The 8 Hardest Parts About Teaching English in Madrid

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Shelby C.

Throughout the application process to teach in Madrid, I was fed the idea that teaching abroad was this picture-perfect lifestyle and that it was accessible and easy. I had done my research of course. I talked to a friend I knew had been doing it for the last year, I read blog reviews, and I watched videos. However, there are some challenges that I wasn’t prepared for. I want to disclaim that I have loved my time living in Madrid these past seven months and I don’t think I've ever had a year like this one. I’ve gained beautiful stories and life-long friendships. Although there have been some challenges, the life I have lived since moving here has made those challenges worth it. 


Here are the challenges that I have found to be most common:


The housing search

When first moving to Madrid, there are a lot of technicalities that can be time-consuming and confusing. CIEE guides us through the steps of this process well. However, you’re on your own for the housing search and this has, for many people, been the most difficult and stressful part about moving here. I was lucky and was able to solidify my housing before arriving in Madrid, but this is advised against. It’s important to remember that it will work out and you may just have to compromise on your idea of a perfect living space. Everyone I know successfully found housing that worked for them. 

The small salary/stipend

As an auxiliar de conversacion, you earn 1000 euros a month. This can be tricky and stressful at times. Check out my other blog post to see how manageable it is to live off of our stipend.

Feeling guilty about missing out on the lives of those you love back home

For many people in this program, this is their first time this far from home, and for many, they’re the first in their family to do something like this. It can be challenging to balance living and enjoying your life here and wanting to be there for the people in your life back home. I’ve realized that this is a feeling that comes with getting older and realizing those around you are getting older too. You always have the power to change your mind and decide the course of your life, whether that be staying in Madrid, going back home, or doing something different.

Adjusting to cultural differences in the workplace

Every workplace is different of course, but there are some cultural differences that can take some adjusting to. Some examples: students address teachers by first name, the dress code is more relaxed, discipline is different, the grading system is different, there’s a 30-minute breakfast in the middle of the school day, and the students learn British English. 

The language barrier

Compared to other European countries, the level of English in Spain is not that high. Although the job of an auxiliar de conversacion is to speak English, I think it’s important to know some basic Spanish, at least, to be able to form connections with co-workers and connect with others outside of your workplace. There are classes and language exchanges that you can do while you're in Madrid. People have moved to Madrid without knowing any Spanish and since they’ve made the effort to learn, they’re doing well, but forming real connections is more challenging.

Struggling to find purpose

Not every placement feels as fulfilling as the next. Some schools don't have as great of a need for auxes as others do. Depending on your short and long-term goals and your school placement, it can be challenging to navigate what your purpose is.

Getting sick all the time!

You will get sick while being here! If you’re working with the younger kids, you’ll inevitably get sick here and there, but I’ve found that people have been sick much more consistently here than back home. It’s also important to note that you only get 4 sick days and you need a doctor's note (a justificante) for each one.

Spain DOES get cold!

You’ll want to bring or buy a winter coat. Maybe even a scarf. The winters here don’t compare to other places, but it does get cold.