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How I Moved To Spain To Teach English

Welcome to the first post of many about Spain! These are about living abroad in Spain, or teaching English in Spain. I want to share the journey of how I came to be in living in the south east corner of Spain, in a city called Almería. 

It would be an understatement to say I was sad after my working holiday visa for the UK ended. It was more like I was devastated. Months of searching for a job that would allow me to stay, since mine wasn’t eligible for sponsorship, had come to nothing. After three years away from New Zealand and with debt to be paid, I had to go.

When my visa actually ended I went for a two week holiday around Europe before I took the risk of returning on a tourist visa. Even though I was returning to Scotland I was anxious when I left on the flight away. By the time it came to actually leaving I think I was numb, and seemed to stay that way for awhile.

Except for the crying, if you know me, you know I cry at ANYTHING, and this was most definitely not an exception. I cried most of the flight back to Australia, where I was headed to live with my parents so I could get myself sorted, whatever that meant.

Now that I’ve set the scene for how much of a downer I was on after travelling, I’ll skip the rest of the sometimes not so great parts of travel leave that for another post. In summary, I wanted to leave again, and I needed some way to do it.

So how did the low of my visa ending and having to return home become moving to Spain?

The Great Escape…

Before you say it, I know moving to Australia wasn’t the end of the world, even if it is close to it! I had valuable time with friends and family, a job that paid well, and in looking back at 2015 I was able to see how many personal goals I had achieved. Plus there’s no denying Australia is beautiful and the weather’s far better than the UK!

When I left I knew I wasn’t ready to settle in Australia, and it was just a matter of time before I found some new adventure. I also knew I wasn’t done with Europe, because can you ever be?! Ireland was on the list of possible options for another move, but as much as I love it I was afraid of the economy and getting a job. Next on the list were Germany or the Netherlands, but what would I do?

My jobs since university have all helped me in some way, but none were really passions or even things I particularly wanted to do. Mostly I just needed a job, or rather, money! Has anyone else had this problem after university?! After five years I’ve been wanting to do something I actually WANT to do.

Enter my friend Rachel. After university she moved to Spain to be an English Language Assistant. Teaching English is something I’ve talked about doing for years, except I had always considered it in Asia, especially after first being offered a job in the beautiful town of Guilin in China when I travelled there in 2011. After that I vowed at some point I would teach English as a job.

On a whim, or rather, in desperation for an escape back to Europe, I asked Rachel about how she was able to get her job in Spain. I’ve spoken before about how little decisions can snowball into big adventures, and this one is no exception. A quick google search later and I was applying through the New Zealand version of the Auxiliar de Conversaciòn program, or English Language Assistantships, with no clue what could actually happen!

What is the Auxiliar de Conversaciòn Program?

The Auxiliar de Conversaciòn Program, or English Language Assistantships Program runs between Spain and English speaking countries. I know of at least New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The program places you in a school for 12 hours a week helping the students improve their English, in return for €700 a month (or 16 hours for €1000 in Madrid). You make your own way to the country and find your own accommodation, but the program also provides you with medical insurance and a visa. There are 80 places for Kiwis, and I’m sure there aren’t 80 of us here (get applying guys!).

After I applied I realised I had heard about this all before, from one of my favourite travel bloggers ever, the Young Adventuress. This program is when she started out travel blogging. The low hours each week mean plenty of time for other things, and I plan to take full advantage of that too!

So that was it. I found out I was accepted, I chose my preferred provinces, and by some stroke of luck I was placed in the exact same city as Rachel!

I chose Andalusia because it’s a warm area of Spain even in the winter, it’s cheaper so I can afford to live and I knew it was beautiful because it’s the only area in Spain I’d been to before. Other that that choice I could have been placed anywhere, but I’m lucky enough to be helping in both a secondary school and a primary school in Almería.

It’s hard for me to think back on how I felt and the dark patch I went through after leaving the United Kingdom. Travel isn’t always happy, sometimes you have to make choices you don’t want to, and sometimes you have to go home. In some ways I think travel and moving abroad contributed to me sinking to the lowest point of my life so far. While I don’t like to dwell on that and I prefer to speak of the positives, I hope to be able to write about some of those realities soon.

For now, Spain is my home. I’ll be living here for about the next six months at least, so please come back and follow the journey of living in Spain, and teaching English in Spain!

Sonja x

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How I Moved To Spain To Teach English

How I Moved To Spain To Teach English


37 thoughts on “How I Moved To Spain To Teach English

  1. Megan S says:

    Cheers to spontaneous adventures! They are always my favorite types of adventures! I always keep in mind that I can change my circumstances if I get there and don’t like it. No commitment is permanent! Spain has been on my list of teaching abroad options for quite some time, you may have just given me the nudge I needed!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      They are my favourite type too :). I seem to have trouble with daily decisions like what I want to eat etc but with big decisions like travel I just go for it! I agree you can always change your circumstances, but I also like to make sure I really give it a good go. Sometimes at the beginning it’s hard and I never want to leave because of that, because the rewards always come later! I’ll be in Spain at least until the end of this contract no matter what! Then we will see 🙂

  2. Trekking with Becky says:

    Thanks for linking this post to Trekking with Becky’s Expat Tuesday ?

    It’s great to see a post about getting work in Europe! I’m really looking forward to reading your future posts about living and working in Spain, especially since I haven’t made it there yet.

    Best of luck with everything, and enjoy every second! ?

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Becky! Looking forward to linking up every week after I post about how things are going in Spain :).

      I hadn’t considered Europe very much for teaching English, or at least not this part of Europe! Hopefully my posts might inspire you to make the journey, Spain is amazing!

  3. Stacey says:

    Good for you. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Andalusia. I’ve been all over Almeria, Alcudia, Sevilla, Cordoba, Malaga, Granada, Cadiz and Gibraltar which I know isn’t actually Spain, but might as well be. We spent Christmas there a few years ago when we lived in Germany and the snow was 5 feet high. Enjoy the tapas, the weather, flamenco, the cute guys, the language, the ocean and the laid back attitude, siesta, late dinners and festivals. I’d leave South Korea in a heart beat if I could.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thank you!!! I have only been to a few places in Andalusia and can’t wait to explore more. Working only part time should give me plenty of time to see the sights! I have been taking full advantage of the siestas and the tapas so far, and looking forward to more of the rest!

  4. MariaAbroad says:

    This is such a cool way to experience another country. I especially like that you only teach a limited number of hours. It stretches your Travel Budget, but you still have a lot of time to travel and explore, which can often suffer, if you have a true full time job! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Maria! Its definitely throwing me right in the deep end of life in Spain, which is hard but I like it. I’m hoping to be able to use the spare time to ramp up online work to maybe help with the budget, but I’ll see how it all pans out. I’ve worked full-time while living abroad before and managed to make it work, and I’m confident I’ll make this work too 🙂

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Haha I’m interested to see how I like teaching! When I was younger I wanted to be a teacher so this is like a mini test :). Thank you and hopefully now you’ve found something you enjoy!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Patricia! I’m lucky to be helping out with all ages from 6 years old to adults so I’ll be able to get a feel for what I like the most and see if I want to pursue it further in the future. Before I came to Spain I got a basic TEFL Certificate which I enjoyed doing and is really helping me. I’d recommend it as a start and if you like it you could go for something more later!

  5. Liz says:

    This is so inspiring! In the middle of reading your post, I actually started Googling about it and if it is open to Filipinos like me. I did find a few leads, but ever the procrastinator, I just saved it for later. 😛 It’s not actually the time for me right now to go looking for adventures as I am studying for my specialty board exams, but it’s great knowing that all these options exist, if we only know what to look for. 🙂 Great post and good luck on your adventures in Spain! Will certainly be following you. 🙂

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Haha I’m the same I have to find out when I have an idea about something, even if it’s not the right time! Searching for new adventures if a great procrastination tool as well! I’m a bit of a planner in that I like to know all of my options even if I never pursue them. Thanks so much and good luck with your exams!

  6. Nikita says:

    Totally understand that “can’t get enough Europe” feeling! I thought only Americans could take part in the Auxiliar de Conversacion program. It’s cool to see that it’s open to kiwis, maybe us Canadians have a shot then haha! Seriously living in Spain looks amazing, I hope you enjoy almost every second of it!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      You should have a look! It’s open to Australians too, I’d be surprised if it’s not open to Canadians! Thank you so much :). I’ve been busy getting a bit more settled here but I’ve got a long list of things to see already, even just in Almería!

  7. Chris says:

    Hi Sonja,

    Your friend Claire was telling me about your experiences in Spain. She suggested that I have a look at your website with regards to teaching options. It does sound like it would be a nice place to work. Could you possibly give me some idea of how you went about applying for teaching work in Spain? I have a British passport, so perhaps this might make it easier?


    • Migrating Miss says:

      Hi Chris! I love working here :). I applied through the Auxiliar de Conversacion program which I think I linked to in the post, or you can google it plus New Zealand and it should come up. Applications are open right now for next year and I suggest applying early. I think they close in April. Having a British passport means you won’t need to get a visa which makes things easier, but I’d still suggest applying through New Zealand anyway as there are different rules for applying through the UK and if you went to university in New Zealand then it might make it more difficult! Plus I didn’t need to show any previous Spanish study, although you should have a basic knowledge, and for the British Council application you need to have studied Spanish at university (or so I understand!). Feel free to let me know if you need more help!

  8. Amanda says:

    I am sooo Loving your BLog SOnja! Thank you sooo soo Much! I am planning on living abroad in Spain as well. I intend to read as much as I can before I go anywhere. If You could, I’d like to request a blog on Safety especially being a young woman traveling abroad and how you’ve managed. Thanks again for taking the time to write and share with the world your experiences. All the Best,

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! If you want any tips about living abroad in Spain feel free to get in touch! Sure, I’ll get something up about safety as soon as I can :). Best wishes!

  9. Dave says:

    Sonja, I have questions regarding the teaching market in Spain for qualified teachers. Do you happen to know the job market for these people? I’d like to stay in Spain long term as I am an EU passport holder. Please email me in the email provided.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Hi Dave,

      Sorry I’m not too familiar with it because I went as a Language Assistant. I do know it can be hard to Spanish qualified teachers to get a job, but I think if you intend to teach English that would be different. I would say you will need to speak Spanish. I’ll send you an email though 🙂

  10. Shanon says:

    Hey! This was such a great post to read 🙂 I actually have been offered a teaching placement in Almeria this September. However, as I don’t have a tefl qualification I would only be receiving €498 a month with accommodation provided from the school. I just wanted your opinion on whether this is enough to survive with this amount. Feel free to Provide feedback via email ☺

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Thanks Shanon! With accommodation included that sounds fine! I was getting a similar amount once I took out my accommodation costs. I did take on extra classes which I used to pay for more expenses but if I hadn’t of had those it would still have been ok, just a little more tight. I’d recommend putting your name out there for classes and taking whatever people offer as it will lead to more referrals and the extra money will mean you can travel a little as well.

  11. Rebecca says:

    I’m thinking of moving to Spain to teach as well! Only thing is, 700 euro per month, even 1,000 euro per month sounds impossibly low when you factor in rent, groceries, shopping etc. thoughts?

    • Migrating Miss says:

      It really depends on where you live! For me, it was plenty to cover costs. Rent isn’t too bad, and I found groceries really cheap if I shopped around, and also eating out (but my city had free tapas!). If I wanted to do additional travel or splash out then no, but for everyday expenses, there were no issues. Also though, it’s easy to pick up extra classes with students so I would use that money for extra things I wanted to do!

  12. C.J. Burly says:

    Very exciting option. Looking into TEFL certification, but have question/concern – is speaking the language of the country a requirement? If not, besides being handy, is it advisable? I am strictly English speaking (the reason I have limited my travels to English-speaking countries thus far) but open to learning enough of a language to get by.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      It depends on the position you take. A basic level is DEFINITELY useful but not always necessary. However, I do think that it enhances your experience if you can at least learn something. It depends a bit on where you live as well. Where I lived I really needed it quite often!

  13. Jenny says:

    This is so amazing. I am so grateful that you put this on your blog and has helped me look into this summer to new places for cultural exchange. I didn’t even know this was possible! thank you !!!

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