Monday, February 25, 2013

The Path to Spain: BEDA

Now the second program BEDA has been by far more difficult to find information about.  I have not been able to find as much about it as Auxiliares or as many blogs from people who have selected this option.

BEDA (Bilingual English Development & Assessment):
BEDA is a very similar program to Auxiliares.  Under a student visa you work in schools in Spain as an English assistant.  However, BEDA is run by Catholic schools in Madrid, therefore you will work in a Catholic school with most of the placements being in Madrid (as of this year they do say they also have placements in Andalucía, Canary Islands,  Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia and Murcia).  Their website says there are 365 schools that participate and 300 of those are in Madrid.  It also mentions that there are over 300 teaching assistants in the program for this current year from multiple countries (way less than Auxiliares' 1800.)

Additionally, you are paid by the hours you work per week, regardless of what region you are placed in: for working 18 hours a week you make €900, 20 hours €1000, 22 hours €1100, and for 24 hours a week €1200.  So while you can earn more with BEDA you are working considerably more hours to do so (in Auxiliares you make €1000 in Madrid for working only 16 hours).  If you are selected and choose to enroll in the BEDA program there is also a €175-€200 fee.  Still not too bad considering...

The application period opened the beginning of November 2012 and closed February 14th.  It was a quite simple application compared to Auxiliares.

  1. You go to the website and fill out a PDF form which asks for basic information, level of Spanish, education history, and employment record.  
  2. With the completed PDF form you can either mail it to the address given or e-mail it to the coordinator along with your resume, cover letter, and attached photo.  
  3. If they ask you for an interview you have a time set up for an interview via skype. 
  4. You have your skype interview and wait to hear back about placements.  (The interview itself was no big deal, about 15 minutes and all in English.  They ask a few questions about why you are interested in the program, how many hours you want to work, where do you want to be placed, etc. then you can ask questions)
For a time frame for my application was I applied January 12th, e-mailing my application.  On the 15th I got an e-mail back from the coordinator confirming it was received  and on the 17th received another e-mail saying I was selected for a skype interview and given my interview time.  Overall, I heard back very quickly and the coordinator was very pleasant and helpful with any questions I had later.  According to my interview they plan on giving out placements starting around Easter.  Unlike Auxiliares (where they are given first come first serve if you have all documents), placements are determined by your application/background then according to when you applied.

Now while the requirements for BEDA are similar to Auxiliares, they put more emphasis on experience working with children/teaching.  I believe this is why it is not so well known as not many people looking into these programs have teaching experience or a desire to teach.  From what I have heard there is a lot more expected from the people in this program in the classroom.  I have heard people say that they are very much involved in planning lessons/activities or leading the class.  Another interesting thing about the BEDA program is that you take a weekly teacher training course at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas in Madrid on how to teach English as a second language.  That may not being interesting to most, but with teaching as my background I think it's fascinating!

What I hear most about BEDA, also just from what I have heard, is how organized and helpful the program is.  They do not have a history of payment problems and apparently help you with your residence card once in Spain as well as with your Spanish bank account, etc.  Furthermore, BEDA has no limit to the number of years you can renew.  I asked during my interview and was told that they have some who have been in the same school for five years (one of my main reasons why I may choose BEDA...)  The most helpful blog I have found of someone doing BEDA is Lady In Spain, about a girl doing the BEDA program in Madrid and living with a family as an Au Pair.

Auxiliares vs. Beda:
In both programs you have a student visado get healthcare, neither compensate you for your flight, and neither set you up with an apartment upon your initial arrival to Spain, and both programs last an academic year.

  • You make more money per hour in Auxiliares but this program has a history of disorganization and payment issues.  
  • With BEDA they don't have this history but you have to work more hours to make the same amount.  
  • BEDA is mainly focused in the Madrid region.
  • Auxiliares has positions throughout most of Spain.  
  • Beda only has around 300+ positions.
  • Auxiliares has a couple thousand positions.
  • With Beda you get a course on how to teach English as a second language, but have to pay an enrollment fee of €175-€200 upon accepting your placement.
  • With Auxiliares you can renew only as a second year with preference.
  • BEDA has no restrictions on the times you can renew with preference. 
Overall, BEDA seems more geared towards those who have a history living abroad and wish to gain more experience teaching.  Auxiliares, at least in my opinion, seems more for those who would like the experience of working and living abroad.  But it does come down to personal preference on what they want out of the experience.

BEDA UPDATE (April 26th 2013):
Many placements have been given out and many more have been wait-listed.  BEDA should contact you by the end of May if you have been placed, or taken off the wait-list.  Suerte!

Once I find out more about the UCETAM program I will post...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Path to Spain: Auxiliares de Conversación

For any who have studied or worked abroad they know the troubles of visas.  The visa is the main thing standing in between myself and Spain.  This past summer in fact when I applied for a few teaching jobs in Spain they wanted to hire me until the little fact that, "Oh. You're an American?  No visa?  Sorry." *click*  And so I was reassured that this would not be my path to Spain.

However, hope still exists with a few beautiful-yet at times apparently equally terrible-options set up to bring native English teachers to teach English in Spain.  The most well-known and popular is Auxiliares de Conversación, run by the Spanish governmnet, while the program BEDA has been gathering popularity over the past few years.  The third, UCETAM, I do not know much about because the application process has yet to open and to receive more information about the program you need to request to be added to the contact list and I am still waiting. *sigh*  The fourth, CIEE, I have not even looked into because it's essentially the same thing as Auxiliares but you pay around $2000 to get placed.  No thanks.  

However, I have applied for both Auxiliares and BEDA and as I had trouble finding comparisons of the two programs I thought I'd do a rundown here based on what I have found.  This post will be dedicated to the first of the programs:
Auxiliares de Conversación:
This program is run by the Spanish government and is essentially a grant to teach English as an English assistant in a public school in Spain.  The program has been around since 2005 and last year placed around 1800 candidates, the three regions with the most placements according to last years data being Madrid (810 placements), Andalucía (400), Galicia (255).  The program lasts an academic year and under a student visa you receive a stipend of 700, €1000 apparently in Madrid, for working 12-16 hours a week.  The application period opened January 10th and will continue until April 2nd but already numbers are up into the 2000s.

To apply you must be a college senior or a college graduate that is a native English (or French) speaker and a US or Canadian citizen.  You must be in good health and have no criminal background (you need a background check to get the visa) and have a BA or BS degree by the start of the program.  They prefer candidates who have a least an intermediate level of Spanish but I have heard of people with very basic Spanish also being accepted.  

How the application works is:
  1.  You apply online through Profex and once you submit online you receive an inscrita number.  
  2. Then you mail some of the forms generated from the application to your specified Spanish consulate.  
  3. When the consulate receives all of your information your application status becomes registrada.
  4. Once your application is correct and it's verified that you have all documents you become admitida.  At this point you are eligible for a position but must wait to know for sure. (Key word, WAIT)
For an idea on the waiting process I applied the 10th, my paperwork arrived to the consulate the 14th, and on January 30th I finally became I continue to wait.  They claim positions can start being handed out the end of this month but more or less the bulk will happen the end of April after the application period ends.

 Positions are given out by your inscrita number but with preference to second year renewals.  Seems pretty straightforward but the online application through PROFEX is incredibly confusing and applying can take hours even if you have all your documents together, not to mention all the waiting in general.  Another frustrating point for many on the application is selecting your regions.  You cannot specifiy a specific province, city, etc.  You can only choose by the autonmous community and a preference of city size.  It didn't bother me too much because the three autonomous communities I chose are only comprised of one province.  

As for the program itself, most autonomous communities offer the program with the exceptions of: Catluña, Comunidad Valenciana, Castilla-La Mancha, Navarra, and the Canary Islands.  Those regions are not available for the program (at least for North American Auxiliares); many did not know this and were very disappointed after they selected them as a preference.  Since you don't have to work so many hours (only 12 or 16 hours in Madrid) a lot of people have a lot of spare time to travel and to work under the table in language academies or as private tutors to make extra money.  

However, like with anything that seems too good to be true there are many issues with this program as well that obviously are not advertised by the government.  Though I do not know from personal experience, there are a lot of blogs about this program written by former and present participants, the most helpful I've found being Memoirs of A Young Adventuress.  She tells it like it is, is completely honest about her experiences, and has a ton of information about the program and living in Spain.  Her blog is amazing in general, but if you're seriously looking into the Auxiliares program, or moving to Spain, definitely check it out!  

Cons of the Program:
Overall the biggest complaints I have heard about the program are:

  • An extreme lack of communication
  • An extreme lack of organization,
  • Some students not getting paid on time (for months at a time), 
  • Little help dealing with the government and other residence issues. 
  • You can only renew with preference for a second year.  If you want to do a third you have no preference whatsoever and  you are treated like a first year, placed after renewals and by inscrita number. (second years are placed before you).  

From everything I've read this program can be a hit or a miss depending entirely on your province, your regional coordinator, and/or your specific school.  Additionally, if you have high hopes of doing some serious teaching then I wouldn't get your hopes up too high in Auxiliares until you are in your actual placement.  From what I've heard teachers may not really utilize you.  A lot of blogs I've read say you may have a teacher who may just have you sit in the classroom or do some mundane English teaching task repeatedly.  This is not always the case but even if it is I doubt most applicants mind, this program is really more about the experience of being in Spain rather than the experience of teaching.   

Despite these set-backs it remains the most well-known and popular; often for the lax requirements to apply and ability to travel with such few scheduled hours, not to mention the living in Spain part...  If you apply, are admitida, and have a low number you will most likely get a placement; it just depends on if you'll get your preference of location.  Just be sure to bring a couple thousand dollars in case you don't get paid on time (usually enough for three months of living expenses).

Auxiliares Data 2012

For those of you who haven't seen, there was a breaking news update on the Auxiliares website:
"As of Sept. 13th, applicant number 4,571 received an assignment
  • If you just received an assignment, please wait patiently for your carta de nombramiento.  Communicate with your contact in your Comunidad Autónoma and make them aware of the fact that you will not be able to arrive in time for the orientations. Write to your U.S. Regional Education Advisor for assistance obtaining an earlier appointment at your Consulate if there is the option.

New! Orientation 2013
*Information regarding the orientations for AUXILIARES 2013-14 at the different Comunidades Autónomas

New! Auxiliares 2014-15

*Please, start looking at our website around November as we anticipate the application period will open up around December or January.  For right now, you can look at the documents that are on our website where you will find answers to all your questions. The application process will not vary significantly.

For those who have received an assignment:
*These are the instructions on how to accept your assignment on PROFEX.  You must accept within the first five days of the electronic notification of your assignment.

*If you have questions about your specific assignment, orientation dates, or any other information regarding the Autónoma where you just accepted your positions, send an email to your contact person/email address.

*This is the Visa application manual.  Remember, you will not be able to work on your visa until you have the carta de nombramiento from the Regional Office of Education (Consejería de Educación).  Click the link to find the information for your consulate.

*No Changes in the Region of your Assignment will be Granted.

*Consulate the Auxiliares website for how to decline your placement after you've initially accepted"
[As of 4/11 renewals have started to receive placements!]
[As of 4/30 first years have started to receive placements, I received mine 5/3!]

My thoughts on BEDA and Ucetam to follow... :) But for those looking for more information on life abroad in Spain, including working, visas, and more about the Auxiliares Program:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Winter Storm 'Nemo'

Ah nor'easters in New England, there's nothing like winter storms that keep you trapped in your house with no power or heat for days on end...

Snow Friday night
Snow started falling Friday morning and we attempted the recommended "shovel every few inches," but with just two of us and a huge driveway that was cast aside pretty quick into the afternoon.  As the night went on and we heard of everyone losing power we kept thinking we would be safe because we didn't even have flickering lights.  Yeah. Wrong.  We lost power around 10:00 pm that night and just got it back last night around 7:00 pm...a grand total of three days with no heat.

Saturday morning, way over my boots
By Saturday there was about 17 inches of snow outside, though no record for snow accumulation, it is definitely the most snow I remember seeing from one storm.  Even better than the three hours it took to shovel out the driveway is the knowledge that we're expecting more snow on Thursday and Saturday... I definitely live in the wrong place.  Anyone else sick of this winter weather?  I thought Punxsutawney Phil said we'd have an early Spring!

At the end of shoveling

*Interesting side note, there is a controversy about the naming of Winter Storms. The National Weather Service does not name winter storms, they argue because it can often be hard to tell where one ends and another begins.  Several newspapers kept with this and would not name the storm or would merely title it "The Blizzard of '13."  Interesting there is controversy over this since Nemo in Latin actually means "no man/no one."  Well played Latin, well played.

A couple of trees that fell down in our front yard.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I have been hiatus the past couple of weeks thanks to an overwhelming work schedule.  The past two months I've been working mainly seven days per week covering shifts for other people along with my own work schedule.  It did not help that January was the time to apply for two different programs to teach English in Spain as a language assistant.  Both programs would start this fall and last the whole academic year however one is through the Spanish government with placements in public schools and the other through Catholic schools (but more about the programs later). It really started burning me out, but luckily I got a week and a half break this past week when my boyfriend came to visit!

House of the Seven Gables
It was a much needed break!  It was nice to be able to sleep in and stay up as long as I wanted.  We didn't do anything extravagant, but it was a perfect week.  When I picked him up in Boston we went to Salem for a few hours to see a couple museums--about the witch trials and also the House of the Seven Gables--and we had dinner at a really cool restaurant that was converted from the old Salem jail.  The food was absolutely delicious!  Not to mention I bought some fudge at the House of the Seven Gables because he had never tried it before and he actually liked some kind of sweets!

Ice Harvesting
Blacksmith at work
We drove to our hotel in southern Massachusetts to get some rest and the next day we spent at Old Sturbridge Village.  I hadn't been in a few years and he had never seen any such replica village here so we both really enjoyed it.  We got to go on a horse drawn carriage ride and they had special events that weekend of mulled apple cider and ice harvesting. Apparently it was the first time they had been able to actually do ice harvesting in two years because of the weather not being right (it was 22°F the first day and 28°F while at Sturbridge) so we really lucked out. 

Cake we made together for my mom
The rest of the week we just spent time together during the day and went out pretty much every night to have dinner with my friends or family.  We went to Olde Mistick Village on my mom's birthday, went to the mall, and we also saw a few movies.  And for the Super Bowl we ordered in some buffalo chicken calzones and wings because he really missed buffalo chicken, and it's one of my favorites! My favorite part of the week was to just spend time with him, it was definitely one of my favorite weeks with him just hanging out together.

Being in a long distance relationship can be really trying at times, it's really hard to say goodbye not knowing when you'll be able to see each other again--the six hour time difference and expenses of traveling so far don't help either...  BUT it really does make you appreciate every minute you get to spend with your loved one and I truly do love and appreciate every second I get to spend with him, even if we're just sitting and watching some t.v. together.  

How is winter treating you this year?