What it’s like to be an Auxiliar de Conversación in Asturias

What it’s like to be an Auxiliar de Conversación in Asturias

It’s difficult to choose the region and city in Spain where you’re going to teach English. There’s sunny southern Andalucía, which largely represents what you consider ‘Spanish.’ There’s the bustling capital city of Madrid, which has a huge international community. Or, there’s somewhere a little more off the beaten path. If you’re thinking about applying to be an Auxiliar de Conversación in Asturias, here’s what you should know:

Payment

Do you get paid on time? More or less.

The first payment came in pretty late – the second or third week in November. But since then, I’ve steadily received my direct deposit paycheck within the first week of the month. In Asturias, the schools aren’t responsible for paying you. The government is. However, I am under the impression that before you can get paid, the schools must submit a sheet every month stating that you’ve worked all of your required hours.

Cost of living

Can you live in Asturias on the €700 per month stipend? Yes.

It’s easy to live in Asturias on the monthly stipend, especially when you take on private lessons for extra spending money. With the additional €300 per month I make from lessons, I haven’t had trouble paying my bills and setting money aside for traveling.

Apartment: €200 – €$300 per month

My rent is €245 per month to share an amazing two-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend. In total, we pay €490 together for a small ‘penthouse’ apartment. Heads up: Ático means penthouse in Spanish, and it signals that you’re looking at the top-floor apartment. Our place doesn’t have a lot of square footage. The kitchen is tiny. But it’s enough for us, and it has a terrace that overlooks the downtown area. I love it!

If you’re looking for an apartment, I recommend looking on Idealista.

Cell phone: €10/month

I subscribe to a pay-as-you-go service from MásMóvil. Right now, I’m buying 500 gigs of data at a time for €2.90 because I rolled over from Republica Movil. But, you can sign up for a bigger plan with more data. Last year, I bought 1MB at a time and it was plenty to check Instagram, listen to Spotify on runs and walks to school, and send WhatsApp messages.

Here’s a list of their options for prepaid plans:

Masmovil tarifs

 

Internet: €20 per month/person

Our WiFi bill is €40 a month for ADSL through Vodafone. Last year, I paid the same amount for fibre, which is supposed to be faster. But this connection works just fine to access the internet, stream music and movies, etc. We did have to pay an installation fee for the setup (something like €15), and they came to hook it up a few days after we contacted them – so it was pretty fast.

Bills: €15/month in the summer, €35 a month in the winter

The amount I pay for rent covers ‘gastos’ for trash, sewer, and building maintenance. Some places don’t, so make sure to confirm with your landlord. The only things I have to pay for separately are electricity and gas. Unlike last year when my landlord had the accounts in his name and would bring me an itemized bill every couple of months, we had to set up our own accounts for this apartment. The process was more difficult than we anticipated because it involved getting the previous tenant’s name off the lease. But now it’s easy because we get one bill for gas and electricity altogether.

Groceries: €20-25/week

Food in Asturias is much cheaper than what you’ll find in the United States, but it’s slightly more expensive than what I was used to in La Rioja. A liter of milk is €1.25 compared to €1.00 in Logroño. A baguette is €0.60 instead of €0.40. I’d say that an average shopping trip to pick up fruit, vegetables, chorizo, cheese, bread and milk is around €10.

A night out: €20-€40

I know this is a wide range, and I’m leaving it like that because I don’t have enough experience to generalize. It’s hard for me to say because the nightlife where I live in Avilés isn’t that great. I tend to cook at home, and then go out for beers. A cerveza in Avilés will run you between €2-4, depending on how big it is and what kind you get. A glass of wine is around the same, and a bottle of sidra (six servings, mas o menos) is €2-2.50.

Pinchos aren’t as big in Asturias as they are in La Rioja and other parts of Northern Spain. You see more people sharing raciones (tapas) or going out to dinner at restaurants where you order individual meals. These places aren’t necessarily expensive. You might pay €20 to share a starter, have your own meal, and drink sidra throughout dinner.

A cup of coffee: €1.20 – €1.50

You can get a café con leche for €1.20 at most cafés in Asturias, although you might end up paying a little more to have it on a terrace or at a popular bar. Many cafés offer full breakfasts for €3-4 that include coffee, orange juice, and a sweet or savory baked good. A special treat you find in a lot of Avilés cafés are tortitas, or pancakes 🙂

Schools

I work in two concertados (semi-private schools) in Avilés. Both are Catholic schools with bilingual programs. Because they’re bilingual, half of the subjects are conducted in English. This means there’s more flexibility in which classes you’ll be assigned to. Last year, the schools weren’t bilingual and I was only in English courses. This year, I’m in religion and art classes in addition to English.

What are the teachers like?

The teachers in bilingual schools have very high levels of English, in my experience. I haven’t had a problem communicating with any of them. They’re generally nice, friendly, and helpful.

What are the students like?

I am in exclusively ESO (secondary school) classes at one school, and a mix of primary and secondary at the other. The experience varies. Widely.

Some ESO students in the bilingual programs seem genuinely excited to speak in English and meet someone new. They’re curious. They ask me questions. They seek clarification about how to spell words. One student talked to me every Monday morning about NFL games because he follows American football – go figure. However, there are other students in the same classes who refuse to use a word of English and have serious attitude problems. You could walk up to them as they’re working, and have every single one of them ignore you.

Primary school students are much more eager to participate. They will yell your name when you enter a classroom and attempt to answer questions that you haven’t even asked yet.

What is expected of you in the classroom?

The teachers in my schools don’t expect a whole lot of me. They really do treat me like an ‘assistant.’

At one school, I’ve only been asked to put together a couple of presentations for holidays. The rest of the time, they want me to show up in class, ask the students questions, and then mill around making conversation.

At the other school, the teachers like to tell the students that am the teacher for the day. I usually prepare some presentation, activity, or game to give the teacher a reprieve from doing everything at once (instruction, classroom management, assisting students). It’s easy as long as they tell you what to prepare in advance. A couple of times, I’ve shown up empty handed and we had to improvise on the spot.

Schedule

I love my school schedules this year. The directors were really accommodating from the get-go. They arranged it so I would only be in one school per day and assigned me classes that were back-to-back so I don’t have long gaps between lessons.

  • Mondays: School A (9-12 a.m.)
  • Tuesdays: School A (12:30-3:35 p.m. w/one hour for planning)
  • Wednesdays: School B (10:45 a.m.-13:50 p.m.)
  • Thursdays: School B (10 a.m.-12:55 p.m. w/ one hour for planning)
  • Fridays: OFF!

Speaking Spanish

Do you need to speak Spanish to live in Asturias? Yes … and maybe also a little Asturiano.

Most people in Asturias know at least some English. They learned it in school, or have studied it for a word credential. Nevertheless, it’s expected that you speak Spanish to people in Asturias. This is the case, at least, where I’m living in Avilés.

You never hear people speaking English when you’re out and about – unless it’s a student saying: “Hi, Lauren.” That doesn’t mean people are unfriendly about it. There are lots of adults learning and practicing English here, and I find that people are willing to drop a few words or sentences to help you out, and also show off their skills.

Another challenge is that there is a regional dialect, called Asturiano. It has a few different structures than textbook Castellano. They don’t use the present/past perfect tense. Everything is in the preterite. For example: “Que dijiste?” Instead of “Que has dicho?” Their diminutive is “in” instead of “ito.” So you’ll hear “bolsin” instead of “bolsita” or “cafetín” for a “café.” But it’s not really that hard to pick up on.

Private lessons

Is it easy to find private lessons in Asturias? Yes.

Within the first week of starting classes in October, I had as many private lessons as I wanted. I give 4 one-on-one classes during the afternoons and 4 classes at an academy during the evenings. A few teachers immediately asked me to give speaking classes to their children, and I found the rest through Tus Clases Particulares. I charge €12 an hour, but you can charge more or less depending on what’s being asked of you.

Playa del Silencio in Asturias

Travel

Is it easy to travel from Asturias? Not really.

The tradeoff of moving to Asturias was that it’s not convenient for travel. It’s a region filled with unspoiled nature and beautiful coastline, but you’re four hours by train to Madrid, eight to Barcelona. That eliminates a lot of possibility for cheap and easy flights.

There is an airport in Asturias that I’ve used a few times this year, but you pay a bit more for the flights. You’ll probably have a layover in another city as well. In my opinion, it’s worth it to spend a little more upfront for this convenience.

Weather

What’s the weather like in Asturias? Wet and mild.

The nice thing about the weather in Asturias is that it’s pretty mild. Being so close to the coast keeps things neutral. The temperature rarely goes below 10 degrees or over 25 degrees. So you don’t have to worry about extremes the way you do in Madrid or Sevilla. The not-so-nice thing about the weather is that it’s super damp and often rainy. So you will need a good umbrella and rain boots if you live here.

The Picos de Europa - one reason to be an Auxiliar de Conversación in Asturias

Activities

What is there to do in Asturias? Hike, surf, see live music, drink sidra, tour coastal fishing towns.

One of the best parts about Asturias is that it’s a well-connected region. Within the comunidad, there are three cities: Avilés, Oviedo, and Gijón. They are only a 30-minute ride from one another, so it’s easy to explore without a car. Plus, you’re right next door to Galicia, where you can visit Santiago de Compostela or head south toward Portugal. To the east, you have Cantabria and Santander. And to the south, you have Castille y León.

But the the real reason why you should move to Asturias is to be in Asturias. It’s a strange corner of Spain that was influenced by the Celtics. It has its own rich history, excellent food, drinking culture, and colorful places to see. You can go stand up paddleboarding in caves, surf year-round, hike the Picos de Europa, visit 1,000-year-old forests. I recommend going to bars and trying sidra along with a bowl of fabada and a big slab of cachopo.

Do you have any other questions about what it’s been like to live in Asturias? Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment to let me know.