For the next eight months, I will be teaching English while living in Andalucia, Southern Spain. I know everyone thinks Southern Spain is all palm trees and sangria and topless beaches, and in a way, it is. But this is not my reality, unfortunately. I’m living in the province of Jaen, which has one main purpose of existence; it’s OLIVE COUNTRY.
To put it simply, Spain is the world’s top producer of olive oil, and this hilly region that I call home is the epicenter of it all. There are mountains and hills and little towns spotted along the horizon, all bobbing amongst a sea of olive trees. Virtually all of the countryside in Jaen is owned and cultivated for olives and their oil. Aside from the olivos, the land is arid and dusty. You can see large mountains in the distance, and having never lived anywhere with mountains in sight, I’m fascinated by their towering existence.
I came to Spain to work as an English assistant, specifically anAuxiliar de Conversación. This program places native English speakers in public primary and high schools for a duration of 8-9 months. It’s offered by the Spanish Ministry of Education, and you receive a 700 euro per month stipend in exchange for working 12 hours per week (Those in Madrid receive 100 euros and work 16 hours per week). LINK. Unlike my previous experience in Thailand, this job is only as an assistant, I’m not expected to lead my own classes and make my own lesson plans. In Thailand, CIEE basically gave us everything on a platter (a job and a contract, housing, medical insurance, work permit, and a lengthy orientation), which made assimilating simple and stress-free. Here in Spain, things are very different. The Ministry provides you with the job and accompanying medical insurance, but everything is up to you. All they care is that you show up to your assigned school come October 1 and every subsequent day after.
I am working at two schools in the town of Jodar (pronounced Ho-dah) a small pueblo about 20 minutes from where I’m living. I work six hours in a primary school, and six in a high school. Most classes I assist the teacher with pronunciation and questions about language and culture. The classes in the high school are bilingual, which means the students are taught in mostly English and expected to speak it through the class, and all their texts and worksheets are in English as well.
For additional income, I’ve picked up evening classes at an English Academy one night a week. These classes I teach alone, and at first it was terrifying, but I’ve gotten used to how it works by now. I have a teacher’s manual and every student has their own book, so the lessons are basically pre-planned for me. I also have begun tutoring one evening per week for one hour. I teach five young kids at a time, in a family’s apartment close to where I live. It’s easy money and fun, we can play games and I can actually share my own culture with them being that it’s a small group.
Somehow, I made it through the first month (virtually) scratch free and settled into Spanish life here in Ubeda, Jaen. When I first arrived in Spain I was homeless and clueless, but a little over a month later, I have multiple jobs, a really nice apartment, WIFI, a Spanish cell phone, a bank account, and my residency all sorted out. I won’t lie and say any of that was easy (unlike what you may think, not many people speak English where I live), but we managed with the help and kindness of multiple Spanish speakers, and Google translate. The assimilation was more difficult than I’d hoped, but it’s all done now and I can appreciate that I’ve successfully moved to two foreign non-English speaking countries and survived! The wine is pretty amazing here in Spain, so that always helps.