What are my options for returning to Spain?
We realize that, up until now, we have mostly focused on the study abroad community and that, while most of the information here is applicable to everyone, there are plenty of specific questions you may have as someone who is looking to move to Spain with different motivations. Before we get into all the details, let’s take today's article to talk briefly about what some of the options are for coming to live in Spain—whether you are returning after studying abroad or coming for the first time.
The number of options available to you for coming to Spain depends greatly on what you’re looking to do. If you don’t mind teaching English, there are quite a lot of options that are relatively easy. The one that I have experience with, and also the one that has the least intense requirements, is an assistantship called Auxiliares de Conversación y Cultura in Spanish or North American Language and Culture Assistants* in English. This program has no fee attached to it (for applying or participating) and is treated like a scholarship so you would get a student visa and a 'stipend' every month. It comes down to 700€ /month for working just 12hr/wk as an assistant in a public elementary or high school. In Madrid, where the cost of living is higher, the stipend is 1,000€ /month and the requirement is for 18hr/wk. This is really good pay for Spain and, unless you’re looking to travel every weekend, you can easily live on this income. Keep in mind, however, that this program is to work as an English assistant, not the main teacher.
If you’re looking to have more hours (and, as far as I understand it, more control in the classroom), there are tons of other programs, with varying characteristics. BEDA is an assistanship of 18-24hr/wk in Catholic schools alongside studying (so you come away with a degree as well). MEDDEAS has an assistanship of 20-24hr/wk in private schools, with the option of a homestay, while The British Council has one of 12-20hr/wk as well. There’s UCETAM in Madrid, CAPS in Barcelona, the list goes on and on! Since I don’t know about these as in-depth as I know about auxiliares, I would recommend using your resources and joining Facebook groups like this one to get more information. They produce a lot of content that explains the basics of teaching options in Spain and also connect you with people who have experience with each of these programs so you can get your questions answered honestly.
Aside from teaching, other options aren’t as simple but they do exist. If you’re interested in continuing your studies, you could always apply for another undergraduate degree or a masters program. Of course, you would need to go through a few more steps that what would be required back home (ie. getting your home country’s degree recognized in Spain), but it is a great option if you’re looking to continue in academia but want to move to Spain. There are other less traditional ways of doing this too, such as the Erasmus Mundus program. It’s a really cool option that not many people outside of the EU know about—and because of this, you may have better possibilities of receiving their scholarships (some are full-rides, with a monthly stipend) because they are considered on a country-to-country basis. There are only certain degrees offered in Spain, so it may or may not be interesting to you. Additionally, part of the experience would involve doing at least one semester in another European country. Still, this could be a fun way to spend most of your Master’s degree in Spain.
If you’re serious about working outside of the teaching realm, you may have a more difficult time. You must keep in mind that Spain protects its employment so that jobs are offered first to Spanish citizens and/or citizens of the European Union. If you are coming from the United States or elsewhere outside the EU, a company will have to go through a lot of paperwork to even get the okay to OFFER you the job. After that, YOU have to go through the process of applying for a work visa and it doesn’t always go smoothly. For this reason, there are very few companies that would be willing to go through the bureaucracy (and the impending wait time) to hire you unless you are highly skilled or especially valuable to them for some other reason. I’m not trying to say that you’re not valuable (trust me, I know you’re amazing!) but the reality is that most recent-graduates will not fall into this category so you may not want to put getting a work visa to move to Spain at the top of your list.
On the other hand, if you have experience and are wanting to work for yourself you can apply for the self-employment visa, which would allow you to start your own company or work as a freelancer. This is also a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare, but at least it takes out the willingness factor on another entity’s behalf—this would be all on you. It’s much more complicated than a student visa because it would require you to have a business plan and get contracts BEFORE you apply for the visa (so many things in Spain are Catch-22s like that). However, if you already know people who would be interested in your work in Spain, if you have the flexibility to stay in Spain during a 90 day tourism period in order to lay the groundwork before you apply, or if you are really motivated and get into the right groups online to contact people and ‘sell yourself’ you might be able to swing it. If you're interested in some of these more long-term options, I would recommend checking out the details you can find on websites like SpainGuru.
Of course, there are some other options we haven’t discussed, but these are the main three I would recommend you consider. As I've explained, teaching English is your most straightforward option and, especially if you’re leaning towards work rather than studying, I would personally recommend this before any others. Once you’ve spent some substantial time in Spain, it will become more clear to you if pursuing a more long-term option is the right next step. I know that many people just want a year to revel in the Spanish experience and teaching can be the simplest way to make that dream a reality.
So what do you think, are you going to return?
*There are definitely teachers in this program who come from a variety of English-speaking countries so don’t worry that it’s not applicable to you if you’re not from North America! I’ve simply only seen the English literature about it under that name.