few weeks ago when my toaster broke? Is anyone interested in how cold my apartment is right now? What about my childhood eczema and bloody noses? Want to know how hard it was to say goodbye to my family in the US, and to my Netflix account? Anyone interested in how much my ex-boyfriend totally sucks?
As much as I enjoy complaining, I have to admit that my job as an auxiliar de conversacion (aka “Language and Culture Assistant”) in Spain has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s an incredibly rewarding job and a lot of fun.
Not to mention that this is probably the easiest job I’ll ever have, unless my next career move is house-sitting.
1. Insane Amount of Free Time
This job is 12 hours a week (16 hours in Madrid). And it’s not 12 hours of manual labor in the sun. It’s not 12 hours of challenging work that pushes you to your cognitive capacity. It’s not 12 hours of university lectures that require lots of outside reading and studying and paper writing.
It’s 12 hours of reading paragraphs, singing songs, writing words on the board, and talking about how many inhabitants your city has. For many auxiliars that means sleeping in late, ending the work day at 2:00PM, and having a 3 day weekend every single weekend.
I almost feel guilty when I talk to friends I graduated with, or read their dismal facebook updates:
“Fifth 12 hour day in a row, about to fall over dead.”
“Count down to retirement starts now.”
“My resume is just a list of things I never want to do again.”
2. Easy to get accepted
Jobs are granted on a first come, first serve basis. There’s no intense vetting process to determine your qualifications, there’s no interview, and I’m pretty sure they never noticed my “official transcripts” were just something I copied and pasted into a word document.
The requirements to be a “Language and Culture Assistant in Spain” are:
- Be a native or bilingual speaker of English (or French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Chinese)
- Hold a US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, or EU passport
- Be a junior or senior in university, or have completed a university degree
- Have intermediate Spanish skills
There’s not even a test or course requirement to determine your Spanish level, the test is whether or not you can make it through the application.
So basically if you’re an English-speaking college kid, you’re in.
3. Easy way to Live Legally in Europe
Few auxiliars that I’ve met signed up for this job because they had a passion for the English language or teaching. Most signed up because they wanted to live in Spain.
There’s a lot of hoops to jump through to get an EU work permit if you’re not an EU citizen. In fact, legally migrating to the European Union as a 20-something with no European relatives, no European spouse, and no special skills is very difficult. This program is a (relatively) simple way for non-Europeans to land a legal position in Spain, rather than trying to make it as illegal, Spanish-speaking immigrant.
4. Being the Good Cop in the Classroom
The auxiliar job is light on lecturing about grammar, giving exams, assigning homework, and disciplining the students. And it’s very heavy on singing songs, doing crafts, discussing holidays.
You get to be the fun teacher. Sometimes I feel like a magic pixie that drops into the class room once a week, bringing tales of Thanksgiving and peanut butter sandwiches. Being young and from another country makes you sort of a novelty, the kids love me in the same way that we all love Taiwanese cabbage patch dolls.
5. No Lesson Planning or Paper Grading
You don’t have to do much work outside the classroom at all.
You don’t have to be that teacher complaining to your students “Oh God I was up so late last night grading your essays.” You don’t have to spend your lunch hour drawing up seating charts and checking off homework assignments. You don’t have to stress about putting together the year’s curriculum.
Occasionally you will be asked to prepare an activity for the class or put together a presentation about something. But for the most part, your free time is yours. You can spend your days learning Spanish, giving private lessons, cooking, finally figuring out how your water heater works, or crying about the high price of peanut butter.