As I mentioned previously in the introductory article on teaching with auxiliares, what you get out of your experience truly will be a reflection of what you put into it. However, that doesn’t apply only to the part of your teaching abroad experience that happens inside the classroom. I can pretty much guarantee you that your time working as a language assistant here in Spain will be very different to any other part of your life thus far which makes it the perfect time to really take advantage of everything at your fingertips. Let’s talk about some of the opportunities you’ll have to thrive as an auxiliar!
As a teacher
Obviously, I hope that working as a teacher is at least on your list of important parts of this experience. Even if you know nothing about education, this is the perfect opportunity for you to share your knowledge as an expert on your native culture. When else in life have you ever been given money to speak your own language and share stories about what life is like in your country? Most likely never.
Don’t just take that for granted—put some effort into teaching your classes. Prepare Powerpoints about basic American traditions like barbecues and fireworks on Fourth of July, tailgating before football and baseball games, and going to colleges where most students live on campus. Don’t feel like that fits the curriculum? You may be right, but I promise you that, if you’re willing to put in the time to prepare additional presentations and activities for your students, at least one of your teachers is going to be thrilled. Perhaps they’ll give you a weekly or monthly special culture day. I’m sure everyone would love that opportunity to put aside their textbooks and hear about the everyday traditions in the USA, UK, Australia, or where ever you call home!
A little bit stuck as to what topics would actually be interesting to cover? This could be a great opportunity to connect more with your colleagues and ask them what they’re curious about when it comes to your country and culture. Additionally, it could be a great conversation starter for an intercambio as well! Once you’ve got some good ideas, the next challenge will be figuring out how to present them in a level-appropriate manner (a bit more difficult when you’ll be talking to 8 year-olds than 18 year-old, for example). What a great practice in understanding language-learning from the other side!
As a human being
When I first came to Spain to work as an auxiliar, I had never had (and have never since had) so much free time in my life! This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to you when you consider that the typical auxiliar contract consists of 12 hours a week. Just 12 hours!!! I had easily worked that number of hours while studying my bachelor’s degree (at which time I was also an active member of a multitude of organizations and teams, all of which had their own weekly obligations). As you can imagine, I was beside myself and kinda didn’t know what to do with all the freedom.
My number one piece of advice for you is to maximize this opportunity to no end. Invest in yourself, in your physical and emotional health and in personal wellness and growth overall. What exactly does that mean? Well, it’s different for everyone… Want to take up a new hobby? There’s literally no better time to learn how to take incredible photos or become a master Mediterranean cook! Looking for more mindfulness and calm in your life? Why not get into a yoga or meditation practice! Really delve into your Spanish immersion by taking some lessons or joining a sports team with Spaniards. Go out and enjoy the nightlife more than you usually would or if that’s not your jam take advantage of afternoons and weekends to go on hiking trips or get lost in your own city.
Invest in yourself in a way that you haven’t necessarily tried before. If you’re a naturally social person, be sure to carve out some time to be alone and reflect. If you’re naturally more introverted, challenge yourself by going to intercambios or meet-ups…alone! I’ve heard it said that the best time to form new habits is when you’re already experiencing change in your life as your brain can associate the two and help the transition to be more smooth. Take advantage of your move to a new country to implement the habits you may not have yet, but want to put into place for the future.
There are so many more specific things you can do to thrive during your time as an auxiliar but I think with these general guidelines you’ll be well on your way to finding what thriving might mean for you. Going forth, we hope to share more personal stories* about how others have made the most of their experience as a language assistant here in Spain so that you can know more about their journeys and get even more ideas for yourself.
Keep in touch and let us know how you’re thriving (or perhaps struggling to thrive, but working on it) while you teach abroad in Spain!
*For example, you can read more about Lexa’s personal experience as an auxiliar here!