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Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid: Is 59 the New 23?

Our Auxiliar de Conversación Glenn

By Glenn M., Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid 21/22

I think the stereotypical image of an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid is a new university graduate seeking some work experience to prepare for a competitive job market or someone who wants to have a bit of a fun gap year in Spain before really committing to a long career and other responsibilities. Stereotypes are just a shorthand to help us identify a person or group and are often quite misleading. I think you will start to see more Auxes like myself, who have had a fulfilling career and are taking our ‘gap’ year(s) later in life.

Early Retirement: Become an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid

So, what is my story? I am a 59-year-old engineer who is making the most of early retirement. I had a wonderful career in the engineering, construction, and energy industries. The job market was filled with turmoil – layoffs followed by great opportunities followed by downturns. Still, I managed through the ups and downs and was able to take advantage of another downturn in the energy industry by deciding to retire while I was still relatively young.

What you realize is that you still want to live with purpose, and I put my early retirement plan into motion. I had always seen teaching English as a Second Language as an entre to adventure in a variety of countries. One of the first things I did was complete a TEFL course. This lead to teaching positions in my hometown of Calgary, a one-year contract teaching in Japan, teaching online to students in China, and finally to where I am now – Spain!

Glenn visiting a new city in Spain

Why teaching?

So why teach; why not just travel? I love to travel but being a tourist does not provide the immersive experience I am looking for. I like to live just beyond my comfort zone – that’s where the excitement is. Living and working in a country provides an opportunity for a deeper engagement. You have greater exposure to the culture, history, and language. Let me share more on that topic.

Early in my career, I worked briefly in South America. One of my great regrets is that what little Spanish I had learned, I had nearly completely forgotten. So before coming to Spain I spent six months on Duolingo and did some online language exchange. Once I arrived in Madrid, I made use of the website to find a live language exchange group. This proved enjoyable but I have not done this very often.

I have joined other meetup groups that were not language-focused but rather focused on doing things as a group. These groups are not intended as language exchanges; they are focused on social activities. I always touch base with the group coordinator to explain my situation (lower intermediate Spanish speaker) before signing up. I have met some wonderful people this way and this has accelerated my learning.

My day-to-day as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid

Living in Madrid has been incredible. I spend hours randomly walking the streets. Some of the locals I have come to know have given me great tips on places to visit in Spain and I have enjoyed seeing sites with locals, that I would not have discovered on my own.

So why did I go through ConversaSpain? At my age, I couldn’t leave anything to chance. With COVID, the NALCAP has seen a huge influx of applicants and not all of those people received a posting. It was nice to get the application and interview results back quickly and know that I was guaranteed a spot. The age limit for the program is sixty and I wouldn’t get a second shot.

You do not have to have a TEFL to do this program and you don’t need teaching experience. I would encourage people to take advantage of the optional TEFL program offered through ConversaSpain, however. I sincerely hope that this post encourages other people my age to consider the Auxiliar de Conversación program (don’t hide this post from your parents).

One Response

  1. That’s awesome! Good for you 🙂 I am a 55 year old teacher (French immersion elementary) in British Columbia. I am seriously thinking of doing this and would love to hear of your personal experience. What I can expect, cost of living, housing, health insurance etc. I am fairly fluent in Spanish as I have spent 2+ years in Central & South America. I would be looking at going Sept/Oct 2023 but would love to hear from you asap! Or, if you’re not too busy around Christmas, more of a chance you will be on holidays…;)

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