This week meet Jackie, a fellow Hispanophile and journalism major who made the seamless switch from auxiliar de conversasión to copywriter in the marketing department at one of Spain’s hottest new start-ups.
Had it not been for active participation in a local women’s networking group, Jackie might have missed out on this job opportunity entirely, further proving that in Spain it’s not always just who you know, but also how hard you work that gets you to where you want to go.
Name: Jackie Dreyer
City and Comunidad: Sevilla, Sevilla (as of very recently!), formerly Valverde del Camino, Huelva
Job Title: Copywriter at Glamping Hub
Why did you initially come to Spain?
After two trips to Spain in high school (Madrid and Barcelona, respectively) and a summer study abroad program in Sevilla, I just had this feeling that Spain and I weren’t over yet, and I needed to find a way to come back—and for more time.
While in my last semester at college, I applied to a bunch of journalism jobs in the U.S. (y ja ja), as well as the auxiliares de conversación Of course, what worked out in the end was the auxiliar program, and I found myself packing my bags and heading to an elementary school Valverde del Camino, a pueblo of Huelva.
How did you transition into your current position?
Two years of teaching English in the auxiliar program had me yearning for something more. While I loved the teachers at my school and so many of my little ones, I wasn’t feeling challenged, and that’s a feeling I thrive on. I knew there had to be native English speakers working in Spain in something other than teaching ESL, which I had realized wasn’t my cup of tea.
I started going to PINC meetings, which is where I met Cat and Hayley, the amazing founders of Como Consulting. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know if I would’ve found out about this amazing opportunity at Glamping Hub, which is an online accommodation booking platform that specializes in unique, “glamorous camping” destinations.
What was the interview process like?
I sent off my CV right before heading back to the States for a month, so much of my initial correspondence with Glamping Hub happened via email—I’m so grateful they were so patient with me!
As soon as I got off the plane, I had an initial interview that week, a second interview the week after, and the rest is history. What’s unique about this company is that we work in English; I perform my entire job in English (with the exception of the Spanglish we love to throw around throughout the day, given that it’s a multinational office). While I was still extremely nervous for the interview, due to the ganas I had to work at this company, it made me feel much more at ease to do the interviews in English.
How are you legally working in Spain?
As is the case of many, I went through the tedious paperwork process of getting pareja de hecho, or what would be most similar to a civil union in the U.S., with my boyfriend. While dealing with government offices is neither a quick nor simple process, I’m so grateful to have been able to do pareja de hecho, because now I don’t have to visit the foreigner’s office for another five years! It has the added benefit of getting you not only a national ID number, but also a social security number and access to Spain’s public healthcare as if you were a Spaniard.
How does working in your field in Spain differ from your home country?
I’ve held so many different jobs back in the States—you name the industry, and I’ve probably worked in it. While I came in with my fair share of writing and editing experience, I’ve never had a job at an online start-up before, so I didn’t have any idea what to expect.
Start-up life is fast-paced. Things are constantly changing from one day to the next, and you have to push yourself to be ready for anything, because you never know what is going to get thrown at you. There’s a high learning curve, but it’s obtainable, and I now find that I really thrive on this type of environment.
I can say that one of my favorite things about the GH office is the intermixing of cultures and languages. It’s truly a pleasure to get to work with all of the people that I work with, and we have fun doing it. We’re co-workers and friends, and without their support and company, I can safely say my life would be totally different.
A typical day’s hours for me 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with an hour-long break for lunch, and on Fridays, we have an earlier schedule, but we also get out earlier, too. I’m not a morning person, and I find starting at 10 a.m. to be a real blessing. In Spain, it’s not too unusual to start around 9 or 10, though I know in the States, people are probably laughing right now.
Salaries cannot begin to be compared between the U.S. and Spain, because it’s comparing apples and oranges. I will say that my pay is quite good for Spain, and while I may make slightly less than I did teaching English, I am infinitely happier and fulfilled. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important to me, and you can easily live comfortably in Spain, particularly Andalucía, on quite little.
What has been the hardest part of working or starting your own business in Spain?
Please don’t roll your eyes, but I’m truthfully happier working in Spain than I ever was working at home. Spanish life, both inside and outside of the office, suits me better. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies here in Spain, but the difference in my stress levels and worries is tremendous. We are perpetually planning everything out in the U.S.; we work tight schedules, get up early and go to bed late, work crazy long hours, don’t get enough vacation time … we lose ourselves in a way there that I don’t feel lost here in Spain.
Any advice for non-EU citizens seeking a job outside of teaching?
It’s inarguably more difficult for non-EU citizens to make a life for themselves in Europe, and it’s frustrating—all of us who’ve done it know all too well! But that’s the best part; people have done it before, and you need to find them and ask them out to coffee.
Do your research, and find people who are doing what you want to do. Pick their brain. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Unfortunately, Spain doesn’t escape the refrain that it’s ‘not what you know, but who,’ and many times, the right introduction will help you get your foot in the door to be able to show people all of the wonderful things you’re capable of.
There’s no magic formula for making it work, but all I can say is that I was 110% determined to stay here in the south of Spain, and I was willing to do whatever it took. You’re going to have days where you want to throw in the towel, but allow yourself a brief pity party, and move past it. Stay motivated, and stay positive—something will work out!
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay in Spain?
My immediate future is definitely still here in Spain. I’ve been living here since September of 2012, so roughly 2.5 years, and I recently moved to Sevilla, something I’ve been dying to do since I started working and living in Spain.
A part of expat life is that you’ll always going to be missing people, no matter where you’re based, so follow what your insides tell you about where you need to be, where you’re your best you. If that’s Spain, there’s always a way to stay in touch with everyone you love all over the world. You find ways to make things work, and your life is going to be far from “normal,” but you’ll be better off for it. 🙂
Check back in with us next week for more profiles of expats who have made a successful transition from teacher to trabajador! If you fit the bill and would like to be featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!