The past month has been one of the most eventful/stressful/exciting months of my life! After an amazing week camping in Iceland, I boarded my flight to Madrid and headed off to Spain to begin my new chapter working as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Sevilla, Spain.
Technically this post covers my first month and a half in Spain, as I arrived two weeks early (September 17) to find an apartment and get settled in.
In just the past 6 weeks, I found an apartment, got a Spanish cell phone plan, set up a bank account, started teaching classes, celebrated a birthday, and somehow managed to find time to travel!
It has definitely been a crazy busy (and fun) time, so keep reading to learn more about my first few weeks in Spain-the highlights, the lowlights, the things I’ve learned, and everything in between!
September: The “Fun Stuff”
I’m not going to lie to you, September was a pretty difficult month. As I learned when I first moved to Italy, there is way more to “moving to Europe” than one initially expects.
I arrived in Spain about two weeks before classes started so that I could get a head start on all of the not-so-fun administrative tasks that come with relocating to Spain. So my first few weeks were mostly filled with “fun” tasks like apartment hunting and appointments at the bank as opposed to endless tapas an sangria (although I did manage to squeeze in both!). 😉
These are all of the things I took care of over the course of my first 2 weeks in Spain:
Found an apartment, or piso
Apartment hunting in any country is difficult. Apartment hunting in a language you haven’t spoken since high school in a completely different country is extremely difficult. After spending 5 frantic days walking all around the city, responding to endless apartment postings, and going to what seemed like a million apartment showings, I finally found an apartment I liked! While it is a bit far from the train station where I commute from every day, it is centrally located and in a really charming part of town. Oh, and it has a pretty awesome rooftop terrace that I love! (Pictured below-isn’t it cute?!)
Stay tuned for a post all about tips for apartment hunting in Spain!
Got a Spanish phone plan
Finding a phone plan in Spain was actually one of the easier things I needed to take care of. Within two days of moving, I had compared prices at several phone companies and ultimately decided to get a monthly plan from Orange. It was a relatively simple process, even with my low level of Spanish, although I was glad my roommate came with, as her Spanish is much better than mine!
Set up a bank account
Setting up a bank account was not very easy, and I was glad to have my roommate with me once again to help me understand the details of setting up an account. That being said, it is possible to find English speakers in some banks, so I’m sure if I shopped around more I could have set up an account on my own. To set up my account, I needed my NIE number (listed on my Spanish visa), my passport, and proof of an appointment for a TIE.
Applied for my TIE: Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (
My visa for the auxiliar de conversación program only covers my first 90 days in Spain. To stay longer, I needed to apply for a TIE or Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero. This wasn’t as difficult as I originally anticipated, but perhaps that is because I had already been through a similar process to get my permesso di soggiorno in Italy. I had to wait for about 10 hours to get that one, so this process seemed much more organized by comparison!
I’ll be posting more about applying for a TIE soon!
Attempted to get WiFi
As a travel blogger, I consider wifi to be pretty essential, and after moving into my apartment it was one of the first things I attempted to take care of. The day after moving in, my roommates and I headed off to all of the phone/internet companies in town in search of the best packages for us.However, due to a variety of frustrating circumstances completely out of our control, our WiFi has yet to be installed. So please, cross your fingers that we get WiFi by November, because I am slowly going insane!
First Day of School
October marked the first official month of school, and my first day of school was scheduled for October 2. I actually ended up visiting my school the Friday before classes started to make sure my commute went smoothly the first day. This proved to be an excellent decision, and I was way less nervous on my first day of class because I had already met the other teachers and explored the school.
While you can read all about my first day as an auxiliar in this post, I will say that things went smoothly! I bopped around from class to class, introducing myself and answering (or dodging) some pretty amusing questions (Do you like Donald Trump? How old are you? Do you have a boyfriend?).
Over the course of my first week, I was able to attend each of my classes and get a feel for my responsibilities as an auxiliar. I also was able to familiarize myself with each age group and their level of English, which would come in handy for planning lessons and activities beginning week 2.
The 2017 orientation date for the auxiliares de conversación in Sevilla was Thursday, October 5. Unfortunately for me, the entire orientation was held in Spanish, meaning that I understood little of what was going on. The directors of the program did an overview of the program (responsibilities, getting your TIE, payment, etc.), former auxiliares spoke about their experiences, and there were several other speakers who detailed the roles auxiliaries play in the classroom. At least, I think that is what happened? Spanish speaker or not, the overall consensus amongst fellow auxiliares was that the meeting could have been a little (or a lot) shorter. I definitely saw more than one glazed over eye in the crowd.
Fortunately, after orientation, there was a nice social hour with drinks (cerveza, tinto, soda) and small Spanish snacks to munch on while socializing with fellow auxiliaries. I treated this hour like speed dating, attempting to meet as many new people as possible! I did my best to bounce around the room, suggesting everyone add each other on Facebook so we could hang out. Thankfully, this tactic worked and I actually made several friends this way!
Settling into Classes
While my first week was all about introductions and getting to know the classes and age levels, by my second week I was expected to have activities and lessons prepared and ready to go. As someone who has never taught English before, this was a little difficult at first, but my teachers helped point me in the right direction.
I will say that I was a little surprised by exactly how much I was teaching. When researching the program beforehand, many auxiliaries stressed how you are “just there to assist” and “shouldn’t be teaching full lessons.” While this may be the experience of some auxiliaries, I often end up teaching for 45 minutes straight and plan many of my own lessons. I would say that 75% of my classes are me teaching, the other 25% I am assisting in. This was a bit overwhelming at first, but there are lots of online resources I have found to be helpful when searching for classroom activities, and I have definitely gotten several ideas from the auxiliares de conversación Facebook group! Since my train gets me to school at 9:00 AM, I have an extra 45 minutes each morning before my first class begins at 9:45. While part of me wishes I could take a later train, I use this time before school and during my commute to plan lessons, and rarely have to do any preparation at home.
I am totally still getting the hang of teaching-sometimes activities I plan work well, and other times an activity is a total fail! I’ve even found that occasionally an activity that works in one 2nd grade class is too difficult or time-consuming in the other. Each day is a learning opportunity for me, just as much as it is for the students! All I can do is try my best, and learn from my successes as well as my mistakes.
Side Job-Working in an Academy
While the €700 a month that the Ministry of Education pays auxiliares de conversación is (sort of) enough to get by on, most auxiliares find it necessary to take on side jobs in order to travel, go out to eat, pay off student loans, etc. In my case, my commute to Lebrija costs me an extra €180 a month. While I did save up before heading to Spain, I was definitely hoping to do some teaching or tutoring on the side to help supplement this spending!
Exactly 1 week after I started teaching in Lebrija, I began working in an academy nearby 2 days a week, for an extra 6 hours a week. If you are looking to pick up some extra tutoring hours, most auxiliares will tell you “you don’t find tutoring jobs, they find you,” and this is SO TRUE. My bilingual coordinator actually messaged me about working at the academy before I had even been to Lebrija!
Oftentimes past auxiliares have either worked for an academy near you, tutored students privately, or made other connections that may be passed on to you (which is exactly what happened to me). That being said, If you start school and don’t happen to discover any connections, both of my roommates kept an eye on the auxiliaries de conversation in Sevilla Facebook page and found their tutoring gigs there. Our landlord even asked in one of us could tutor his niece!
I couldn’t have gotten luckier-I truly enjoy working at the academy and love that I can make some extra €€€ while I’m at it! I won’t lie though, with my commute and the added hours, my days on Tuesday and Wednesday are quite long-I leave my house at 7:00 AM and arrive home at 10 PM! I totally believe that the longer days are worth it, though. Since I am working for an academy as opposed to tutoring, all of the materials I need are provided, so there is not much planning to do on my end. I also really enjoy that the class sizes are smaller and easier to manage. Additionally, it is so nice not having to worry about fining multiple tutoring jobs throughout Sevilla/Lebrija-my schedule is simple and all in one place!
Believe it or not, Halloween is celebrated in Spain! While the holiday isn’t as popular as it is in the United States, my students were super excited to celebrate on October 31st. I will warn you though-if your teachers ask you to dress up for Halloween, you will want to go as something scary! In Spain, people reserve dressing up in a not scary costume for Carnival, and pretty much always go spooky for Halloween. At my school, we spent the day decorating and threw a haunted house for the older kids.
Needless to say, my devil horns didn’t make the cut. My fellow teachers giggled a bit before turning me into…I honestly don’t even know what…but it was creepy. (I’m pretty sure a few kids cried at the haunted house.) On the actual day of Halloween, we did fun themed coloring sheets in class, played freeze dance to “The Monster Mash”, practiced Halloween vocabulary, and talked about all of the kids’ costumes!
One of the biggest perks of the auxiliares de conversación program is that I am off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday-which means that every weekend is a 3 day weekend-leaving plenty of time for travel!
Since it was my first month in Spain, I didn’t go too crazy, but I did manage to head on two weekend-long trips and one easy day trip.
The first place I visited was Portugal on a weekend trip with We Love Spain. I loved that I didn’t have to do any planning, and especially because I decided to hop on the trip the week before classes started. I spent my weekend relaxing on some of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches instead of stressing about my first day of school. I also got a killer tan, got a nice vacation from taking photos (there was a trip photographer!) and made some new friends!
We had an extra long weekend in October thanks to the Festa Nacional de Espana, which was amazing! While I would have liked to have planned a trip farther away, it was difficult to find reasonable flights so last minute. My roommates and I decided to spend the weekend in Cadiz and had a great time. Not only did we get to enjoy another weekend of beautiful weather on the beach, but we loved how simple the trip was to plan and how easy it is to explore the relatively small historic center of Cadiz. After a stressful few weeks moving to Spain and starting a new job, simplicity and sun were just what the doctor ordered. Discover my top 15 must-dos in Cadiz here!
The final trip I made in October was only 20 minutes outside of Sevilla-the ancient Roman ruins of Italica. This day trip was really more of a half day trip, and the ruins are so close to Sevilla that it would be a shame to miss them. I am also a huge Game of Thrones fan, and this location was actually used in the final episode of Season 7. You can read more about visiting the Italica ruins here!
While there is definitely a lot of stress that comes with moving to a new country and starting a new job, I can honestly say that I enjoyed my first month teaching English in Spain. There were certainly plenty of frustrating moments during these first few weeks-apartment hunting, setting up Spanish bank accounts, and waiting for wifi. That being said, these small frustrations are nothing when I consider how much fun I have had making friends from all over the world, exploring Spain, and learning how to teach. I’ve even managed to improve my Spanish a bit!
Here’s to a great first month, and all of the adventures in store this November-I’ve already got a weekend planned in Valencia! Stay tuned for more auxiliaries updates, and don’t forget to check out my other auxiliares de conversación posts!
Have you ever taught English abroad? I’d love to hear what your first month was like in the comments!
- My First Day Teaching English In Spain As An Auxiliar de Conversación
- 10 Essential Tips For Your First Day Teaching English In Spain
- Dear Italy, I Love You, But I’m Leaving You For Spain
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