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!
And now for our first British auxiliar, Caroline!
My name is Caroline McGrath, I am twenty years old and come from Manchester in the UK. I study French and Spanish at Durham University in the north-east of England, close to Newcastle. During my third year of study I have to do a year abroad in France and Spain to gain exposure to the languages. I am currently working at a hotel in Lyon before becoming an auxiliar. I have been assigned to a primary and a secondary school in a small town in Asturias, near the Galician border. I am thoroughly enjoying every moment of being abroad so far and am blogging about my experiences at carolineaucourant.com.
Oh you’re just like my roommate from my first year! She was also here as part of her French/Spanish sudies. So why did you decide to do the Auxiliares de Conversación program?
Well I had three options for my year abroad placements. I could either choose to do a study placement at a university, to find an internship, or to become an auxiliar through the British Council. Having decided to do an internship in France, I felt that becoming an auxiliar would be a really good opportunity to discover the ‘real’ Spain and gain maximum exposure to the language. I am really looking forward to living in a small pueblo that I would never have otherwise chosen were it not for the job.
Yes, pueblo life will definitely give you maximum language exposure. Do you have any teaching experience or experience working with kids?
No! I have very little teaching experience and am the youngest in my family so have had minimal exposure to small children in general. I am slightly apprehensive about this. However, I am really passionate about learning languages and hope that my experience learning French and Spanish will help me to relate to the difficulties my students will experience over the course of the year.
You’re totally right; your experience as a language learner will be super useful as you learn to teach a language. So, there are lots of rumors that float around about the pros and cons of the program. What have you heard? Does it worry you?
I have read a few things about auxiliares being paid late, which is obviously a concern and something I find quite surprising; it just wouldn’t be acceptable if a government programme in the UK or the US paid its employees late. Likewise, I am slightly apprehensive about all the paperwork to fill in on arrival and I know that I will get stressed with things not being completed straight away as I am a sucker for efficiency. Nevertheless, I am hoping the laidback attitude that Spain is famous for will rub off on me a little and I know that I am very lucky that as an EU citizen, I don’t have the same visa worries as my north American counterparts.
Well if you have an experience similar to my Scottish roommate you shouldn’t have any problems with NIE paperwork. What are you most excited about in regards to the program and about living in Spain?
I have studied Spanish since secondary school so I am excited to experience the culture first-hand and gain fluency in the language, with all the hours spent pouring over grammar books in the classroom finally paying off and being put into practice. In terms of the programme, I am really looking forward to experiencing daily life in a school and getting to know the teachers. I think nine months is a good amount of time to establish yourself within a community and make lifelong friends.
Yeah, establishing yourself in the community is definitely rewarding! What are you most nervous about? What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Embarking upon a year abroad is a nerve-wracking experience in general, and because I have now been away in France for nearly two months, I have started to face certain challenges. Starting a new job is tricky enough without a language barrier, and leaving your home behind is scary. Similarly, life is life wherever you are in the world. It’s not a year-long holiday when you actually have to go to work and buy boring stuff like toothpaste! This year, many of my closest friends at home will be turning 21 and I won’t be there to celebrate with them. That makes me really sad. I am also based in a small town, which I find exciting and frightening in equal measure!
I totally feel you on all of that… it’s not a fun vacation all year long and it definitely is hard to miss celebrations with friends and family. So, what are you expecting to learn while in Spain?
Lots of Spanish I hope! For me, it’s all about the language but I hope there will be some self-discovery thrown in there too.
Plenty of self-discovery coming your way, I promise! Are you familiar with Spain and Spanish culture? What do you think you’ll teach Spaniards about your culture?
Yes. A big part of my degree study has focussed on Hispanic culture, so I think I am fairly culturally aware in that sense. I am really excited to learn about Asturian culture in particular, and though the current economic situation in Spain is very sad, it is undeniably a fascinating moment in the country’s history. It will be interesting to see how ordinary Spaniards are dealing with the crisis. In terms of what I will teach my students about my culture, I am fiercely proud of my hometown of Manchester. I’m aiming to have half my pueblo devoted to The Smiths by the time I leave.
Thanks for your extremely well thought out answers, Caroline! I really enjoyed them. And to the rest of you, don’t forget to follow along with Caroline’s blog! Check back soon for more Auxiliar Spotlight interviews!