Auxiliar Spotlight: Expectations is a series of interviews with fellow auxiliares. The interviews will be about the auxiliar’s expectations of the program and his or her expectations of the experience in Spain. At the end of the academic year the same participants will do a follow up interview to reflect on his or her experience and to summarize how accurate previous expectations were and final thoughts on the program. Be sure to follow along!
Here’s Blair 🙂
Hey y’all! My name is Blair Bolick. I’m a first-year auxiliary, born & raised in Nashville, Tennessee. I studied Political Science & Global Studies at the University of Tennessee, and I’ll be spending the next year teaching at a secondary school, IES Vega de Mijas in Fuengirola (right on the Mediterranean Coast; am I lucky or what?!).
Yes, super lucky!! So, why did you decide to do the Auxiliares de Conversación program?
I studied abroad in Sevilla during the Spring of 2011. I absolutely fell in love with Spanish culture and the pace of life. Right when I felt comfortable and in my element, the experience was over! I knew before I even left Spain that I would be returning for a more extensive period of time. As I’m trying to decide if I want to return to school and receive my Masters in Education, this program seemed like the perfect fit.
Do you have any teaching experience, or experience working with kids?
I don’t have any formal teaching experience, but I have a ton with children. For 6 summers I worked at a residential summer camp, entertaining, taking care of and, in many ways, educating children. I really enjoy working with kids.
Ah, I love camp! I worked at a summer camp too and I miss it a lot! but as you may know, there are lots of rumors that float around about the pros and cons of the program. What have you heard? Does it worry you?
Initially I intended on doing this program last year. In hindsight, I am SO glad that I waited because I was able to really educate myself on this program (there is so much information out there thanks to awesome bloggers!). I’ve read the horror stories, like receiving school placements in the middle of nowhere or working with people who either take advantage of you or don’t see the purpose of your role. I think the overall consensus is that bureaucratically this program is so unorganized. Each experience is unique not only because each community and school is different, but because there is no consistency in the program. Some are paid on time, placed in schools with entire English departments and live within an easy commute from a larger city. Others are placed in rural Spain, overused or under appreciated , paid months late and virtually shown no support system. I applaud those auxiliaries who manage to still make the most out of their experience under those circumstances. I don’t know if I would have been willing to accept the position myself if that were the case. So far (and I know I’m still across the pond), I’ve had a wonderful coordinator from my school reach out to me on multiple occasions, offer me tremendous support and resources, and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful experiences from last-year’s auxiliary. It genuinely makes me feel so much more comfortable going in to this experience.
Yeah, it sounds like your school is pretty organized. What are you most excited about in regards to the program and about living in Spain?
There are so many things I look forward to! Like I said, I really think that teaching may be my passion and while I realize this is such a unique experience and nothing like American education, kids are kids and I really want to see if this profession suits me. I look forward to really learning Spanish; before I arrived in Spain in 2011, conversationally I didn’t know a lick of the language. I feel as though I came leaps and bounds in three months, but still think I am at a beginner-level. I want to focus on becoming as fluent as possible! I also can’t wait to travel around Europe and Morocco a bit more; having such a short work week is awesome!
Ha yes, you will be totally spoiled after the program when you have to work on Fridays again! What are you most nervous about? What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
While I’m most excited about learning the language, it’s also my biggest fear. I remember the challenge I had last time, and how difficult it was for me to open up with my Spanish. I get nervous when I try and speak and I know how important it is to be outgoing if I truly want to learn. I’m hoping to take a Spanish course to supplement my conversational experience as well. In addition to the language barrier, I am nervous about living on such a modest income. I hear time and time again that Language Assistants have no trouble finding private lessons, but you can’t help but worry until you are there, and the pay we receive through the program is very minimal.
Yeah, budgeting can be tricky but the pay is totally do-able and you’ll quickly find private lessons. What are you expecting to learn while in Spain?
I’m expecting to learn patience, independence, how to teach English and the Spanish language! You have to take everything with a grain of salt in Spain. Going in to this I know that things will take longer over there; they just do. I know I will have to jump through many hurdles, but I really think mentally preparing yourself for all of that is half the battle.
Yes being mentally prepared makes a WORLD of difference! Are you familiar with Spain and Spanish culture? What do you think you’ll teach Spaniards about your culture?
I’m familiar with traditional, stereotypical Andalusian culture. I look forward to branching out while I am there, and learning more about regions that I have never seen. I hope to visit Galicia, Valencia, Extremadura, Logrono and many other places! I really look forward to teaching my students that there is more to the United States than New York City, California and Miami. I remember everyone constantly asking if I lived near one of these places! I want to show them some southern heritage and traditions, and let them get a little country 😉 ! When it comes to my daily interactions, I just hope that I can leave an impression that would make Americans proud. I don’t want to be seen as a “typical guiri”, rather I want to break this stereotype as much as possible and show Spaniards that we are a nation full of open-minded, friendly and intelligent people.
This opportunity seems so unreal. I can’t believe that it is about to take off. I admire everyone who is about to embark on this program, and I really hope to make some friends that will last a lifetime, because I think it takes a certain type of person to uproot their life like this for such an amazing opportunity. Viva Espana!
You’re totally right, Blair! It definitely takes a courageous person to make the leap and in my opinion it will definitely pay off. Get excited!!
What about the rest of you? Are you nervous about the language barrier? Have you mentally prepared? Let me know in the comments below!