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:

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