After endless amounts of research, reading countless blogs, and making several pro/con lists, I made my decision a few weeks ago to accept my position with the BEDA program in Madrid in order to be an English language assistant! This means that for 18 hours a week and 900 Euros a month (with BEDA, though, you’re allowed to work up to 24 hours for more money), I will be working in one of Spain’s Catholic schools assisting the teachers with teaching English. I will be helping to make lesson plans and I will offer my “words of wisdom” of the English language and culture. Spain is trying to move toward bilingualism in English, so they offer a few different programs that allow native English-speakers to be language assistants for a school year in Spain. It’s a fantastic idea considering there are so many Americans that are looking for a way to live in Spain (myself being one of them). This program gives you the necessities needed for a visa, so I will be flying over with a long-term student visa that will allow me to legally work there. BEDA only requires that you be a college graduate and a native English speaker, but they also focus on any experience with living in Spain, teaching, or knowledge of Spanish. BEDA is based primarily in Madrid, but is slowly expanding to other regions of Spain. It is a very small program with only about 365 assistants all throughout Spain. The application is very simple and you have a 10-minute Skype interview which mostly entails just information about the program. Once accepted, they give you your school placement. Then they give you 14 days to formally accept and to make a 175 Euro deposit for the program fee.
I chose to go through BEDA because it has so many benefits. It is known to pay its assistants on time, which the more popular Ministry program is notoriously known not to do. It also offers health insurance, as well as assistance in getting your residency card AND bank account! Apparently at the orientation they give you your bank account & debit card and give you the paperwork for your NIE. Also, BEDA requires you to attend a class every now and then at the University of Comillas in Madrid which covers techniques for teaching English. At the end of the year you’re given a certificate for your completion of the course, which looks great on a resume. This sounds great, especially since I don’t know the first thing about teaching English. Also, because this program is so small and we’re required to attend these classes about once a month, it seems like it’ll be easy to meet other assistants. The most appealing aspect of BEDA for me is the amount of support that they provide. The women in charge answer emails very promptly and it sounds like whenever you have a problem, they’re there to help. It puts the whole idea of living in a foreign country at ease in my mind.
Although I chose BEDA, I looked into almost every other program available to teach English in Spain:
The North American Language & Culture Assistants Program is definitely the most popular and most well-known Language Assistant program in Spain. But instead of being run by the Catholic schools like BEDA, this program is run by the Spanish Government. They place almost 2,000 Americans (MUCH bigger than BEDA) all around Spain to work part-time in their public schools for the entire school year. For 12 hours a week, you’re given a grant of 700 Euros/month, except for Madrid, where you work 16 hours a week and get paid 1,000 Euros/month. Since it’s only part-time, most auxiliares use their free time to teach private lessons for some extra cash, which is what I plan to do too. Like BEDA, this program gives you health insurance and the materials needed for a student visa. In order to qualify for this program, all you have to do is be a college graduate and a native English speaker. They prefer a somewhat knowledge of Spanish but you can honestly get away with not having any, since it doesn’t seem like anyone is truly monitoring it. It also seems to be much less serious than BEDA. BEDA seems to be focused on the teaching aspect more and seems great for anyone who wants a future of teaching.
One annoying part about this program is that you don’t get to choose where in Spain you end up. While filling out the application, you’re able to rank three different autonomous communities (or regions of Spain) that you want. But it’s totally up in the air where in the region you can be placed (middle of nowhere or a city center), or if you even get one of your preferences at all (even though it seems like most people are lucky enough to get their first or second choices). I hear you’re normally no more than an hour outside of the closest city, meaning that you can live in a city if you don’t mind commuting. Another annoying thing to keep in mind is that this program is known to not pay the assistants on time in certain regions. It seems to be mostly a problem in the south (some assistants didn’t get paid until January!) So it’s definitely wise to fly over with a good amount of savings in the bank to get through the first few months.
Receiving a placement in this program only has to do with when you submit your application, whereas BEDA actually goes through everyone’s applications and picks those who are most suitable. The first person who submits their application when the application period opens up receives inscrita #1, and so on and so on. I made sure to submit it the day it opened so I was given inscrita #326. Out of almost 2000 placements, I was almost guaranteed a spot. One key thing to know about this program is that it’s one big waiting game and that patience is extremely important. For some reason, it takes them months and months to organize everything. I received my regional placement (I got Madrid!) on May 7th, but I declined since I heard from BEDA on April 15th.
If your inscrita is anywhere above 3000 and you are worried about getting a placement with the Ministry, I suggest applying through CIEE. It’s an organization that “rents out” placements from the Ministry in Madrid and Andalucía. With CIEE, you work the same number of hours a week for the same amount of pay as the Ministry program. But unlike the Ministry which is completely free, CIEE charges a $50 application fee and a $1,000 program fee. They offer an optional pre-departure TEFL certification which bumps up the charge to $2,150. This program also includes 2 nights of accommodation and free meals during orientation, as well as 24-hour support which is great if you’ve never been to Spain before or are nervous about being off on your own in a foreign country. CIEE seems like a good choice if a) you have the money; b) you have never been to Spain before; or c) you are worried about receiving a placement with the Ministry due to a high inscrita number.
I honestly don’t know anything about the UCETAM program except that it is another language assistant program that is based in Madrid, so it’s another option to consider.
When I first decided that I would seriously look into teaching English in Spain, I assumed I would have to get my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. This means spending hundreds of dollars on an online course, or thousands of dollars for an on-site course, and in return, being able to teach English anywhere in the world. There are countless organizations that offer these courses, but BridgeTEFL really stuck out to me. They seem to be an organized program and they offer the CELTA, which is the most highly accredited form of TEFL you can get. They also offer assistance in finding a job. My plan was to take their month-long on-site course in Seville in August so that I will finish just in time to find a job right before the start of the school year.
The plan seemed perfect, until I started to do more research about finding an English-teaching job in Spain. I discovered how difficult it is for an American to work legally there. Apparently it is very rare to find a school that will represent you for getting a work visa. And you need a work visa to, you know, work (at least legally). They prefer hiring English teachers from the EU who can legally work in Spain without a visa. In order to get around this, many Americans fly over with a visa that expires during their stay and work under the table, illegally, and for a lesser pay. Keep in mind, it’s pretty much only Spain that has this policy. Getting a TEFL is incredibly useful for working almost anywhere else in the world, especially Asia and Latin America. Part of me would love to go to Argentina to teach English, in which case I would need to get my TEFL (and it would be legal there, of course). But these TEFL courses are still a great idea if you want something to add to your resume and they allow you to charge more for private English lessons in Spain.
I personally didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of illegally working in a foreign country so I kept searching. I stumbled upon the job of a Language Assistant and came across all the different programs available for doing so. It seems like the ideal way to move back to Spain, especially since they give you a visa! BEDA seemed like a perfect fit for me with all the support that they offer and I cannot wait to start in September!