To TEFL or Not to TEFL.

I’ve been vacillating for over 3 months on whether on not to get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified. I finally decided recently that I just want to go for it. Plus, I figure it can’t hurt to add another notch to the resume/CV. Now the problem has been deciding who to take the course with. There are a few programs that I could do in Spain and then there are the plethora of options for completing the certification online. I’m definitely leaning more towards the online route. I’m torn between i-to-i or getting the CELTA through Cambridge.

Ideally, I wanted to get this done before arriving in Spain, but I think I may just do it once I’m there. There is an examination center in Madrid for the CELTA so that won’t be an issue. I just think I could really benefit from something like this. I don’t have much experience when it comes to teaching a foreign language and if a person asks me why something is the way it is grammatically or phonetically, saying “Because it sounds nice that way” isn’t really going to cut it. And, let’s face it, English is one of those languages that has the least amount of structure. At least in Spanish and French there are rules and those rules are pretty much always stuck to. How do you begin to explain why the words heard/beard and dead/bead look similar, but are pronounced differently?

A person in the facebook group for auxiliares posted this clip from I Love Lucy and it shows the eccentrics of the English language perfectly:

This is the background on my macbook right now…

I know I said I’m trying to distract myself from placements and all that jazz…but it’s always nice to remind yourself of what you’re striving for.

Keeping Busy.

In order to try and distract myself from placements, I have been attempting to get everything ready so that I can get a move on with my visa once I get my school placement. I knew the visa process would be daunting, but it’s exceeding my expectations. I have my appointment for my medical certificate next month along with my appointment at an agency to get my fingerprints done for my background check. I opted to do the state BGC since the FBI one is no longer mandatory and the state one is a heck of a lot easier to get and takes less time. Once I have those ready, I already know what I need to do to get both notarized and with the Apostille of the Hague. My oldest sister’s coworker is a notary, so that takes care of the notarizing aspect. And thankfully, my father has a friend who works in the state department so she’s going to take the papers there for me to get the Apostille of the Hague.

I’m just hoping I get my school placement early in June so that I can start the visa process before I leave for vacation with my family to Puerto Rico. We normally go for about 3 weeks, which means I wouldn’t get back until mid-July and I’d really like to not have to start the visa process so late.

I’ve also started reading some history books I got about Spain. I would like to know more of the country’s history before getting there in August/September. And on top of those books, I got some others that discuss each region and places to visit in each one. I always like to have a general idea of where I want to visit before going somewhere. I’m very much a planner, so any information I can get my hands on early on will be great for me. Although, I am going to try and let go of my planning self, and be a little more spontaneous once I get to Spain. I have a feeling most things in Spain won’t go according to plan so I better start adjusting to living life by going with the flow of things…tendre que aprender a ir donde me lleve la corriente.

CIEE and BEDA.

CIEE and BEDA are 2 programs that a EXTREMELY similar to auxiliares de conversación. I have provided the links to both programs so you can inform yourself at your leisure.

I almost applied to CIEE and even started the application process. However, I decided that CIEE is not really the program for me since it costs quite an amount of money. I can’t really afford a program that costs over $1500. For others, though, this may be a good option. Also, CIEE is very involved in helping you get settled in Spain, so this is definitely a good program for someone who would like to feel like they are going to have their hand  held along the way. I should also mention that the majority of the placements in CIEE are in Andalucia, Spain.

BEDA is extremely similar to auxiliares, except that instead of public schools, BEDA works with catholic schools in Spain. The majority of the placements are in Madrid with a few in other locations like Castilla y León. Another aspect to BEDA is that you take a course at a university in Spain to help you with the teaching aspect of your job and to help you learn about Spain and Spanish.

The application process for CIEE and BEDA differ quite a bit. The CIEE application is all online. It’s fairly straightforward and has similar requirements to the auxiliar one (recommendation letters, copy of passport, copy of transcripts, etc.). There is also an application fee (last I checked it was $50 but it could always change so make sure to check when you apply).

For BEDA you send in a cover letter and resume (with a picture) to the coordinator. This past year, the coordinator was Samantha Dwyer. I don’t know if she’ll be the coordinator again next year so I don’t want to put her information down. Just check the link I posted with the BEDA site for all the details you need regarding where to send your application. After you send your application and it is received, you will be contacted about setting up a skype interview. Don’t stress about the interview. Mine was only about 10 minutes or so and Samantha was extremely kind and helpful and was willing to answer all of my questions. I would recommend writing down any questions or concerns you have beforehand so you can ask them during your interview.

Much like auxiliares, BEDA and CIEE also provide health insurance along with the stipend. Both programs also have orientation. CIEE will provide you with accommodation for the first 5 nights at your local school town and they will also arrange for a ride when you arrive at the airport. As I mentioned before, CIEE does provide a LOT of help, but it comes with a price (the cheapest program is around $1200 but it is for people who are well-versed in Spanish and have experience in Spain. The other programs for beginners start at about $2300).

I mentioned earlier that I chose not to apply to CIEE after seeing the cost. I just felt auxiliares and BEDA provide the same opportunity for no price at all so I didn’t see why I should have to pay for CIEE.

Currently, I am waiting to hear from BEDA regarding whether I will be accepted to the program and where I would be placed. I should be hearing in the first week of May…so soon! Auxiliares is likely to send out placements in mid-late May. This is good because if I hear from BEDA first and find that I have been accepted, I will likely agree to make the commitment to BEDA. I just think BEDA is more suitable to me, though if it does not work out, I am definitely accepting wherever auxiliares puts me. Another reason I want to hear from BEDA first is because auxiliares only gives you 7 days to accept or decline your placement, and I would hate to have to accept without knowing anything from BEDA yet. The main reason I would want BEDA is because it gives me the greatest chance of being in Madrid. If I end up being placed elsewhere (unless it’s Castilla y León since that is my other preference region), I may decide to decline and just accept my placement in auxiliares (wherever that may end up being).

¡Hablamos luego!

Música.

I’ve been listening to a lot of my favorite Spanish songs since Spain is pretty much the only thing on my mind. I know, I hide it so well…I bet you didn’t even know I’m going to Spain.

Anyway, this is one of my favorites. It’s “Puede Ser” by El Canto del Loco with Amaia (back when she was still with La Oreja de Van Gogh).

You Know How I Mentioned the Importance of Patience in the Application Process…

I’m having a really hard time with it. I was doing great until it was confirmed that placements for first time applicants wouldn’t be happening until May. I had the hope that at some point in April I would get my placement. I’m trying to keep my mind off of it, but my dreams lately are making it pretty apparent that it’s on my mind. Two days ago I dreamt that I’d gotten my placement and was assigned to San Sebastian…which isn’t even a region, it’s a city in the Basque Country. And it must be associated to the fact that my favorite band is La Oreja de Van Gogh and that’s where they’re from. Then, last night I dreamt that I was already in Spain and was frolicking about in Madrid.

Soon. That’s what I keep telling myself. In just a few months, I will actually be living in Spain. And that makes everything worth it.

While Waiting to Find Out My Placement…

I’ve been looking at being an Au Pair while I’m there. I’d really like to be able to save money and not have to pay for rent, plus I actually really enjoy being around kids. It’s been a little difficult, though, because I feel like I can’t really apply since I don’t know where in Spain I’m going to be placed. It’s every frustrating to see a great family and not be able to apply because who knows how long they will take before selecting someone. They may have already picked someone by the time I’m ready to apply.

I’m also still vacillating if that’s what I would really want to do. While it would be great to not have to pay rent, I’m not sure how I would feel with the added responsibilities. Granted, some of the positions I’ve seen say they’d only want you for one weekend a month, which is nice since it would give me the weekend to travel and shop and hangout with other auxiliares. I would really hope to be able to find something like that because it would suck to have the school job during the day, 5 days a week and then the au pair thing every single day in the evenings. Based on what I’ve seen though, it seems like I could find a nice family that would be resonable with me.

Either way, I have a lot to think about. I’d love to hear from others who have been Au Pairs. I’d like to get some firsthand opinions and tips.

Useful Websites.

When looking for information regarding the Auxiliares de Conversación you definitely want to go outside the manual for the program. While the manual does have a lot of great and useful information, I find that for programs like this it is best to speak with people who have already participated or are currently participating in it.

To find current auxiliares de conversación, I can NOT recommend the Expatriate Cafe forum enough. There you will be able to read posts written by current auxiliares, as well as posts from other applicants who are going through the same thing as you. It’s a great way to start making friends and connections before you even arrive in Spain!

Another valuable place to find information regarding current auxiliares is facebook. There are a plethora of groups on there for the auxiliares in various regions. A very quick search for auxiliares de conversación on their search bar should give you plenty of groups to sift through.

Lastly, I’ve found that one of the greatest resources for finding information regarding current auxiliares is to find their blogs. Many auxiliares start blogs (such as this one) to document their experience and to be a source of information for others interested in the program. The ExpatCafe forum that I mentioned is a great way to find such blogs. Many of the auxiliares link to their blogs in their profile and many have started threads on the forum for people to leave their blog links for others. I’ll leave the link to my favorite blog here.

Hope this was helpful! Feel free to ask any questions 🙂

I’ll be writing a post soon about another program similar to this one for those who are interested in exploring their options.

Edit: I forgot to mention that wikipedia is invaluable when it comes to looking up the various regions to see which ones you feel best suit you when it comes time to list your regional preferences on the application.

Applying to Auxiliares de Conversación.

There are two VERY important things that you will need when applying to this program. The first is the guide they provide online for registering and completeing the online application. Believe me, this guide will be your best friend. Know it. Love it. The link for this years guide is here. It should be noted that the guide and manual for the program can be found on the site that I linked to on my first post that has the site for the program in English. You will definitely need to look at both when applying.

The second thing you will need is patience. Lots and lots of patience. The application process can get very confusing and extremely frustrating. It will all be okay in the end, I promise.

With the guide, registering and going through the application online (using a program called profex) is actually fairly simple. What can make people fall behind is the documents required. You are going to need: official transcripts OR a copy of your diploma, resume, letter of intent (1 page and it should be addressed to the person in charge of the consulate that you are emailing- this information can be found in the program manual), 1 letter of recommendation (this letter MUST be on official letterhead and signed. It must also be from a former professor UNLESS it has been 5 years since you graduated, in which case, you may use a supervisor), and a scanned copy of the first two pages of your passport.

ALL OF THE ABOVE DOCUMENTS MUST BE UPLOADED IN PDF FORMAT!

The recommendation letter is the ONLY document that is exempt from this. I would HIGHLY suggest getting your recommender to give you a PDF copy, however, to upload to the application. Otherwise, the recommender has to mail out the document themselves to the consulate. This can be a bit tricky and often causes it to take longer for your status application to change online.

More

¡Auxiliares de Conversación en España!

This blog is mainly to document my own experience applying to Auxiliares de Conversación and to have a way for friends and family to keep up with my adventures once I go abroad. Of course, I’d also like to be a helpful blog those who want to apply to the program in the future and would like to read something from someone who is currently in the program.

(Side note: I am also applying to BEDA, which is a very similar program. I’ll write a separate post dedicated to that later).

I won’t be leaving for Spain for another 5 months or so, but I wanted to start documenting my experience with everything in this program early. This is why I have opened this blog months before even departing for Spain. Also, I feel like information regarding the application process is just as important.

I hope to be informative for people interested in applying to the program and please feel free to ask me questions you may have. I’m going to write a post tomorrow all about the application process. First, however, I want to talk give information regarding the program. This is straight from the program’s site:

Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants

This program aims to:

  • Promote cultural, educative and scientific knowledge exchange.
  • Support Spanish teachers in teaching and students in learning the Spanish language.
  • Foster understanding and appreciation between different cultures.

The Assistants get a grant in Spain to provide support to the English or French teachers in language and culture classes and also  have the opportunity to learn about the Spanish language and culture and use their experience upon their return to the United States or Canada, thus developing cultural understanding between the citizens of Spain and the United States of America and Canada.

In other words, you are a teaching assistant helping students learn English. This does not mean that you will be a teaching assistant in their English class. You can be assigned to any course (english, science, history, art, etc.). You are paid a stipend (roughly about 700 euros), given health insurance, and work, generally, a few hours 4 days a week. You may be assigned to either a primary or secondary school (you may list a preference in the application but there is not guarantee that it will be adhered to). The exact location of your placement is also up to the program (the greatest number of openings are in Madrid. However, that is also a very popular preference for applicants so not everyone who wants Madrid may be placed there).

It should also be noted that the program does not require any teaching experience and you do not need to be fluent in Spanish.

I know that I had a bit of an issue finding the site for the program in English when I was searching, so I’m going to post it here for others to have (http://www.educacion.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html.)

The site also has a manual to the program that I HIGHLY suggest people read. I’ve noticed that a lot of the questions people have regarding the program can easily be answered by reading the manual.

So that’s the gist of the program, if you have any other questions please feel free to ask me 🙂