In 2014-2015, I participated in Spain’s Cultural AmbassadorProgram, orAuxiliares de Conversación en España. So what exactly does that mean? This post is for anyone who has an adventurous side.
What is Spain’s Cultural Ambassador Program?
There are lots of communities in Spain where the people don’t have the means to travel abroad to learn English in an English-speaking country. So manyyears ago, the Spanish government started an initiative to better educate the Spanish students in bilingual studies. They started bilingual schools, where teachers teach various subjects in both Spanish and English. For example, the high school I worked in required all students to study science, music, and P.E. in both English and Spanish.
The schools hire bilingual Spanish teachers of course, but they also hire native English speakers to assist these teachers for a whole school year. Native English speakers can be from America, Canada, England, Ireland, or Australia. The only two requirements are that the applicantbe a college graduate and a native English speaker.
The application is on the Spanish government’s website. Thedocuments you will need to apply include college transcripts, a photo of your diploma, a letter of recommendation on letterhead from either an employer or teacher, an essay written by you (in Spanish or English) explaining why you want to do this, and a color copy of your passport. There are usually about 2000 spots open, and usually about 4000 people apply. It’s a pretty good bet that 50 percent of people who apply will back out, so no matter when you apply you do have a good chance at getting selected.
The program is first come, first serve, meaning no one has an advantage over anyone else. The earlier you apply, the more likely you are of getting your first choice of location. However, over 1000 people apply on the first day, and the application period opens at midnight Spanish time, which is 6:00 a.m. EST. the first time I applied, I opened the application at 8:00 a.m. but didn’t get all my documents together and submitted until about 3:00 p.m. By that point, I was number 1357 – on Day 1, only 9 hours after the website opened!
Getting Chosen to be a Language & Culture Assistant
First-year renewals get to choose their placement region first, and first-year applicants get second choice of placement region. There are a LOT of people interested in this program, but don’t let this deter you. Of the 1000+ people who apply on the first day, probably more than 50 percent will change their minds. Last year, I applied on the third to last day before the application period closed and I was number 3000or something really high, I don’t remember. I wasn’t sure if I had a shot or not, but I got the email in July placing me in Andalucia.
Andalucia wasn’t on my list of top 3 places I requested, but now that I’m here, I realize how lucky I am to be placed in Andalucia! Southern Spain, beaches, olive country, horses, Moorish history and castles, so many beautiful cities – the only thing I can’t get a grip on is the accent down here, but once I master this accent, I will be able to talk to any Spanish-speaking person anywhere!
Also, now that I’m here, I realize how wonderful all of Spain is. No one province is better than another, and each has something special to offer. I’d consider myself lucky to be placed anywhere! Moral of the story: don’t be put off by how late it is to apply or how high your number is, you could get the most wonderful experience anywhere!
Where do you want to be? You may think you know, but you have no idea. I thought I wanted to be in Palma de Mallorca the first year I applied, Barcelona my second year, and Madrid the third year. Now, I know the Balearic and Canary Islands are way too expensive, cities are way too international with a lost culture, and small rural cities have exactly what I never knew I wanted.
Choosing Your Region: Big City vs. Small Village
In a big city, you will most likely never learn Spanish. Everyone speaks English for the tourists, and there’s no pressure to learn Spanish. In fact, the locals want you to speak English so they can practice their English!
Everything is expensive and you will probably need at least one roommate. You will be able to travel more easily with more accessibility to trains and planes, but you won’t have as much money to travel after paying higher prices on rent, food, drinks, and entertainment. Renting a car is out of the question with lack of parking, so you will walk everywhere (or take buses). This might not be a problem, but I love the freedom of having a car and being able to drive to the Costa del Sol on a whim.
In a small town, you will be forced to speak Spanish. When it turns out to be harder than you imagine, you will get frustrated. However, there are free Spanish classes in the adult schools in Spain! Imagine learning Spanish from a real Spaniard. If you don’t walk away fluent after that, I don’t know what will teach you.I’m learning Spanish quicker and for free.
If you don’t have the funds to rent a car, you will be very restricted in a small villagesince buses come through infrequentlyand most small towns don’t have trains.The bus does come through 3 times a day, and one of those times is at night so I can catch it after teaching my classes, but buses in Spain don’t run on Saturdays. Or rental cars are only 38 euros for a month at the Malaga airport, which is the cost of taking a bus 4 times. Plus it gives us an excuse to visit Malaga monthly to switch our cars.
There are fewer social activities, so fewer opportunities to make Spanish friends. But even in my small town, there is a new gym with pilates and zumba classes, there are plenty of bars where lots of old men in the town go by themselves for a drink, and there is a dance school offering flamenco classes. Flamenco is a great hidden talent to have, especially in Andalucia!
You will be the outsider and everyone will know it and stare at you, wondering where you came from and why you’re in their small town. It’s harder to grab a bite or a drink at a local bar by yourself when everyone else in the town knows everyone and you don’t speak their language to strike up an informal conversation. There are fewer opportunities for private English lessons since not many people in small villages speak English, but that does provide plenty of opportunities for you to tutor English and make some extra cash. You can also make friends that way too.
What is Andalucia Like?
Andalucia has mild temperatures, no snow, and the Costa del Sol is famous with the British crowd for its beautiful warm beaches most of the year. The Spanish accent in Andalucia is difficult to understand, but they use proper grammar (even though they cut off most of the words or mash them together). Living is cheaper down here because it’s more rural. There are a lot of olive farms so the olive oil is some of the best you’ll find. They also grow grapes for the famous and delicious Spanish wine down here, although not as much as in northern Spain.
What’s the Rest ofSpain like?
NorthernSpain hascolder, rainy climates, but beautiful scenery and great beaches in nicer weather. It’s very green, reminiscent of Ireland. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a famous pilgrimage that takes place in northwestern Spain. In the Middle Ages, people walked this route to the tomb of the apostle St. James. Today, people still walk the route, camping along the way.Northeastern Spain is famous for their wine and food, and the Pyrenees Mountains make up the border with France.
Extremadura, or Western Spain, borders Portugal and has many ancient beautiful cities with historical significance. Mérida, the region’s capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Central Spain has castles, palaces, ruins, and all kinds of beautiful and historic things for more than just the history buff. You can find cities like Madrid and Toledo in central Spain.
Catalonia in Eastern Spain is ready to break off from Spain and form their own country, so there is a lot of friction there at the moment. Also, they speak Catalan more so than Spanish, which makes learning Spanish a bit difficult. Catalonia doesn’t take part in Spain’s cultural ambassador program anymore, but besides all the political turmoil, the people are wonderful and Barcelona is a beautiful and cultural city to visit!
There are many great areas of Spain. In fact, there’s not a bad area in Spain so choosing your top 3 regions should be easy. Not getting your top 3 regions isn’t a problem either: you will fit in and love wherever you end up!
Costs of Living in Spain
I live in a 2 bedroom, 2 full bathroom, 2 story house with a downstairs patio and an upstairs terrace overlooking the mountains.
Rent: 250 euros/month
Internet: 38 euros/month
Heat: No heating, we have a wood burner. One load of wood: 70 euros (need 3-4 loads/winter)
Water:270 euros for the entire 8 months
Gas: Gas tanks heat the water and stove. Gas tanks are 17.50 euros each. Use about 1 tank/month between 2 of us
Grocery food: Between 2 of us, about 200 euros/month, give or take
Dining out: Between 2 of us, about 60 euros/month, give or take. Tapas average 2 euros each, a glass of beer or wine is about 1 euro each. We can both have a filling dinner with drinks for 10-15 euros, but we mostly cook.
Car and gas: The cars average 38-70 euros/month to rent, and gas averages about 1.20 euros/liter. We only fill up once or twice a month, which costs about 45 euros.
What we make: 700 euros/month for 12 hours of work per week. Between two of us, we make 1400 euros/month and we both have Friday off.
My Weekly Schedule
My schedule is wonderful! I couldn’t ask for anything better. I live about a mile from my schoolwhich is a 20-minutewalk. But the hours are great so I don’t mind!
Monday: Classes from 10:30-2:45 (Music, Science, English, P.E.)
Tuesday: Classes from 10:30-1:45 (English, P.E., English)
Wednesday: Classes from 8:15-10:15 (Science, Music), then preparation periods from 10:15-12:30
Thursday: 1 rotating class on Thursdays, either 9:15-10:15, 10:30-11:30, or 1:45-2:45 (English)
Friday: No class!
Where else can you find a schedule like this, 12 hour/week and make 700 euros/month?
We spend most of what we make on traveling. Flights in Spain are very cheap to get from place to place if you plan right. You can get a round-trip ticket anywhere for about 40 euros if you do your research.
Ryanair, easyJet, Iberia (based in Madrid), and Vueling are the budget airlines. Their prices are low, but they nickel and dime you. There are extra fees to check luggage, pay with a credit card, choose your seats, have a drink on the plane, or print your boarding pass out at the airport. But if you can do it right, you can travel Europe for very cheap. I have now been to London, Germany, Belgium, Holland, many places within Spain, and have flights booked for Italy and Morocco. Still on my list is Portugal, France, Ireland, Zurich, Vienna, and Prague. If traveling tickles your fancy, this job is ideal!
Final Thoughts on the Cultural Ambassador Program
Overall, I know it’s a hard decision to uproot your steady life for a year and move to a foreign country where you’ve never been and don’t know anyone to accept a job you’ve never done before. If you’re between jobs or just need a change of jobs, if you’re easily able to break your lease or find someone to sublet, and if you can still afford your bills at home and have a bit of savings to bring with you, you won’t regret doing this job. It’s a truly wonderful experience, you will meet wonderful people, and your life will be much more enriched and worldly than those who decided against doing it. It’s the adventure of a lifetime!
What are you waiting for?!
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P.S. You might also enjoy How I Decided To Move To Spainor Will Traveling Make or Break a Relationship?
What is a cultural ambassador? ›
What is a cultural ambassador? In general terms, being a cultural ambassador means becoming a symbol for your country and culture. If you're traveling, for example, you basically become your country's international representative.What is the North American Language and cultural Ambassador Program? ›
The Cultural Ambassadors Program, officially known as the "North American Language and Culture Assistants Program" (NALCAP), is a government teach abroad program sponsored by Spain's Ministry of Education.What is a cultural ambassador teacher? ›
Operated by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, the Cultural Ambassadors program recruits and places native English & French speakers from the U.S. & Canada as assistant language teachers in elementary and secondary schools throughout Spain.What is Spain known for culturally? ›
Spain is famous around the world for Flamenco music and dance, bullfights, fantastic beaches, and lots of sunshine. But what people sometimes forget is that Spain has been one of the cultural centers of Europe for thousands of years. Spain has an extraordinary artistic heritage.What qualities do you have for a cultural ambassador? ›
- Respect cultural customs. ...
- Cleaning up after ourselves. ...
- Welcome open and mature discussion. ...
- Educate besides getting angry. ...
- Be kind. ...
- Be respectful. ...
- Have an open mind.
An ambassador is the ranking government representative stationed in a foreign capital or country. The host country typically allows the ambassador control of specific territory called an embassy, whose territory, staff, and vehicles are generally afforded diplomatic immunity in the host country.What is the goal of an ambassador program? ›
The ultimate goal of an ambassador program for brands is to increase conversions and customers, in turn boosting your revenue and building brand awareness. It's not just about building up your business, though. It's also about building genuine and thoughtful relationships with customers (and this never hurts!).How do ambassador programs work? ›
A brand ambassador program is a strategy where you recruit enthusiastic fans of your brand to be your long-term promotional partners. Usually, it involves mobilizing these ambassadors to accomplish a specific goal, such as increasing sales, driving conversions, or building brand awareness.Why are cultural ambassadors important? ›
Cultural ambassadors articulate and model the organization's values, and ensure the culture is steadily moving in the right direction.What are the responsibilities of a student ambassador? ›
Encourage positive academic behaviors and serve as a positive role model for assigned students. Identify student needs and provide assistance using appropriate resources and referrals.
What are the benefits of being a school ambassador? ›
Acting as a student ambassador offers students a chance to grow their leadership and communication skills, and inspire other students to take a more active role in representing the school. Eager prospective students might also be interested in joining the program.What skills do you need to be a school ambassador? ›
- Public Speaking.
- Communication and interpersonal skills.
- Presentation skills.
- Team work.
- Office experience.
Spanish culture was influenced by the Celtics, the Phoenicians of the eastern Mediterranean, the Carthaginians and the Germanic tribe known as the Visigoths. But, it was the Romans, and later the Muslims from North Africa, who played the greatest role in shaping Spain's cultural future.What are the three cultures of Spain? ›
Toledo is known as “The City of the Three Cultures,” as it was a rare city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived and co-existed together.How do you answer why would you be a good ambassador? ›
They should be able to effectively communicate with others, be a good listener and have good instincts. Sample Answer: I am the right fit for this position because I am passionate about spreading brand awareness. I am a great listener and can easily connect with people.How do they choose ambassadors? ›
Under the terms thereof the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints ambassadors, ministers, foreign service officers, and consuls, but in practice the vast proportion of the selections are made in conformance to recommendations of a Board of the Foreign Service.What will make me a great ambassador? ›
Five highly desired traits are: being reliable, possessing a positive attitude, being skilled at conversation, being able to enjoy talking to strangers, and being able to think on your feet.Do you get paid to be an ambassador? ›
Although some brand ambassadors may begin by doing unpaid work while they develop a following and their personal image, they do eventually get paid. When they promote companies and products free of charge, they demonstrate a sincere belief in the brand and gain the trust of the company and followers alike.Are you paid as an ambassador? ›
Hourly: If the brand ambassador is being paid hourly, the average is between about $10-16 an hour. Commission: In some cases, companies will pay ambassadors on commission rather than an hourly rate, so as to incentivize the distribution of promotional materials and the generation of leads by their brand ambassadors.How much money can you make as an ambassador? ›
How much does an Ambassador make in the United States? The average Ambassador salary in the United States is $184,605 as of February 27, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $156,209 and $222,670.
Why do people want to be ambassadors? ›
Being a brand ambassador offers people a wide range of job opportunities and encompasses a variety of skill sets. Because there are so many different types of events, from trade-shows to street team marketing to product sampling events, there is something for just about everyone! You can earn between $18 and $30+/hr.What do you offer the ambassador? ›
Give ambassadors some promotional items when they first join. A great way to immediately welcome someone to the team and it gives ambassadors something to promote. Water bottles, stickers, t-shirts, and a notebook all do the trick.Why should you be selected for the campus ambassador Program? ›
Chances of obtaining a secure training contract from firms. Chances to meet experts from your field of education. Chances to gain exclusive access to a firm and its resources. Networking benefits are provided to a student of a college/university when they are selected as a campus ambassador.How do I know if ambassador Program is legit? ›
- “DM to Collab” Comments. ...
- Messages Aren't From Their Main Account. ...
- They Offer Ambassadorship Right Away. ...
- The Brand Emails You From a Free Email Account. ...
- The Brand's Feed Quality is Very Poor. ...
- They Are Using an Ad to Look for Ambassadors. ...
- The Entire Conversation Lives in the DMs.
- Work on building a cohesive personal brand and social media platform.
- Reach out to brand that you already admire or share similar values with.
- Understand how you'll be compensated for being a brand ambassador, making sure to not sell yourself short.
It takes 2 years of professional experience to become an ambassador. That is the time it takes to learn specific ambassador skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. There are certain skills that you need to obtain in order to become a successful ambassador.Do you get paid to be a student ambassador? ›
Working as a Student Ambassador is a flexible way to earn money and gain valuable work experience. Alongside earning money there are other benefits to the working as a Student Ambassador.How are student ambassadors chosen? ›
Student ambassadors are handpicked by your school's leadership team to represent the school in a number of public settings. They're usually chosen because they actively demonstrate your school's values, and can talk positively about their own experience of attending your school.Is student ambassador a paid job? ›
Get involved as a Student Ambassador and support the work of staff across the university. You'll make new friends, gain skills and experience, and enjoy flexible, paid employment to fit around your studies.What is the role of an ambassador? ›
An ambassador is the President's highest-ranking representative to a specific nation or international organization abroad. An effective ambassador has to be a strong leader—a good manager, a resilient negotiator, and a respected representative of the United States.
What is the role of being ambassador? ›
The primary duties of ambassadors are to maintain diplomatic relations with the receiving state and promote foreign policy strategies through international organizations.What does being an ambassador mean? ›
: an official envoy. especially : a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.