Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Apply for the North American Language & Culture Assistant Program

LAST UPDATED JANUARY 2014

The gig I got working in Spain for the 2012-2013 school year is through the Spanish Ministry of Education’s North American Language & Cultural Assistant program (auxiliares de conversación in Spanish). Basically, as long as you’re a senior in college/a college graduate, a citizen of the U.S. or Canada, and a native speaker of English or French (vive le Québec!), you’re eligible to apply. You can read my review of the program here, but in this post I want to show you how to get from where you are right now to the example email below in which Spain announced my placement in Andalucía.

North American Language and Culture Assistant placement email
The golden ticket to Spain!!!

Before I begin, please read over the official resources provided by the ministry, for they walk you through the craziness that is Profex (the online application program):

* Profex Manual (How to register online) (2014-2015)
* Application guidelines (2014-2015)
* Frequently asked questions (2014-2015)
* Checklist to print off (2014-2015)
* Letter of recommendation guidelines (2014-2015)

Other important official links:

* Program home page 1
* Program home page 2
* Profex login page

Inscrita

This first stage is essentially getting your application number. Everything depends upon it. So if you’re even just thinking about this program right now, go to Profex and start your application (after November 1, 2012 January 9, 2014). You arrive at the inscrita (“entered in”) stage after filling out your basic information, CV, and your school preferences (region, urban/rural, kids/teens).

A note about the regional preferences: You have to select one region from a group of six and then rank those groups from 1 to 3. The groupings are:

* Grupo A: Asturias, Ceuta y Melilla, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, País Vasco
* Grupo B: Aragón, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia, Islas Canarias
* Grupo C: Andalucía, Castilla y León, Islas Baleares, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia

Keep in mind that for the 2014-2015 school year, Cataluña, Ceuta y Melilla, Islas Canarias, and Valencia aren’t participating in the auxiliares program for North Americans. Also, “Madrid” refers to the Madrid region, not the city proper, just something to keep in mind. (Don’t know anything about the regions? Check out veteran auxiliar Liz Carlson’s region breakdown here.)

The important thing to do is finish the application as soon as possible so your application number will be low; you can go back and upload your documents later in the curriculum > documentos anexos section. As long as Spain approves your application (i.e., you arrive at the admitida stage below), the only thing they look at when making placements is your inscrita number. So get to it!

Registrada

Your application becomes registrada (“registered”) once you mail in to your consulate the signed, printed-off copy of the PDF application you get after first applying. You also have to include a signed, ticked-off, and printed checklist to make sure you’ve done everything correctly. Consult the manual for which consulate to mail these things to; I had to mail mine to Miami even though I did all my visa stuff through Houston.

Admitida

You would think this stage, which means “admitted,” would be your golden ticket to Spain. It really means that your application is complete. But you still have to get to this status before Spain even considers placing you. To arrive at admitida, you have to mail in and upload several documents.

Things to mail in to your assigned consulate:
* The signed PDF printout of your application
* The signed checklist
Annex 2 (New York only—I have no idea what this is)

Things to upload online to Profex:
* A scan of the identification pages of your passport
* A scan of your transcript or college diploma
* A statement of purpose, a short letter describing why you want to do the program
* A signed letter of recommendation on letterhead from a professor or supervisor

Adjudicada / Candidato seleccionado

Then, after waiting for foreeeeever, Spain will change your status to adjudicada—“awarded” or “allotted”—and announce which of the autonomous communities they have placed you in. Hooray! But you have to either accept the offer (so you can get a school placement) or reject it (so they can place someone else). If you do nothing for five business days, your placement is automatically rejected—a nightmare scenario, indeed. As a first year, my status was changed to this in early July almost four months after the application period closed. With my inscrita so high (at #1429), I had been waitlisted in late May after the first round of first-year applicants was finished. However, last year people in the 3,000s were getting placed in July, so it’s hard to predict placements.

Aceptada

If you accept, then your application becomes, naturally, aceptada. (If you say “no,” then it becomes renuncia, “renounced” or “given up.”)

Carta de nombramiento

You reach the final step in this convoluted, nerve-wracking process when your carta de nombramiento arrives either in your mailbox or in your email inbox. This “letter of appointment” will say what school you will be teaching at, not only so you can begin stressing about apartment-hunting, but also so you can start the visa process. Mine came two weeks and six days after my application became adjudicada.

Applicants: ask any questions you have below! Veteran language assistants: do you have any tips about this crazy ordeal?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The School Placement Letter Arrived Today!

Well, after rolling out of bed this morning, I checked my email and was met with a message from Auxiliares CED with the subject line “Su puesto como auxiliar de conversación en Andalucía”—which means “Your placement as language assistant in Andalucía.” Hooray! Two weeks and six days after receiving my regional placement, I now know my specific school placement in the region.

Come to find out, I’ll be teaching in an elementary school called CEIP Nuestra Señora de la Fuensanta, which is in the city of Villanueva del Arzobispo and the province of Jaén.


Before I go on, here’s a guide on how to pronounce all these places, since I’m going to be talking about them a lot on this blog.

CEIP Nuestra Señora de la Fuensanta (school)
NWAYS-trah say-NYO-rah day lah fwayn-SAHN-tah
[ˈnwe.stɾa seˈɲo.ɾa ðe la fwenˈsan.ta]

Coat of Arms of Villanueva del Arzobispo, Spain
Source: Wikipedia
Villanueva del Arzobispo (city)
bee-yah-NWAY-vah dayl ahr-thoe-BEES-poe
[ˌbi.ʝaˈnwe.βa ðel ˌaɾ.θoˈβis.po]

Jaén (province)
khah-AYN
[xaˈen]

Andalucía (autonomous community)
ahn-dah-loo-THEE-ah
[ˌan.da.luˈθi.a]

Now, the school is basically named after the local virgin, but “local virgin” means something a little different in Spain. The Virgin of the Holy Fountain (Virgen de la Fuensanta in Spanish) seems to have a pretty interesting story relating to a village just outside of town. Here’s the translated story from the Spanish Wikipedia:
     The Virgin of the Holy Fountain is also the patron of Cuatro Villas, comarca formed by the municipalities of Villanueva del Arzobispo, Villacarrillo, Iznatoraf, and Sorihuela del Guadalimar. Her shrine is found in the first of the cited towns of the province of Jaén.
     According to the legend, the Moorish king of Iznatoraf ordered his wife’s hands to be cut off and her eyes gouged out after he found out that she was helping the Christians, and he abandoned her in a place known as La Moratilla. There, the mutilated woman heard the gurgling of a fountain and a voice that asked her to put her stumps [gruesome word choice, I know] in the water and wash out her eye sockets. In this way she got her hands and eyes back and saw an image of the Most Holy Virgin.
     Because of this, since the ninth century there has been a shrine in honor of Our Lady of the Holy Fountain, Patron of the Four Towns, and Queen of the Olive Grove, whose pontifical canonical coronation took place on September 29, 1956. Her festival is celebrated on September 8 with a pilgrimage that ends at the shrine’s surroundings.
Streets of Villanueva del Arzobispo, Spain
Villanueva del Arzobispo. Luces de tarde
by davloal on Flickr
So there’s that. The virgin appears opposite a red lion on the city’s coat of arms and flag.

Under Moorish rule, Villanueva was known as al-Buxarra, and for centuries, the village was known in Spanish as La Moraleja. But in 1396, the Archbishop of Toledo, Pedro Tenorio, granted it a título de villa (town status), renaming it, essentially, the archbishop’s new town.

I really don’t know much at all about the town except that it’s in the heart of olive oil country (Google Maps is showing a bajillion olive groves outside the city limits) and that there’s a small bullring to the south. A little under 9,000 people live there, so it’s about the same size as my college town, Arkadelphia.

Oh, and THE Miguel de Cervantes (of Don Quixote-writing fame) lived here for a time. Just throwing that out there.

Church of San Andrés, Villanueva del Arzobispo, Spain
San_Andrés by neo_forestal on Flickr
Still, if I can manage some kind of a bus ride or carpool, I’d like to live in nearby Úbeda, three times as big and half an hour away. When I arrive in September, I’m gonna have to stay in a hostel in that town anyway. The bus tickets to and from Úbeda and Villanueva are about €7 round-trip, which I guess isn’t too bad for a total of 80km. The thing is, it’s a tourist bus, so I feel like it would be a bad deal for commuting.

Now, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed with my placement. I had emailed the education ministry asking to be placed in the city of Córdoba; it’s a central location where they speak like Latin Americans do, it’s big, and it has great historical significance. But I guess Córdoba was full, so Villanueva it is:

Pros of getting placed here

* It’s a small town, so I’ll have rockstar status as the local American, be able to get to know most people (& give them private English lessons...), and save on cost of living

* It’s surrounded on all sides by olive groves, so my olive oil will be unbelievably fresh

* It’s to the west of some mountains and a huge national park

* It’s not in the ceceo part of southern Spain, so I won’t have to deal with lispiness

Iznatoraf, Spain
Source: Wikipedia
Cons about living here

* It’s a small town, so there’s not much to do

* Outside the city boundaries, the ENTIRE landscape is covered in olive groves for miles kilometers

* It’s in the boonies, two hours away from the provincial capital which itself isn’t a big city

* I’m not sure how extensive/expensive the public transportation is, which could end up being a big problem

So it’s tied. But, when I was anxiously awaiting any word from Spain back in June, I told myself I’d accept anything offered to me...even if it was super rural. And here I am!!! I’m just grateful to have a job in Spain for the next year or two.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

5 Reasons NOT to Study Abroad

Last week I talked about five good reasons you should study abroad—things like traveling, language learning, and résumé-boosting. I think some kind of international experience while in college can be extremely beneficial for a lot of people—I grew a lot personally and linguistically in the July I spent in Costa Rica. But I also think not everyone is cut out to spend a semester away from home. Kaley Hendrickson (who writes at her blog Y Mucho Más) shared similar concerns about studying abroad two years ago, and I thought I would add my 0,02 €.

Study abroad in San Pedro, Costa Rica
Rain in San Pedro


1) It can be expensive

Lots of parents often give their children studying abroad a fat sum of money to use as their allowance to pay for rent, books, food, and traveling. If you don’t happen to have this luxury, get ready to see your savings account disappear or take out a loan. As Susan Heller has famously said, “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” You’ll have to purchase things you weren’t expecting, and your trips will cost you a lot more than you were anticipating.

2) You can end up hanging out in English-speaking enclaves

Unless you’re going to a small university in an obscure or unpopular destination, you’ll most likely run into a community either of expats or of fellow students abroad from the U.S., UK, and elsewhere. It can indeed be very easy to cling to these groups as an island of familiarity in a sea of Spanish, Arabic, or what have you. But while such a support group can be very beneficial, spending too much time with people who speak your language can hamper the real reason you’re going abroad: to encounter another culture and learn its language.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this; when in Costa Rica, I traveled across the country with the other six students from my college who were there, and about a hundred other Americans were at the University of Costa Rica for the program, too—so there was a natural community of English-speaking classmates to hang out with. If I hadn’t lived with my super-helpful host family that month, I wouldn’t have grown nearly as much as I did in Spanish.

3) It can be an excuse to party on the cheap

A few months ago I visited Washington, D.C., and met a guy from Belgium there who mentioned that in some parts of France beer is cheaper than water. Yes—you read that right—water can cost more than booze. And the drinking age across the vast majority of the world is 18, or lower. Students abroad often take advantage of these opportunities and spend much of their time partying and clubbing: getting wasted while wasting away their money (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). Look, I’m not going to judge you for wanting to have a good time, but please, don’t waste your money on an international educational experience if you’re just in it to party. Take a cruise—hop on the next flight to Ibiza—or hit up the liquor store back home, but please don’t exclusively engage in bacchanalias as a student abroad; it paints those of us genuinely interested in learning in really a bad light.</rant>

4) Sometimes life abroad can suck pretty badly

Studying abroad isn’t a romantic hop across the ocean full of rich cultural exchanges 24/7. It can often be a very miserable experience, especially if you have no group of friends to commiserate with. Case in point: within days of arriving in Costa Rica, good ol’ Montezuma had his revenge on me. Additionally, it poured rain most afternoons in the Central Valley, and on the coast, the sun burnt me like it never had before north of the Tropic of Cancer. Eating rice and beans at every meal got old pretty fast, and having to deal with people who, for all practical purposes, could not speak Spanish in my advanced class was frustrating. I was there for just a month (albeit a very incredible 32 days!), so if you’re planning on three of them thousands of miles from home, get ready to stick it out through the tough days.

5) It can screw up your degree plan

For me, there was absolutely no way I could leave the States for a semester; I had too many Spring of Odd Year-type classes that I had to take for each of my concentrations (don’t judge...I’m an overachiever). If spending a semester in, say, Peru, was something I was really committed to, I would have had to either stay half a year longer in school (out of the question) or drop one of my majors or minors (painful). Not everyone has the freedom in their degree plan to hop across the ocean for three months.

What do you think of this list? Are they legitimate caveats? Or is there something missing? Comment below!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Inserting Random Spanish Words in English-Language Posts

Having read my share of expat-in-Spain blogs, something that drives me crazy is when bloggers insert random Spanish words into their posts and “forget” to translate them. Often these are pretty easily-understood; e.g., “just sipping some café trying to stay warm,” or “having a blast at this fiesta, y’all!” But sometimes they can be downright confusing, like, “a veces I just have to go to the panadería for some bread.”

Yep, you sure know how to speak Spanish all right, but the majority of your readers probably do not—and inserting cool phrases into your sentences will only confuse them. Don’t assume they do! Of course, there are times where you do need to include Spanish names or phrases in your posts, so I think some guidelines are in order for such times.

English and Spanish
"English I Spanish" by Esteban on Flickr

You should use “Spain” in place of “España

Yes, we all know you mean “Spain” when you talk about how much España has enchanted you, but if you’re writing in English, use the English name for the country. Please. Thank you.

You should use the Spanish name for the country’s place-names, unless it sounds pretentious

This means, talk about visiting Zaragoza (instead of “Saragossa”) or Sevilla (not “Seville”). But writing about the super-cheap flight you got to “las Islas Canarias” makes you sound like a snob. Nobody would know what you mean by that unless you said “the Canary Islands.” Also, you should refer to “the Basque Country” and not “el País Vasco.” Even worse would be to talk about “my life in Euskadi.” No. You do not speak Basque.

When first talking about something, you can use its Spanish name with an English translation, but then use the English word from then on

The way this works is like so: “I had to go to the oficina de extranjería (foreigners’ office) this afternoon.” A few sentences later, you might say, “I forgot my umbrella in the immigration office so, naturally, it started to pour.”

Also, for specific place-names, follow the lead of historian Mark Williams: “The generic name is left in English and the actual place name in Spanish; hence the Church of Santa María rather than St. Mary’s Church or La Iglesia de Santa María.”[1]

You should use the English name for any of Spain’s many languages.

* “Spanish,” not “español/castellano” (“Castilian” is the standard Peninsular accent)

* “Catalan,” not “catalán/catalá

* “Galician,” not “gallego/galego

* “Basque,” not “vasco/euskara

Basically this all comes down to helping your readers understand your posts. They most likely only read English, so sprinkling little Spanish words to sound cute or just because you’re so bilingual only makes your writing harder to read.

What are some of your pet peeves about writing and foreign words? Do you think it’s okay to include little Spanish phrases here and there? Talk about it in the comments below!

Notes
1) Mark R. Williams, The Story of Spain (San Mateo, Calif.: Golden Era Books, 2009), 9.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

5 Reasons to Study Abroad

Since I’m going to be living abroad in Spain as a language assistant for most of the next school year, I thought I’d look back on my first experience doing so. In the month of July 2011, I studied abroad at the University of Costa Rica and took two classes: Conversation I and Introduction to Latin-American Literature. I stayed in town with a wonderful host family who fed me twice daily, and I traveled the country with, among others, six fellow students from my college. I think being immersed in a Spanish-speaking home and environment was equally as instructive as the classes themselves were.

If you can find the time and resources to study abroad, I would say, “do it!” And here are some of the reasons I would recommend such an experience.

La Casita, Universidad de Costa Rica
La Casita, Universidad de Costa Rica

1) You can see the world

Okay, we all know the real reason we go on these study abroad trips is to travel. (Just kidding!) But in all seriousness, the act of taking classes in another country will inevitably provide you with ways to see that country as well as its neighbors. For the month I was in Costa Rica, I got to visit three volcanoes, three beaches, and quite a few cities along the way.  One of my roommates in college went to Liverpool, England, for a semester, and traipsed all the way down to Italy for spring break!

2) You can learn another language

(This assumes you don’t go to Britain, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand.) Many universities require you to learn a foreign language (or at least take a year of classes in one). What better place to study it than with the native speakers? In Costa Rica, I had to speak Spanish to order food, move around town in taxis, and ask for directions. And living with a host family provided hours of extremely helpful conversation.

3) You can interact with another culture

Much of what we assume are universal values (type of government, gender roles, attitudes toward time, etc.) are often simply cultural things that fellow human beings do not share. Living abroad can not only cause you to rethink what you believe, it can also give you a newfound appreciation for your own culture and country. Additionally, interacting with other cultures prepares you to gracefully adapt to future encounters in our increasingly-globalized world.

4) You can do it for about the same as a semester in the States

My friend who went to Liverpool had to pay little more than he already was at our college, and another friend who studied in Alicante, Spain, fared similarly. Granted, trans-Atlantic flights will empty your wallet quite quickly, but once you’re there the costs are comparable to classes back home. Check to see if your scholarships transfer!

5) You can boost your résumé

Not only does studying abroad “look good” on that piece of paper you boil yourself down to, it can also develop transferable skills applicable to any job, including communication (the cross-cultural kind, too), flexibility, and independence. And as companies extend their operations overseas, you will be already prepared to make a move if need be

I followed up this post with a counterpoint about the five reasons not to study abroad.

If you’ve ever studied abroad, what would you add to this list? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

5 Things I’m Looking Forward to About Spain

The other day I talked about the top five things I’m going to miss about Texas, my home, when I go to Spain to be a language assistant for nine months. To lighten the mood, I decided to make a list of what I can’t wait to do once I step off the bus (or train?) in Andalucía this September.

Mountain castle in Cazorla, Spain
travel@cazorla by Javier Medina on Flickr

1) Speaking Spanish

I’ve been studying the Spanish language informally since 2007, I took college classes on it from 2009 through May of this year, and I even went on a one-month jaunt to Costa Rica last year. Now, there are definitely many more opportunities to speak the language and consume Spanish media here in Texas than in, say, Vermont, but it’s difficult to actually speak the language because we speak English by default here. It’s difficult to start a conversation with someone who quite likely speaks Spanish because assuming they do speak Spanish based on their appearance would be, quite frankly, racist. And Spanish-speakers are unlikely to approach me in Spanish because I’m white and speak English natively. But there’s no obstacles like this in Spain where everyone speaks Spanish!

2) Learning culture first-hand

Reading about something in a book is one thing. Coming face-to-face with it is another thing entirely—almost literally! I hear when Spaniards have conversations they stand far closer to each other than Americans do. So far, I’ve taken a class on “Hispanic Culture and Civilization,” read The Story of Spain by Mark Williams, a comprehensive history of the Kingdom of Spain, and right now am reading The New Spaniards by John Hooper, an exploration into contemporary Spanish society. But until I get off the airplane in Barajas airport, Madrid, it’ll only be book smarts that I have to say about Spain.

3) Traveling

Let’s face it: airline flights across the Atlantic Ocean cost a lot of dough (and jetlag’s no fun, either!). Also, the tourist visa Americans get for countries in the Schengen Area (i.e., the vast majority of Europe) are only valid for a total of three months each half-year. This is a huge obstacle for hardcore long-term backpackers who might spend a year traversing the huge continent of South America, hopping from country to country. Among Schengen states, however, they can only spend awkward three-month chunks across what is essentially the entire continent of Europe.

Enter the Spanish student visa!!! Although it, too, is valid for three months, it lets me apply for a type of residency, which would extend my stay to nine or even twelve months. And while I am definitely going to be hittin’ up all the autonomous communities while I’m in Spain, you know I’m not going to waste this opportunity to travel throughout Europe without visa restrictions!

Also, public transportation (from what I hear) is so much more efficient and widespread across the pond than it is here. I’m not even worried about not having a car, and I’m excited to ride a train somewhere!

4) Living on my own

I am very grateful for the loving home my mom and dad have provided for me these past 21 years. But I’m all grown up now, and I NEED to learn how to cook! Thus my plan to stake out a meager existence on the fringe of Spanish society. Heh. heh. Of course, once the school year’s over I’ll probably end up back home for the summer. We’ll see what happens.

5) Doing work

The mission statement of my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, includes the following phrase: “the university prepares individuals for...lives of meaningful work.” After four years of rigorous and, at times, wearisome classwork, I’m ready to exit what is endearingly called “the Bubble” for the Real World and excited to contribute to human society. (Non-melodramatic version: I have to pay back my student loans. Therefore, I need a job.)

Readers—tell me what you think is worth getting excited about in Spain! Or if you’re going to Spain as well, talk about what you’re looking forward to in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

5 Things I’m Going to Miss About Texas

Well, it’s official—I’m leaving the Great State of Texas for the better part of a year in September to be a language assistant in Spain. I’m overjoyed about going there, but, naturally, there are a few things I’m going to miss about home.

Before I begin, I need to hat-tip Tyler Donahue—a fellow language assistant and denizen of the Metroplex—for inspiring me to write this post. He wrote about the top ten things he’ll miss about the U.S. back in May, and I thought I’d add my two cents.

Texas Star Ferris Wheel, State Fair of Texas
Texas Star Ferris Wheel


1) Food

Yes, I know, it’s terrible this is number one, but food just came to my mind first! Anyway, Tex-Mex and Texas barbeque hold a special place in my heart, and there’s just no way I’m going to be able to find it across the Atlantic. Also, I really enjoy the variety of foods available in the States; people from probably every country in the world immigrate here and bring their cultures, languages, and their cuisines. I just love how in American cities we can have an Indian restaurant, a sushi shop, and a Salvadorean hole-in-the-wall place all on the same corner.

2) Family and friends

I was born in the state of Indiana, raised in Texas, and went to college in Arkansas, so almost everyone I know is American. If it weren’t for email, social media, and Skype, I don’t know how I would handle being gone for nine months. Still, it’s going to be hard leaving all my peeps stateside!

3) Speaking English

Okay, I’ll admit it, I can be lazy. And as a native speaker of English, speaking that language is something very easy to do. I don’t have to work much to talk, and expressing my opinion on something is effortless (if a little clunky at times). Fast forward to October, I’m going to be worn out every day just trying to survive in Spanish. I mean—yay! I’m going to Spain where I can finally speak Spanish all the time!—but it will be tiring.

4) Being comfortable

This is related to #3 above, but once you live in the same place for twenty years, you start to get a little comfortable, know your way around, and gain routines. I’m going to know nothing when I move to southern Spain, and that will be tough for the first few weeks.

5) Thunderstorms

Well, I don’t know much about Spanish weather, but every so often we have a monster-sized thunderstorm in Texas, and I LOVE it. I enjoy experiencing the gradual rumble of thunder that builds up to dark, gusty skies that drop buckets upon buckets of rain. I especially like going to sleep and waking up to storms. Who knows what things will be like in Andalucía, so far from the rainy north?

I followed up this post with a similar one about the top five things I’m looking forward to about Spain.

If you’ve ever been abroad, what have you missed the most about home? Post in the comments below!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Welcome to the Blog!

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog, A Texan in Spain! If you haven’t heard yet, I got a job in SPAIN for the next school year and wanted to share my time there with you here.

Having waited since March 31st, I FINALLY got word today from the Ministry of Education that I will be a North American Language and Culture Assistant in the Autonomous Community of Andalucía!!!

Autonomous Community of Andalucía, Spain
Source: Wikipedia
In a few weeks, they’ll tell me which school I’ve been assigned to, and then I can start the visa process.

Now what’s that long job title entail? Well, in Spanish they call it a auxiliar de conversación extranjero—“foreign conversation helper.” So a conversation teacher? Not necessarily. The other title (subtitle?) for the job is a “Cultural Ambassador” from North America. The program brochure that my Spanish professor gave me (bless her!) explains it thusly:
The Language and Culture Assistants program is coordinated by the Spanish Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Spanish Comunidades Autónomas (regions) and the Education Offices of the Embassies of Spain in the United States and Canada. It gives Junior and Senior College students as well as recent Graduates an opportunity to visit Spain and become acquainted with the Spanish education system, teachers and students, while sharing with them aspects of their own language and culture.
Yeah, I know, that sounds pretty idealistic. So, a little background. For the past few years, the Spanish government has been really pushing bilingual education, since Spaniards tend to rank low on foreign-language proficiency and since unemployment is extremely high (about 25% general, 50% youth). So Spain is pretty desperate when it comes to language-learning. That’s where I and 2,000 other North Americans come in!

Basically, I’m going to be a teacher’s assistant in classes taught in English. My job duties can include presenting about American culture or English grammar, correcting pronunciation, and acting as a human dictionary. The pay is €700 a month, but I’ll only be working 12 hours a week, health insurance will be provided, and I can teach private English classes on the side to supplement it. Yet Spain is letting me into the country on a “student visa” for the program, which is officially a “scholarship.” Hmm.

I’ll begin posting regularly pretty soon here about Spain, Spanish, and traveling in general.

Thanks for reading!
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