We remember those days – hitting refresh on your email inbox every minute, opening spam folders, scouring Profex to see if your application had been accepted or skipped over.
When an email from your program finally lands with a regional placement, elation will likely give way to “Y ahora, qué?” as you debate your placement, maybe having to consider leaving behind a relationship, a job or a pet.
When we came to Spain via the Ministry and CIEE programs in 2007, there were no program manuals, the auxiliar de conversación visa didn’t exist, and we were left to our own devices to make it to Spain and show up at our respective schools on October 1st. Here’s our guide to staying busy during a summer of anticipation before starting the school year and your life in Spain:
Accept your placement and send in any documentation
Ministry of Education
Once you’ve decided that you’ll be coming to Spain, you should immediately log into your Profex account and accept your regional placement. Positions are given on a rolling basis, so the faster you accept or decline, the faster the placement process will happen. You have five natural days to accept, or you will forfeit your spot. Those ‘five natural days’ include weekends! The MEC will then send you an email as confirmation.
In most cases, you won’t have to do anything else but wait for your carta de nombramiento, which will contain information about your school placement and other details necessary for your student visa application. If you’ve been accepted to Andalucía, you should follow the instructions given to send in a signed form.
If you decline your placement via Profex within the five day timeframe, you can reapply in the future with no penalization. Simply send an email to email@example.com with your full name, inscripción number, assigned region and the reason you are forfeiting the placement. Declining a placement will not guarantee you get another in a different region.
If you think there’s been an issue with your application, or you were unable to accept your placement within the five day period, email the program coordinator in your region immediately.
In general, successful applicants are matched with a school immediately. You’ll receive instructions from your program about how to accept a position and send a deposit, if applicable.
Re-read the program manual
If you can sit still for a few minutes, consider re-reading the program manual. This 30-page PDF contains a wealth of information about the Spanish school system and program organization along with helpful ideas for the classroom. There is also detailed information about opening a bank account and getting your foreigner ID number (NIE) and card (TIE).
If you’ve got a question related to the program, chances are that the answer is somewhere in the manual. Also check the testimonials or read auxiliar blogs.
Spain, in general, is affordable – even on a language assistant’s salary! Still, you’ll be tempted to travel, to go out for tapas and take advantage of Spanish nightlife and culture. Plus, some comunidades have issues with payment, so it could be months before your first paycheck arrives. At best, you’ll be paid at the beginning of November. At worst, you could be sticking it out until 2016.
Setting up shop in Spain will include paying a deposit on an apartment, setting up a phone plan and buying things like sheets and towels. If you’re able, come with a cushion for the first few months – 1000 euros is a good goal to shoot for, though bigger cities will be more expensive.
Curious about how much accommodation and bills might cost? Check out our Cost of Living section, which has data from over 20 destinations around Spain!
Begin gathering your visa documents
Though you won’t be able to apply for a student visa without your carta de nombramiento, it’s worth having a look at visa requirements at your nearest consulate and scheduling an appointment. Summer is an extremely busy time at consulates, between language assistants and study abroad applicants, so aim to schedule an appointment between mid July and mid-August. In general, auxiliar visas take four weeks to process.
- National Visa Application form + copy
- Passport, valid for at least one year + copy
- Identification, such as a driver’s license + copy
- Original acceptance letter (carta de nombramiento) + copy
- State or Federal Background Check + copy
- Certificate of good health + copy
- Self-addressed USPS envelope
- Visa fee ($160 as of May 2015)
You’ll only be asked to turn in the photocopies of your original documents, but don’t trash anything after your appointment as you’ll need several of these documents again to process your TIE upon arrival in Spain. Also remember that certain documents cannot be more then 90 days old.
Brush up on you Spanish skills
Though your job is to teach English, chances are you’re also interested in immersing yourself in the Spanish language. To pass time, grab a good Spanish grammar review book (we love The Ultimate Spanish Grammar Review), visit your local library for films and books in castellano or see if your local civic center has a conversation group and download your favorite apps on to your phone.
Network and research
Your first instinct will be to reach out to your school and ask a million questions about the students, a potential commute and when to show up. School is in session nationally until about June 22nd, but don’t expect a response due to the end-of-term tasks. Schools shut down all of July and August, as well.
You’ll have more luck finding the former assistant assigned to your school on Facebook. Begin to network through groups like Auxiliares de Conversación in Spain 2015-16 or regional and local groups. There’s also a LinkedIn group for program vets. Many larger cities also have civic and social groups for English speakers, and bloggers are great sources of regional and job-focused information.
Consider a TEFL degree
Admittedly, you don’t need a teaching certificate to be a language assistant, but it’s a handy tool if you’re hoping to make a career of teaching English, whether in Spain or abroad after your program ends. Some private programs include a certificate as part of your program fees.
If you’re interested in getting a certificate before leaving, TEFL International has some job placement options in Spain and runs online and in-person classes around the world. We also love Tt Madrid‘s solid TEFL practicum, and their graduates find work around Madrid in private language academies in addition to their auxiliar duties.
TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language is an acronym used to describe a number of certificates and courses from 100-hour online degrees to masters programs. Keep in mind that some degrees are recognized while others are not. In Spain and Europe, a CELTA course and certificate is preferred.
Buy your flights
It’s recommended that you wait until you have your visa in hand to buy tickets, as you’ll hand over your passport when you apply. Start checking sites like Skyscanner or MoMondo, which allow you to check fares by looking at the entire month. Also remember that student rates are available through sites such as STA Travel if you’re under 26.
We’re often asked how early you should get to Spain before your program starts. Usually 7-10 days before orientation will give you enough time to recover from jetlag, get your bearings and find a place to live. You can even show up at your school to introduce yourself!
Don’t forget that you are obligated to register at the local police station or foreigner’s office within 30 days of landing in Spain to apply for your residency card.
Get a general feel for your commute and potential neighborhoods
Once you have your visa and flights behind you, the fun starts! We recommend scouring apartment sites to see what’s available in your city or town and create a list of potential neighborhoods and average cost of rooms or flats. Check Idealista, EasyPiso or Spotahome.
You can also use Google Maps or a site we love called Rome2Rio to look at options for getting to your school. Many assistants chose to live in a bigger city and commute, but be sure to factor this into your budget! Use local transportation websites or ask your school if someone commutes from a bigger city. Cat worked in Olivares – a town of 9,000 about 10 miles west of Seville – and had bus, commuter train and carpool options.
If necessary, leave everything all tied up
When we came to Spain, most other auxiliares were fresh out of college. Nowadays, the average age of a first-year assistant is significantly higher. Moving abroad isn’t as easy as packing a bag and jumping on a plane. Be sure that your bank knows that you’ll be abroad, defer student loans if you’re able and give your two weeks notice from work. Spain may be a temporary thing, but preparing for eight to ten months abroad is your last important step.
Get on that plane
Believe us when we say that you’re not the only one who has had reservations about leaving home and starting a new life in Spain. Thankfully, there are more than 3000 people just like you all over Spain, and it only has to be a temporary move if you want it to be.
Are you a former auxiliar and have advice for newbies? Or are you getting ready for your move to Spain and have questions? Leave us a comment below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.