Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Review of Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistant Program

From last October through May of this year, I worked as a North American Language and Culture Assistant at a bilingual elementary school in southern Spain, a job in which I assisted teachers in English, science, and music classes for 12 hours a week in return for 700 € a month and health insurance. I lived with two other Spanish guys in an apartment in the World Heritage-listed town of Úbeda and was able to travel all across the southern half of the country as well as to France and Morocco. Nine months of speaking Spanish and being immersed in Spanish culture—not to mention living on my own for the first time—turned out to be one of the best years of my life.

Jaén, Spain
Skyline of Jaén city seen from the castle
So what are my thoughts about the program? If you guessed that they’re mostly positive, you’d be right—just take this post’s first paragraph (or read this blog!) as proof. My personal experience as an auxiliar de conversación was a great one, and I was so fortunate to end up at a great school with a carpool that let me live in a bigger town with good public transportation connections.

However, everybody has a different experience in this program, often determined by your attitude but usually by where you get placed. Additionally, the total inconsistency in coordination and experiences means your year abroad has the potential to be amazing or una mierda, as they say in Spanish.

Still, if you’re willing to take the risk that your year abroad may or may not turn out well, if you want to be in Spain that badly, first read about my experience and the pros and cons of the program, and decide for yourself. I recommend participating, but I’ve got some reservations.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Renew for a Second Year for Spain’s Language Assistant Program

LAST UPDATED JANUARY 2014

So, after applying and getting accepted into Spain’s language assistant program, and living and working abroad for a whole school year, you decided in the spring you wanted to do it all over again. You’ve read through Spain’s official how-to-renew guide, but their guide for renewing via Profex is all in Spanish and the application period begins tomorrow…so what do you do? Read below, that’s what! (hahaha)

Anyway, in this blog post I want to make it as clear as possible how to renew for Year 2 (or Year 3…) since the process is similar, but different from Year 1. If you finish reading the post and still have questions, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it!

Sevilla, Spain
Me at the Plaza de España in Sevilla

Step 1: Figure out where you want to renew

Sevilla, Spain
Sevilla’s Torre del Oro and the Guadalquivir River at the blue hour
Not everyone chooses to stay at their same school for a second or even a third year; sometimes people want to change from a rural to an urban setting, from a primary school to a secondary one, or from one province or region to another. Or maybe the school they got placed in was a disaster and they needed to get out of a bad situation. Regardless, when you do renew, since you have priority over first-year applicants, you have a better chance of getting an ideal placement for the next school year.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ceuta and Melilla: African Spain

While traveling between Spain and Morocco over this spring’s Semana Santa vacations (Easter break), I took ferries between the Spanish cities of Almería and Algeciras to two more Spanish cities on the coast of North Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. Yes—little exclaves of the Kingdom of Spain sitting on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, two outposts of Europe in Africa. Before I got interested in Spain a few years ago I had absolutely no idea these geographic oddities existed, but Ceuta (pronounced “THAY-OOH-tah” [ˈθew.ta]) and Melilla (pronounced “may-LEE-yah” [meˈli.ʎa]) are just as much Spain as Barcelona, Bilbao, or Burgos. They don’t belong to any Autonomous Community (think Andalucía, Galicia, Cataluña…) but are Autonomous Cities responsible for all their own affairs.

Melilla, Spain
Pulling into Melilla on the ferry
There’s really not much to see and do in these towns, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit them apart from passing through for transit between Morocco and Spain. Still, they’re fascinating little cities that make great pitstops while traveling. Additionally, while being 100% Spanish (siesta, language, etc.), people of Arab heritage make up a significant part of both cities’ population—so they’re almost transition zones between Spain and Morocco.
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