Everything You Need to Know About Being a Teaching Assistant in Spain


This post was contributed by Jordan Putman.

If you’re reading this, and you’re understanding everything so far, you’re able to do something hundreds of thousands of people around the world want and need to be able to do; SPEAK ENGLISH. I’ve heard it before from so many people “I really want to move abroad but what on Earth would I do and how do you do it?”

My answer?

You have an incredibly valuable skill which you can easily utilise to travel and see the world.

Who am I to tell you about all this?

My name is Jordan.  I’m a 22-year-old university graduate from the U.K and I’m using my language skills to travel the world and earn money at the same time. After all, that’s the dream, right?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is just one of the jobs that you can get abroad if you’re looking to make the step and escape your hometown. My English language teaching journey started about 2 years ago when I moved to Sevilla, Spain. I was able to move out here and get my foot in the “teaching abroad” door as an Auxiliar de Conversación through the ERASMUS+ programme (a European exchange programme which allows Europeans to study or work in other European countries during their studies). Cool, right?

But the big question is, how do you do it? How do you move to Spain and get yourself a slice of the TEFL pie without spending £1000 on a course first?

That’s what we really need to know at the end of the day, how is this all possible?

A who de what? What’s that?

So, what’s an Auxiliar de Conversación and what do they do?

Well, ‘auxiliares’ are normally university students (if not, definitely in their mid-twenties) who are either fulfilling part of our university credits (like I was) or want a way of living in another country for a year (so… all of us?)

We provide language assistance to schools, either at mainstream public schools where we teach kids or we can teach at  government-funded “escuelas de idiomas” (language schools) for adults. Essentially, we’re helping to improve the conversational skills of the students of the school and/or provide help to the “real” teachers in their classes.

The good news is that we generally work on a part-time basis, too. Working in Spain like I did, you will most likely be working in the evening between the hours of 4pm-9pm (a dream if you’re still struggling from the night before) and around 4 days a week — hello long weekends! If not, you’ll be working similar hours but perhaps a bit earlier on in the day. Either way, it’s definitely not a full-time job and you’ll have lots of time free to explore your new found home. Usually, I had 4-day-weekends (I miraculously only ended up working 3 days a week?) so I managed to travel all around Spain and explore towns like Cadiz, Cordoba, and Ronda, which are all incredibly beautiful and great for those Insta pics!

Oh, and once you’re in mainland Europe, flights to other countries are seriously cheap so I was able to go to Paris, Lisbon and Berlin too thanks to Ryanair or other cheap airlines.

“But I’m broke, I can’t afford life in Spain” Well,…

Before we get onto what I thought of the job, let’s talk money — the most important part. I actually wasn’t paid when I worked as an ‘auxiliar’ but instead I was indirectly ‘paid’ through a series of grants and scholarships through my university. My story is slightly unconventional and probably definitely won’t be the way you do your programme, so don’t worry. My friends who went the more conventional route and got paid were given between 700€ – 1000€ a month approximately, depending on where they were based. If you’re based out in a rural village, for example, you’re going to be paid less than if you’re based in Madrid, where life is a lot more expensive. But you may be thinking “Well, that’s not a lot at all, how can I be expected to live on that?” But life in Spain is a lot cheaper than you would expect and a wage of 700€ a month is more than liveable. Here are some guesstimations on average prices:

A beer in a bar: 1€ (or even as a low as 50 cent for a small beer in some bars)

A meal out: 10€

A bottle of water: 60 cents

A glass of wine: 2€

Rent for a month in an alright room in an alright part of town: 200-300€

700€ doesn’t seem so bad now, does it? Even if it doesn’t work out enough, with being an “angloparlante” (english speaker) you’ll be swamped by people who want private tuition outside of school. For an hour’s private class, you can easily charge between 10€ – 15€, so don’t fret about the coins ($$$) too much.


Where do I sign up?

Now, you just need to work out how to do it. How do you go about finding these kind of programmes? Well, if you go to a university, head to your Study Abroad department and have a chat with them (that’s how I found mine). Nearly every university and/or college will have an International Exchange or Study Abroad department who will be able to hook you up. If not, just Google something along the lines of “auxiliares de conversación programme Spain,” or whatever country you want to go to at the end, and loads of information will come up about it.

It’s hard to advise you one specific agency or organiser as each of you lovely readers will have different ones depending on where you live.

The Final Review – Should you do it?

So now, the nitty gritty, is it actually a good job? Are all the horror stories true? Well, let’s be real, partially (but only partially). As an ‘auxiliar,’ you have to realise that you’re probably not going to be an integral part of the school, you’re probably going to have some days when you turn up to school and you’re either not going to be needed, or you’re not going to have anyone turn up to your classes. And the chances are, you’ll probably have a lot of time just sitting around and twiddling your thumbs and wondering what on Earth you’re doing with your life. Or you’ll probably be stuck ‘reorganising the library’ for 8 hours a week like I was at one point. I certainly felt very discouraged a lot of the time when I would spend ages just sitting around and waiting for my students to come. Some of my friends told me sometimes they would go into school just to be told by the staff that they just weren’t needed for the day. Long story short, the job probably won’t be amazing. Of course though, I’m only drawing from my occasional personal experiences and the odd horror story from a few of my friends so don’t be put off too much. Some of my friends have had a really enriching time as an ‘auxiliar’ and have ended up in a great school with great kids with staff who really want to push them and challenge them. For example, I have one friend who has done the ‘auxiliar’ 3 years in a row now, she loves it and can’t get enough! So, what I’m trying to say here is, it’s pot luck. Either way, it’s a story to tell.

But, please, don’t be disheartened, it’s not all doom and gloom. At the end of the day, if you chose to become an ‘auxiliar,’ you’re going to be working minimum hours for a good amount of money. It lets you live in another country for a year, it gives you the time and resources to be able to travel and explore. If you’re looking for a viable way to ‘shut up and go,’ being part of the auxiliary programme is definitely one you should consider. I definitely do not regret my decision to go to Spain as a language assistant. I was able to see new places, taste new food, drink a lot of wine and meet some amazing people from all over the world. I left with friends from pretty much every country in Europe. Thanks to that, I have free accommodation in multiple cities all over the world. Oh, and without the auxiliary programme, I wouldn’t have met my current boo.

So if you don’t go for the travel, go for love.

Meet Jordan: 20-something British language’s graduate making a life for himself as a teacher in Spain. Keep up with him on IG.

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