Living Abroad: Why I Ditched the 9-to-5 Corporate Life to Teach English in Spain (Yes, You Can, Too!) by Morgan Mostrom
In May of 2018 I graduated top of my class at a university in Los Angeles. I had spent my last semester fervently applying for jobs, interviewing at different companies and planning out my next steps. But while all of my friends were lining up their nice 9-to-5 jobs to “jumpstart their careers,” there was a part of me that just couldn’t commit to the same path.
Two years earlier I had spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, and I had completely fallen in love with the culture, the people and the city itself. I had promised myself that one day I would move back, I just wasn’t ever sure how to go about that. As any expat abroad can tell you, it is usually incredibly difficult to secure a visa and legally work in a foreign country.
However, while I was abroad I learned about a program called “Auxiliares de Conversación” for native English speakers to work as Language and Culture Assistants in schools throughout Spain. It is a part-time teaching position that provides you a visa and pays you enough so that you can afford to live (1,000 euro monthly stipend for those in Madrid). And there isn’t a catch – you are not required to have previous teaching experience and you do not even need to speak Spanish. So when I got accepted into the program I leaped at this chance to go back to the city I loved so dearly.
At first I carried some shame around the decision to take this unconventional post-grad path. Growing up I had always been an overachiever and at many times I had been overly concerned about what others thought of me. And so, with graduation fast approaching, there were many points where I felt the need to prove myself by securing a great job at a great company. And yet, I chose to move abroad for a part-time position in education instead of accepting a corporate job in L.A. I decided to follow my intuition and do something that no one else around me was doing. And it was the best decision I have ever made.
Let me tell you just a few of the reasons why I’m so grateful I took advantage of this opportunity:
- Cultural and Language Immersion: In just one year teaching I gained invaluable cultural exposure and language experience. Anyone will tell you that if you really want to learn a language the best thing you can do is immerse yourself in a country that speaks it. I had been learning Spanish since I was 6 years old, but it wasn’t until I moved to Spain that I was able to become fluent. Further, immersing yourself in a new culture with new people provides you with new perspectives and constant learning experiences and is incredible for your personal development.
- Career Preparation: When I started my teaching position I was worried it wasn’t setting me up well for a future career (that wasn’t in education). However, I was completely wrong. In my teaching role I greatly improved my public speaking skills, I gained project management experience and, of course, I strengthened my organization, lesson preparation and communication abilities. Further, when I later interviewed for graduate schools and jobs, I had multiple interviewers tell me that my experience living abroad made me stand out from other applicants. And further, they saw it as an advantage that I not only spoke Spanish but also had experience working in culturally diverse teams.
- Spanish Lifestyle: Lastly, the Auxiliares program allows you to live the really amazing Spanish lifestyle with an incredible work-life balance! My position was only 16 hours a week (though it can vary by school and position) from Tuesday to Friday. I added in additional private lessons after school in order to have more spending money, however that still meant that I had always had a three-day weekend. With this time off, I day tripped outside of Madrid, visited museums, picnicked in the parks and traveled to other parts of Spain and Europe. Life in Spain is considerably more affordable than many major cities in the U.S. (and more relaxed!). And as an Auxiliar, you get to take advantage of a culture that prioritizes family, food and free time. What’s better than that?
Looking back at time teaching in Madrid I am extraordinarily grateful that I chose my own unique path after graduation. During those two years I experienced incredible personal and professional growth, I went on amazing adventures throughout Europe, and I made friends with people from across the globe. And I wouldn’t change those experiences for anything.
With all of this said, I firmly believe that there are many beautiful and fulfilling paths in life and that moving to Spain isn’t what’s right for everyone. I also recognize that it is an extraordinary privilege to be able to afford moving abroad and working as a Language Assistant. However, I am writing this article because I believe that there are so many people out there who could thrive in this experience but do not even realize that it is an option.
So here’s my pitch: For all of my fellow overachievers convincing themselves that they must start their 9-to-5 job immediately, for the people 10 to 15 years into their careers who just need a bit of a break, or for the retirees who want to live somewhere new without the responsibility of a new full-time career – you really should look into teaching in Spain!
And for anyone else who just needs a bit of encouragement to forget about what other people think and to take your own unconventional path, this is your sign! Do it. You won’t regret it.
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