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My Time as an Auxiliar de Conversación: A Memorable Journey

Rosemary with her students in class

By Rosmary Alarco

I have always craved adventure, yearning for experiences that push me beyond my comfort zone and immerse me in new cultures. When the opportunity to teach abroad in Spain was mentioned to me, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I envisioned myself strolling through street markets, indulging in tapas at local cafés, and participating in the festivities and traditions of the city I’d be placed in.

Burgos street by Rosmary (a ConversaSpain destination)
Burgos, Castilla y León

Spain promised me a journey rich in cultural discovery. And so it happened. Here are my thoughts and reflections on my time as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain.

Embracing the Unknown

As I packed my bags, I couldn’t help but wonder about the unknown circumstances that lay ahead. Would I be able to connect with my students? How would I adapt to Spain’s educational system? Will it be easy to make friends in a new country? I kept telling myself: “Every day will be a learning experience, both for you and your students.”

This gave me comfort as I embarked on this new lifestyle, ready to embrace the challenges and triumphs that came with living and teaching in a foreign land, knowing that this would be a significant chapter of my life.

Arrival in León (Spain)

I was placed in both the primary and secondary schools in the village of Valencia de Don Juan, which is located in the province of Leon (Castilla y Leon). Coming from Orlando, Florida, which has a population of over 300,000 people, to teach in a village ofless than 6,000 people felt strange to me. I ended up finding my perfect centrally located apartment in the city of Leon, right next to the beautiful Plaza Mayor. My daily commute involved a scenic bus ride through the Spanish countryside, and occasionally carpooling with other teachers, which provided fun conversations and knowledge about local customs.

Teaching Experience

Teaching in Valencia de Don Juan was both challenging and rewarding. My classroom dynamics varied significantly between primary and secondary students.

With the younger children, we engaged in creative activities like drawing and describing characters. One memorable activity involved the students drawing a castle for their favorite Disney character and presenting them in English, which led to lots of laughter and learning. For the older students, I immersed them deeply in American culture, fostering engaging discussions and interactive lessons about the American school system, music, and history.

You’re basically an alien to the children and teens; they aren’t familiar with you, which means it takes time for them to feel at ease with your presence. This initial barrier was challenging, but patience and consistent effort helped bridge the gap. Over time, I built strong connections with many of my students, and seeing their progress was an incredibly fulfilling part of my time as an Auxiliar de Conversación.

I feel lucky to not only have taught at two great schools with wonderful teachers, but also to have students who showed me patience and reminded me to enjoy the little things. All of them have bright futures ahead and I am happy to have been a part of their life, even if it was just for a short period of time.

My Time Exploring Spain and Beyond

These are some things I’ve been able to do in just five months of being a language assistant:

  • Day trips to various cities and villages within different regions: Castilla y León and Asturias, such as the charming town of Astorga with its Gaudi-designed Episcopal Palace.
  • A road trip to Bilbao, Pais Vasco with my other auxiliar friends – we stopped to see San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a stunning islet with a rugged staircase leading to a hermitage.
  • A weekend trip to Galicia (HIGHLY recommended!) where I fell in love with the culinary scene and how beautiful the landscapes are.
  • Getting lost in the fascination of the architecture in Barcelona, while living up the vibrant music scene in the evenings.

  • Traveling to a variety of countries such as Belgium, England, Portugal, Italy, and Hungary, each offering its own unique cultural experience.
  • Creating priceless relationships with people from all around the world, whether it’s through shared interests or travel stories.

The memories I’ve created with the people I’ve met in, what feels to be, a short time in Spain, as well as the time I’ve spent by myself hold a special place in my heart.

Whether it’s going out for wine and tapas (with the unbeatable price of €2) in Leon’s Barrio Humedo, going for a hike, learning more about the city through museums and walking tours, or finding the cutest little coffee shop to read in, you will always have something to do. Did I mention Leon has one of the most beautiful cathedrals to sit in front of and admire?

Advice for Future Auxiliares

  • Embrace the Culture: Participate in local events and traditions to fully immerse yourself in the community.
  • Build Relationships: Forming bonds with your students and colleagues will make your time abroad richer and more rewarding.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Whether it’s navigating the educational system or finding your way around town, people are generally very helpful.
  • Enjoy the Journey: Teaching abroad is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. Savor every moment! I often took time to reflect in a journal, which helped me cherish my memories.

Reflection on my Time as an Auxiliar de Conversación

Without a doubt, my time in Spain has profoundly impacted who I am. I’ve left a piece of myself in the city of León and the village of Valencia de Don Juan and without a doubt know I’ll be that friend who will never shut up about how important they’ve both become to me.

Rosmary in Oviedo
Rosmary in Oviedo (Spain)

I am grateful for this experience, not only for the professional development but also for the personal connections I made.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll be back very soon.

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