Many students look to extend their study abroad experience and travel again after graduation. One of the ways to do this is to teach abroad. Several countries have instituted a bilingual program in schools and many are inviting native English speakers to their shores to teach schoolchildren.
In Spain, the Spanish Ministry of Education places more than 2,500 auxiliares de conversación throughout the country. Teaching in Spain is an adventure for foreign teachers, an exercise in patience, and a great way to increase Spanish language skills.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about teaching abroad in Spain to help you choose where to teach in one of the most popular regions of Spain.
The Region of Andalucia
When you request a region on your teaching job application, remember that Andalucía is a big place. It covers nearly 34,000 square miles and has big cities, small towns, beaches, mountains, and everything in between.
Andalucía is known for its rich cultural heritage and attention to tradition. Critics may suggest the Spanish spoken in Andalucia isn’t castellano puro and the region is set in a slow pace. It’s true that the spoken Spanish here may have an accent, just like American English can change from Boston to Texas. It’s also true that the region keeps a slower pace in comparison to other regions of Spain, even in the big cities. Although some businesses have committed to longer hours, many shops still honor the traditional schedule that includes a long break in the middle of the day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Granada and Seville are likely the two most popular southern cities to teach in Spain. Both cities are a draw for students from all over the world interested in studying abroad in Spain, with Seville maintaining two large universities to Granada’s one. So there must be something in Andalucia to attract international teachers too! The region hosted almost 8 million tourists in 2013 and tourism contributes a great deal to the economy and atmosphere of the region’s cities, so clearly students aren’t the only ones drawn to the region.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing an Andalucian City to Teach Abroad in Spain:
1. Am I cool with being in a small town and possibly being the only American? Due to the size of the region and its popularity, it’s likely that you will be able to get a teaching job in Andalucía, but more likely you will be placed in a pueblo or very small town. Remember, this isn’t the end of the world – your teach abroad experience is what you make of it. The auxiliar community is a sizable one, and through Facebook groups and blogs you can connect with other Americans teaching in Spain – making friends, trading stories, and enjoying the hospitality of fellow teachers in other cities.
2. What are my goals for teaching abroad in Spain for nine months? Are you working on your Spanish skills? Developing lesson plans? Making connections for future teaching jobs? Remember that this isn’t just a nine-month vacation, even if you do only work 12 hours a week. This is an entry on your resume, and your future boss will definitely ask you about it in an interview. Although rules are constantly changing, it is not uncommon for an auxiliar to take a second year-long contract in the same location or switch to a new one.
3. If travel is important to me, am I able to get around? The commute between the city and your assigned pueblo, can be one of the most stressful parts of teaching in Spain. It’s important to know exactly what your options are, so do your research! Remember that even though you are focused on all the great weekend trips you can manage, you do still have to show up at work and do your job. In both cities, teachers should take advantage of the public transportation system – buses, trains, and bike rental systems can easily get teachers where they need to go. In Seville, the airline connections are plentiful, so teachers will also be able to get out and explore Europe during free weekends.
4. If Spanish speaking, do I want to or will I have access to language immersion opportunities? In a traditional region like Andalucía, the answer is a resounding yes! But you may still have to seek these opportunities out. The amount of English-speaking travelers in the center of Seville is quite high, but because the city is so large it can be easy to find an area where you can speak Spanish. For example, rather than spending time solely in the Centro, you can head to neighborhoods like Triana and fill your ears with Spanish. Focus your down time on an intercambio with locals over coffee rather than a bar full of Americans watching an NFL broadcast.
5. Can I afford to do teach in Spain for a year? With an eye on your budget, it’s possible to pick up a side job to fund your travel habit while you’re teaching abroad in Spain. Why not get paid to help others practice their English language skills? Many teaching assistants in Spain will teach clases particulares on the side, a more formal arrangement than the casual intercambio based on conversation exchange. Native English speakers can set their own rates and offer their language assistance to students of all ages. While teaching in Spain, teachers will have access to students from business executives to school children. One-on-one language sessions can be phenomenal, lucrative experiences to add to your resume and also expand Spanish vocabulary and understanding.
A bit about Granada
Population. The city of Granada has a population of just under 250,000 people, and there are close to 450,000 people who reside in the metropolitan area alone (for the sake of comparison, Washington D.C. has a population of around 650,000).
Travel. Buses and trains are the best ways to get in and out of the city, with frequent transport between Seville (three hours) and Madrid (four hours).
Tourism. Granada enjoys a great deal of influence from Northern Africa, based on its physical proximity. You’ll see it in the cuisine, the architecture, the shops, and the teterias. You may also hear it around you, picking up French or Arabic while out on the town. The Alhambra, a Moorish fortress dating back to thirteenth century, draws almost 5 million visitors a year, which makes in the most visited monument in Spain.
Characteristics of Teaching. The city is strongly rooted in tradition, and will close up at 2 p.m. every day like clockwork. This may mean the school you are teaching at will break for lunch and return later in the day, or you may work through the day until 3 p.m.
And some about Seville
Population. The city of Seville has a population of over 700,000, with more than 1 million people living in the city’s metropolitan area (comparable to the approximately 1.5 million living in Philadelphia). Seville is the capital of Andalucía and is built on the River Guadalquivir, which has been navigated by ships since Roman times.
Travel. Seville is very well connected by bus and train lines, and acts as a hub for budget airline Ryan Air. The corridor between Seville and Madrid is highly traveled, so Seville sports a high-speed train that shortens the five-hour bus ride to Madrid to a two and a half-hour train ride (at a price).
Tourism. Tourism for large-scale events, like La Feria de Abril and Semana Santa, brings crowds in the thousands in the spring, and yes, it also means more vacation time for those teaching in Seville.
Characteristics of Teaching. As a result of its size, Seville hosts more auxiliares than neighboring Granada, although not all teaching assistants in Seville are working within the city limits.
A final word of advice
Teaching abroad is not studying abroad. Do not try to recreate your semester abroad! Be realistic, keep it classy, and remember: this is still a job even if the setting is exotic and the placement is temporary.