There are many different teaching English options available here in Spain and I actually get a lot of questions about the CIEE Teach-in-Spain program as it is the one I used for my first year teaching in Spain. You may have noticed, however, that on my ‘about me’ page I simply refer to being an auxiliar. Both are true as CIEE works more an an intermediary for the Ministry’s Auxiliares de conversacion y cultura program than a separate entity. Thus, you may be wondering why I chose to come through CIEE when the same experience was offered for free through the Ministry. Let’s talk about the details, the pros and cons, and why CIEE may (or may not) be the right fit for you, too!
A Little Background
CIEE, which is short for the Council on International Educational Exchange, is a US-based non-profit organization that provides study, teach, work, and volunteer opportunities in a plethora of countries around the world. They have a long list of international programs they run for high school and university students as well as for professionals looking for work or internship opportunities. Their Teach English in Spain options vary as well so if you’re unfamiliar with them, you can compare the programs on their webpage which is linked here.
–Earlier deadline = earlier decision: You will find out about your placement months before you will hear back from Auxiliares, which provides peace of mind and means that (assuming you are applying as a university senior) you will graduate already knowing what you’ll be doing the next year.
Note: Be sure to check out CIEE’s different programs here!
–Better odds at your desired placement: CIEE gets priority to a number of placements in Madrid and Andalucía* so if you are interested in a specific area in either of these regions (i.e. you want to return to where you studied abroad, where you have a partner, etc.) your odds at getting placed there are much higher. Likewise, your preferences toward school level and rural vs. urban settings are also more likely to be taken into consideration.
–More support: The orientation (even the two-day one) is much more in-depth and useful than the general Auxiliares one and also includes airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to your teaching destination afterwards. You’ll also have representatives in the U.S. (native English speakers) to help you along through the process of obtaining your visa, preparing to move abroad, and for any sort of emergency questions/support you need while abroad. Another perk that this option boasts is its included international insurance (through iNext), although I cannot vouch for the usefulness of this as I personally never sought medical care with it and all auxiliares have access to Spain’s free healthcare.
–Hefty fee: Let’s be honest, there’s not a single person reading this post who’s not wondering “but is it really worth $_,000!?” It might be hard to convince yourself of such when you take into consideration that you will literally be working the exact same program that thousands of people get into for free. Even if the above pros are quite important to you, be sure to take into account that this is a large upfront investment (approximately three-month’s worth of compensation!) and you should also be prepared to financially support yourself for the first one-to-three months in case of late payments. This option definitely requires some economic flexibility.
Note: On the bright side, I was personally able to teach enough private lessons that I ended up coming home with more than the program cost in savings but the likelihood of earning it all back is dependent on which program you choose, how much you plan to teach vs. travel, and other (often unpredictable) factors. It’s possible, but I don’t want to make you unrealistic promises!
–Limited regional placements: Now, CIEE specifically works with the Madrid** and Andalucía regions which is a perk for those people looking to be placed in these highly sought-after areas. However, there are SO many great regions of Spain that are not available through this option, but are certainly worthy of your consideration. If your heart is not already set on Madrid or Andalucía, you might be better off with the wide-open options of the Auxiliaresprogram.
My Personal Thought Process
I had studied abroad with CIEE (and had a great experience) so I felt confident that the application and enrollment fees would be worthwhile, especially since I would be going for the least expensive option (The Basics). I don’t regret going this route because it’s actually quite difficult to get placed in Granada (typically unheard of as a first-year in the Auxiliares program) and after only spending two days in Granada during my study abroad experience, I knew it was my top choice. Through CIEE, I was able to get a placement in a pueblo near enough to Granada to commute and it has changed the entire course of my life (current home, friendships, relationship, etc.). For me, it was absolutely worth it and, as I mentioned, I was even able to work enough hours of private lessons to return with double the amount I had paid in enrollment fees at the start of the year so I was (eventually) able to look at it as a money that was only invested, not really lost.
However, I must admit that the prices have gone up quite a lot since I did this program back in the school year of 2013-2014 when the Teach in Spain Basics program cost $1,000. Even back then, the price tag was a huge consideration for me but it was much easier for me to reconcile (and imagine making back) than some of the current fees would be. My heart was set on Granada and so it made sense to make the investment. However, if you don’t have a serious desire to be in Andalucía and don’t need to know right away where you will be placed, I honestly don’t know that it would be the best option for you.
CIEE offers more peace of mind for young travelers (and their families!) as everything is available in English, you’re dealing primarily with other Americans if you call for support, there is literally someone waiting for you when you arrive in Spain, and a number of other “hand-holding” perks. However, if you’ve had some experience traveling and/or living abroad (especially in a Spanish-speaking country) or are just generally independent, you don’t necessarily need any of this and might want to practically consider saving the fees for your life abroad.
If you’re curious to see some of the pros and cons we’ve compiled about the Auxiliares program as well, you can find more information about that in this blog post, as well as some more general information about options for returning to Spain here.
Of course, every individual’s situation is going to be different and there are so many details to consider when making this big decision. If you feel that you’d like to talk it through one-on-one, we would be more than happy to schedule a coaching session with you, now or later on in your process! There are certainly some things I know now that I wish I had known when I was in your shoes and would love to really delve into it with you. You can read the details about our coaching services here.
*This region has been added and removed a few times over the years so be sure to check availability before you apply!
**Please note that “Madrid” refers to the autonomous region of Madrid, not only the city.