Some Common Misnomers about the Auxiliar Experience


June 7, 2013 by ebostick1212

As an obsessively organized person when it comes to preparing myself for something, I have became well versed in the ways of the Auxiliar blogosphere, even before starting my own year in Spain and my own blog.  With a simple search on Google, on can find soooooooo many blogs that bitch about the bureaucracy, the late ‘n’ low payments, and the teachers.  It is enough to put a prospective auxiliar off the program!  Of course, they have an absolute right to bitch.  Perhaps they had a terrible experience with the bureaucracy, or didn’t get paid until March, but I am here to say that this isn’t always the case.

Full disclosure: I went through the CIEE program, so some aspects of my experience, like my application and Tarjeta Identidad Extranjero processes were different.  However, I have now also gone through the Ministerio, as well, and it hasn’t been the nightmare that some people make it out to be.

Myth Number 1:
Profex is the worst

Just read through these instructions thoroughly!

Just read through these instructions thoroughly!

Profex, the online application process for the Ministerio de Educación is a pain, no one will tell you otherwise.  It crashes all the time, and for a non-Spanish speaker, it is really unclear.  Yet there is a way to get through the application process rather painlessly…and it’s so obvious it hurts.  Read the instructions!  As previously stated, I like to stay obsessively well informed, so I started reading the instructions as soon as they came up on the Ministerio website.  They did a good job this year; writing pretty clear steps in English, so it wasn’t a surprise when I actually started the application process.  Also, make sure you have all your documents (cv, statement of purpose, recommendation letters) in place and ready to go before the applications open, and you’ll be on your way with (relative) ease.

Myth Number 2:
Getting your TIE is impossible

I am very used to paperwork by now.

I am very used to paperwork by now.

I am not going to lie, getting your visa and Tarjeta de Identidad is a hassle, but I can tell you, that after living in three countries…it is a hassle wherever you go.  In England I had to pay £300 and take a £40 taxi ride to a random post office in the middle of nowhere in order to get fingerprints done (why didnt they put it in the center of the city, where all the car-less foreigners live?)  When getting my French visa, I had one paper missing, and I had to get another appointment for the DAY OF MY FLIGHT.   Visa processes are inherently frustrating and difficult. If anything, it has taught me to go with the flow.

Does all that paperwork and bureaucracy suck?  Yes, it does.
Will you end up getting kicked out of Spain for doing your paperwork incorrectly?  Probably not.

I have gotten my TIE through CIEE (super easy, they basically do it for you) and on my own (not as easy, but definitely not impossible.). The most important thing is to be hyper organized, and call the consulate beforehand, to ask what you are going to need.  This is key when you are in a place like Spain that never posts paperwork requirements online.  You WILL get your visa and TIE, but you have to be ready for pencil pushers to make it difficult for you.

Myth Number 3:
Teaching in Spain is exactly like teaching in the US

There are many people who graduate in the US, and are certified as teachers, and come to Spain, only to be left completely in shock. I have to say, when I got here, it was one of the things I was not prepared for.   Spain’s education system is COMPLETELY different than anything I experienced in the US.  Here, students start sitting at  desks in first grade, in spite of their general antsy-ness.  They also do book work most of the day.

One of the most shocking things I experienced was when a teacher first called out a student for misbehaving and then proceeded to go on a ten minute rant about how he was a terrible student etc. etc.  This kind of talk would get a teacher sacked in the US, yet it is pretty commonplace here.  Discipline is definitely firmer, but the teachers also show a lot more love.

In the US, it is completely off limits to touch children.  Of course, it seems like we have we have more wackos like Mary Kay Letourneau.  In Spain, hugs and kisses are looked on as being motherly, and caring, especially in primaria.  This affection isn’t perceived as perverse or inappropriate, but a gesture of love towards the little ones.  On my last day at CEIP Guadalquivir, I got around 350 kisses, and an innumerable amount of bear hugs.

I guess culturally, the Spanish are more and willing to show their emotions, whether good or bad, and act upon them, whereas we tend to keep everything inside, and keep everything super formal.

Myth Number 4:
You won’t be able to live off of 700 euros.

This myth couldn’t be further from the truth!  Unless you are living in Madrid (in which case you receive 1000 euros) 700 euros is definitely sufficient, especially for the 12 hour work week.  You won’t live like a king, but you’ll get by, perhaps even saving a bit.  The cost of living in Spain is very low, especially in the south.  In the unlikely event that you don’t take on any private classes, your stipend should cover rent, food, and transport.  Of course, if you want to travel, or go out for tapas every once in awhile, it would be wise to take on a private class or two.  There are always people looking for native speakers, either in academies, or in their home.

It should be noted that there have been payment problems in the past, and this scares a lot of people off the program. An auxiliar is supposed to be paid after their first month of work, but this isn’t always the case.  Due to lack of funding, and the Junta generally being slow at this sort of thing, people end up getting paid late.  This is a big problem in some regions, like Andalucia, but not a problem at all in regions like Galicia.   I had friends who didn’t get paid until February of this year, but they got by with the money they had saved.  Most schools are aware of this problem, and have money saved up, just in case.  I technically didn’t get paid by the Junta until January, but I was lucky that my school had a savings for a ‘rainy day’ and were able to pay me until the money from the Junta came through.

The best thing to do is to bring at least 1000 euros with you, in preparation for the program.  However, if you are stuck in a situation where you’ve run out of money, and it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting paid any time soon, there are still options.  Often, if you go to the American Embassy nearest you, they can help speed up the payment.  You can also take on extra classes, which is more work, but worth it in the end.

Honestly, these problems seem HUGE at the time (OMG I’M GOING TO STARRRRRRRRRVE), but they will sort themselves out.  You signed a contract, and the Junta can’t back out of that.  There are ways to get by, I promise.

Honestly, there are some difficulties that you are likely to encounter when coming to Spain as an auxiliar, but they are all solve-able.  There are always problems with moving abroad…to any country. You just have to be prepared.  Do your research, and learn the art of patience.  By being patient, and flexible, and knowing what you are getting into, the process of moving to Spain will be a much smoother one.

And if all else fails, you can always contact me via email ( with your questions and I will do my best to answer them!

9 thoughts on “Some Common Misnomers about the Auxiliar Experience

  1. Nena says:

    Betsy! i always read your blog and i really like it (i never leave comments though). Just wanted to say hi! Nena

  2. Mike says:

    This a a great post! I’ll be starting the auxiliar program this fall, and have done a lot of research about the program. I know the potential negatives outweighs the positives for some, but not me. There will be headaches, but its worth it for the chance to live and work abroad – a lifelong dream of mine. Plus, it’s all part of the living abroad experience which is supposed to be difficult, challenging and ultimately rewarding.

    • ebostick1212 says:

      Thanks! I hope you have a great year in Spain! If you go into the experience knowing that there will be stressful parts, and cultural differences, it is so much easier than being caught in an unexpected situation.

      • Mike says:

        You’re welcome! I hope the year goes swimmingly, but I fully understand there will be some bumps. Hopefully my anticipation of them will help me get through them.

  3. almcgough says:

    Ah! Thank you so much for this post!! I’ve also applied through CIEE and will be an auxiliar in the fall and am very happy I chose to work with them. Even with all their help I still get a little overwhelmed so it’s nice to hear from someone who has survived it all.

    • ebostick1212 says:

      You are welcome! My only complaint is that CIEE is a little pricy, but I wasn’t confident with my Spanish skills last year, and I was in an awkward situation for my visa (I had to get five background checks, including one from France and England…that’s how much I’ve moved.) so I decided to go with them. I’ve had a pretty good experience with them, but the renewal stuff with the ministerio hasn’t been that difficult either.

  4. shelbyfahey says:

    I’m new to the blogosphere and just happened to stumble upon your site while delving into the virtual community. I wanted to start writing in anticipation of future adventures as I am a wanderlust addict. Last summer I was living in Oviedo, Asturias in Northern Spain and left my heart there. I am planning on applying to the Auxiliar program (if December graduation ever decides to roll around) and this post got me all sorts of excited! I will definitely be checking back to be envious of your travels and stockpile your lovely tips.

    • ebostick1212 says:

      Thanks for checking out my blog! My new exciting trip will be back to the USA for awhile, haha. It is exciting for me since I have barely been home in about 5 years. If you have any questions or doubts about the auxiliar program, let me know! I would love to get up to Asturias at some point…everyone raves about it.

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