My Journey Back to Spain…again

My desire to live abroad was coupled only by my worries for how to make it happen. Thankfully, my study abroad office at the University of Iowa gave me the information on a relatively new program to teach English in Spanish public schools. I threw out my plan to follow my friends Matt and Brian to Ireland and began brushing up on my Spanish.

Five years later, part of my morning coffee goes to helping my readers find a way to make their dreams of sunshine and siestas a reality. One such reader, Mike, and I have been in contact for quite some time, and he’s finally decided to quit his job and apply for the Auxiliar de Conversación program that brought me here initially. Here’s his story:

Before I get started on my story, I’d like to thank Cat for being so gracious and allowing me to write a guest post as I’ve been an avid reader for a while now. Hopefully, everyone will enjoy my post as a guest author and find it helpful in whatever capacity they are looking for. I am currently applying for the auxiliar de conversación program in Spain.

However, my story begins long before me just recently pulling together my application materials.

My Story

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my mom had always told me that she was forcing me to study abroad when I was in college. She had studied in Copenhagen, Denmark  and told me it was an experience that everyone needs to have. During my junior year in high school I was afforded the opportunity to go on a week-long trip through Spain with my Spanish class. It was then that I fell in love with the language, people, cuisine, and culture. I knew I would be returning to Spain at some point in my life.

A recent shot of Mike in America

When I was in college at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I took a Spanish class during my first semester. It was extremely difficult for me, and I ended up dropping the class. I thought I was done with Spanish and did not enroll in the class again. After a couple different major changes, I found myself with a foreign language requirement that had not been met. Thinking it would be an easy class since I could remember some basic Spanish from high school, I enrolled in an Introduction to Spanish course. After the first class, my professor noticed that I was ahead of the others who had never taken Spanish before and recommended to me that I move up a few levels. I was cautious, but ultimately agreed. The higher level course was naturally more of a struggle, but it was far more rewarding as I rekindled my love of the Spanish language. Following the course, I applied, was accepted, and studied abroad in Granada, Spain for a semester in the spring of 2010.

Studying in Granada, Spain


My study abroad experience was undoubtedly the best experience of my life,  and ever since I returned to the US, I have been yearning to return to Spain. After graduation, like many people out there, I applied for a bunch of jobs and eventually was offered and accepted one. It was a desk job, doing something that I thought I may be interested in; however, it was not for me.

Mike and his host family in Granada

Since accepting the job, I have dabbled with the thought of applying to teach in Spain, but have not been fully committed to it, until now. There have been plenty of reasons that kept me from applying, primarily that my job is steady, secure and well-paidl. Essentially, it is a job that many would probably die to have, but that’s not me. It’s a job that most would imagine themselves having when they are 40 years old or mid-career professional, and I do realize that I was lucky to land in it. This has held me back from applying to teach in Spain for over a year, but I had enough. While many may die to have my job, I would die to teach in Spain.

Over the past year, I have consulted with Cat as well as anyone I could find who taught in Spain or even another country about what one needs to know before teaching abroad. It has been a huge help to me in making my decision to take the leap, so thank you for everyone for your advice. The number one piece of advice that nearly every single person echoed was that if you don’t do it, you will always regret not doing it. I truly believe this is the case because I can picture myself always regretting it and wondering “what if” had I not ever tried.

Applying for the Auxiliar Program

Once a current auxiliar directed me to the website for applying and I found it, all I could find was information for the school year 2012 – 2013 program, whereas I would be applying for the 2013-2014 program. I started to panic because I figured I was doing something wrong and simply could not find it. I thought I was missing something obvious and was going to be late in applying. I checked the website just about hourly to see if it changed or if I missed anything. Then, one day, November 5 th to be exact, there was finally an update. It said they were working on the call for applications for 2013-2014, and that the application period would open up on January 8th, 2013. It also noted the manual for the application would be posted soon. I felt an enormous sense of relief.

As for now, I have been using the 2012-2013 manual and application checklist on the website to begin to pull together my materials. I realize that some of the materials may change, but I figure this will give me a jump-start for when the application period opens. If I end up doing something that is no longer required, I’m fine with that because it’s exciting doing it since this all part of me going back to Spain to teach! The two primary pieces I am pulling together are my letter of recommendation and my statement of purpose. An applicant also needs a copy of their passport and their college transcript or diploma.

Mike hiking in Ronda (Málaga)

While waiting for my transcripts and after pulling together my statement of purpose, all I have to do is wait for the application to open and the manual to be posted. I know it’s only the middle of November, and while it said December, I am still getting anxious and still checking back just about hourly.

I hope to keep everyone updated on my journey from America’s dairyland back to Spain. While Cat and I both came from the Midwest, Chicago and Milwaukee respectively, I can imagine that our experiences will be different since a lot has changed in the five years since she first left for Spain, yet I am extremely hopeful that my experience will be just as astounding and inspiring to others as hers was and is to me.

Hasta luego.


Mike will be contributing to Sunshine and Siestas regularly until he hears from the program about his (hopeful) return to Spain. Got any questions for either of us about being an auxiliar or about how to apply to the program? Or about doing a TEFL degree? Leave us a message in the comments, or join my Facebook page for more scoop!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. This was a really great post, Mike (and a good choice of a guest author, Cat!) It brings back good (…ish) memories of getting excited for the program and learning the hard way of how to apply. I hope Spain accepts you in the spring (summer? hehe) and you get to return to this amazing country. I really appreciated that you emphasized having NO REGRETS at this time in our lives.
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Thanksgiving 2012, expat editionMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Trevor. I remember having major regrets before getting on the plan to come to Seville, and in the end, it’s brought way more to me than I could have imagined. It was my mother pressuring me to NOT have regrets for changing my mind and not going. Hope all is going well on the other side of the province!

  2. Hey Mike! My name’s Jackie, and I’m also from Milwaukee! Born and raised Wisconsinite. I just started the auxiliar program this September in Valverde del Camino (Huelva)! We have very similar histories with Spain, and it was nice to hear about! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns as well. I’m so excited for you! You’re going to experience a range of emotions waiting, both before and after applying and hearing if you got in, but I promise you it’s all worth it in the end. I’m going to be renewing for a second year without a doubt already!

  3. Mike,

    GOOD LUCK! You are right, if you don’t do this and want to, you will regret it forever. I made the leap as well and it was by far the best choice I have ever made! You will have doubters and people tell you that you are crazy, but you will also have people who admire you and say they could “never” do what you are doing. Work and offices and corporate everything will always be there, but this opportunity may not, so do it while you can. I hope that everything goes well for you!

  4. Good luck, Mike! You’re very lucky to have a Mom that encouraged you to travel!
    Micki recently posted..Need a Little Inspiration? 10 Great Travel Reads We LoveMy Profile

  5. Mike,

    Best of luck on your journey! I am a fellow Midwesterner and I love visiting Spain. Working in the country would be an incredible opportunity. I hope you hear good news soon and look forward to reading your dispatches.
    Geri Dreiling recently posted..Stork Sexy Time in Pedraza, SpainMy Profile

  6. Very brave. Good luck Mike. If I may help you, just let me know. Take care!

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Having done it myself, I completely agree! It was a big jump for me, but Mike has the added factor of having to leave a financially secure job. I think we’re all rooting for him!

  7. I wanted to thank everyone for your responses to my post, and thanks again Cat for allowing me to write a guest post. Everyone’s encouragement has made me even more excited to apply. The application period opens upon January 10th now, so I’m anxiously awaiting. Hopefully everyone had a great holiday and will be having a wonderful New Year’s. Thank you again…and sorry or my late response to all the comments.

    • and so after you get to Spain, you must create your own blog 😉 I, for one, would be interested in reading it!

      the auxiliar program is something I too am actually considering when I retire to Spain. I might be the only 60 year old doing it, but I find it intriguing!! Best of luck to you!
      tobyo recently posted..Our visit to Córdoba, EspañaMy Profile

  8. Have you ever walked the trail to Santiago de Compostela? Im thinking of making the pilgrimage myself and was wondering if you have any advice for me about making the journey! If not what have you heard about it?

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Not sure about Mike, but I’m walking this summer with a friend. I’ve been checking out bloggs and forums, more than anything. Are you planning on the Francés, which is the most popular?

      • Yes, it is between the Frances and the Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port route. Im just not sure which one would be best for me. Im still in the early planning stages of my trip. I probably won’t go until 2014/2015, but my World Literature class requires us to do an exploratory project in which we research a country and its culture, blog to others who live there, and then plan a trip so I am taking advantage of that to plan my trip to Spain! Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions?

      • Sunshine and Siestas says:

        Of course, sunshineandsiestas @ gmail. com, though I’m not planning on doing the Francés. but the Ruta del Norte.

  9. Hi everyone! This is Mike (author of the above post). I have my blog up and running now, Mapless Mike. If you would like to follow my journey of teaching in Spain I’d very much appreciate it if you would follow my blog! Thank you!
    Mike recently posted..Deciding to Teach AbroadMy Profile

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