Frequently Asked Questions about Volunteering in Spain
Do I need to be TEFL certified to volunteer in Spain?Click to Open
TEFL certification is not required for our Volunteer in Spain programs. Some teachers decide to sign up for the training in order to gain the confidence and resources to effectively teach English to foreign language learners. Taking TEFL before you teach abroad can help you think about the English language from another perspective and understand how to teach English grammar. Teaching and preparing activities, whether for a small or large group of students, can be daunting. The students are your main priority and you want to give them the best education you can. Additionally, we strongly recommend getting TEFL certified if you are considering ESL as a career, or want to teach abroad independently in the future, as most foreign schools will require full-time teachers to be TEFL certified. Learn more about CIEE’s online TEFL certification programs!
How competitive is this program? Are there interviews?Click to Open
Our volunteer program does not require interviews. However, this program has a limited number of placements compared to our other programs in Spain. We offer placements based on participant qualifications and the date you’ve committed to the program. With this in mind, applicants are encouraged to apply early!
I haven’t graduated yet, can I still apply?Click to Open
Yes! Our Spain volunteer program requires applicants to have completed at least two years towards a four-year degree and must be actively enrolled in classes. If you have yet to graduate, please upload a copy of your transcripts showing you’ve completed at least two years of schooling and any proof of upcoming enrollments.
When is the program fee due?Click to Open
A $50 application fee is due at the time of application submission, to let us devote our effort and attention to serious applicants. Once CIEE accepts your application, a $500 non-refundable commitment deposit is due within 10 calendar days. The remaining $400 is due within five days of receiving a placement (about eight weeks prior to departure), for a total program fee of $900.
NOTE: If you sign up for Teach in Spain Volunteer With TEFL, the commitment deposit amount is $1,000, and you will be enrolled in a course once that deposit is paid. The second payment amount is $900, for a total program fee of $1,900.
What expenses should I budget for?Click to Open
Besides the CIEE program fee, you will also need to pay for your plane tickets to and from Spain. You’ll receive housing and two meals a day from your host family. Beyond that, we recommend having about $700-$1200 saved to cover things like cell phone costs, lunches, entertainment, local travel, and emergencies. You’ll want to save more if you plan to do much traveling on weekends and breaks, but your day-to-day expenses will be minimal! Additionally, participants can find private tutoring positions to make some extra cash while they’re volunteering, which will help fund trips.
Where in Spain are CIEE volunteers placed?Click to Open
CIEE volunteers are placed in Castilla y León, a large province northwest of Madrid. Most of the placements are in small towns, which means you’ll get an intimate, close-up view into Spanish culture and society. Compared to jobs in the big cities of Spain, you’ll have fewer foreigners around you, giving you a great opportunity to practice and improve your Spanish.
When and how are school placements assigned?Click to Open
Participants are placed roughly eight weeks prior to departure. We place participants based on their commitment deposit date. Furthermore, we consider participant interests/preferences and compare them to the information provided by each homestay to try and make the best match for both parties.
Can friends or couples volunteer in Spain together?Click to Open
It’s a little tricky to volunteer together on this program. Each host family can only take one volunteer, so it isn’t possible to live together as a couple. We probably can’t place you at the same school either. If it’s important to you to be close by, we can probably place you and your friend/partner in towns that are close by to each other, so it would be easy to visit on weekends.
Can I take another job while volunteering in Spain?Click to Open
Participants on our program utilize the 90 day tourist/visitor/volunteer entry permission that US and Canadian citizens are granted upon entry into Spain. This means that you can’t legally take a second job aside from your volunteer position.
On the other hand, it’s very common to offer private tutoring as a way to earn a little extra income. Once you arrive, your school and Spanish colleagues and neighbors will be a good resource if you want to ask about offering these lessons.
Can I extend or renew the program beyond 90 days?Click to Open
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to renew or extend this program, or remain in the European Schengen Zone more than 90 days from the time you arrived.
Living and Working
How many hours per week will I teach? What will my role be?Click to Open
You'll volunteer part time at a public school as an English Language and Culture Assistant. You will lead conversational activities in English and give presentations on North American culture. You may also participate in other activities, such as music, theater, sporting events, English language clubs, and more. In addition to your 12 classroom hours, you’re expected to spend at least five hours a week helping your host family improve their English.
What kind of host family will I live with?Click to Open
The host families on this program are also volunteers! They have opened their homes to help encourage volunteer assistants to come to their communities. They are usually associated with your host school, either as teachers, administrators, or parents of students, and they are excited to participate in a cultural exchange with you.
Host families come in all shapes and sizes, from married couples to single parents with children. Many are hoping to encourage their children’s English language acquisition by having a native speaker in the house, so we ask our participants to plan to spend at least five hours a week helping the family improve and practice their English. On our application we gather your preferences regarding host families, to help arrange family matches that are comfortable for all involved.
When will I learn who my host family will be?Click to Open
It is sometimes difficult to pin down host family plans far in advance, but we make every effort to finalize those assignments and communicate them to you at least two weeks before departure so that you can start communicating. Occasionally, plans will change or the school will need to make last-minute arrangements, so we appreciate your flexibility if that happens to you!
What is the dress code for volunteering in Spain?Click to Open
It is quite casual – jeans, nice sandals, and t-shirts are fine. Tank tops and flip-flops are not okay. Don’t forget to pack warm clothes for the cool winters!
Is it safe to live in Spain?Click to Open
We send hundreds of participants to teach and volunteer in Spain each year. Our placements are distributed all over the country both in big cities and smaller towns, but it’s extremely rare to hear about safety issues at any of them. Spain is a developed nation with plenty of safety resources. As long as you use normal “city-smarts” you will not face any situation that is more dangerous than living in the US. You’ll also receive some tips at your orientation about common-sense safe practices while abroad. In addition you’ll also have 24/7 emergency support from our staff in Spain and travel insurance through iNext. You can also read more about safety and security conditions in Spain on the US State Department website. All participants are advised to enroll in the State Department STEP program, and it can be helpful for concerned family members as well!
Can I use my ATM/credit card in Spain?Click to Open
Generally speaking, yes! Most US and Canadian financial institutions will allow you to continue using your ATM and credit cards in Spain, but you will need to contact your them to discuss fees, travel alerts, and security.
How can I set up cell phone service in Spain?Click to Open
Many participants chose to bring their smartphones with them and buy a Spanish SIM card and data plan. It’s important to make sure that your phone is “unlocked” before you try to do this, so contact your home country provider to ask them to unlock your phone. You can also choose to buy an inexpensive basic phone after arriving in Spain. You can choose to sign up for a service contract or select a “pay-as-you-go” option. We’ll discuss phone plan options both in our pre-departure resources and also at orientation.
Will I get any holidays?Click to Open
Because we have three departures (January, March/April, October) each year, it’s difficult to narrow down your specific holidays. Calendars are available for the school year in October and we recommend discussing any days off with your specific school. In addition to major holidays like Christmas and Easter, there are many provincial and local holidays that participants will have time off. As a volunteer, you’re only working four days a week, typically Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday, so three days weekends are abundant!
What kind of experiences have past participants had?Click to Open
This is a great question. We consider our alumni and returning teachers to be extremely valuable resources, both for us at CIEE and for our applicants. We like to gather their advice and share it at orientation, but you don’t have to wait until then to start learning from them! You can see independent reviews of our programs; we’re proud to say that people’s experiences on our program are overwhelmingly positive! You can also read participant blogs from Spain. Most of them are from our much larger programs in Madrid, and not many volunteers write blogs because of the short duration, but if you type the word “Volunteer” into the “Program Name” filter, you can find a few!
Travel and Arrival
How can I get advice and tips from former teachers?Click to Open
We know that getting advice from someone who has done the program before is immensely helpful and valuable. That’s why we collect the best tips from our former teachers and include them in our pre-departure materials. We’ve added lots of information over the years on topics like cultural adjustments, phones, banking, and apartments, and suggestions for how to do well in your role, and we present these resources in the format of an online “course” several months before departure. You can also read participant blogs from Spain, which is a great way to learn from our current and former teachers!
When should I buy my flight?Click to Open
You should not book plane tickets until after you have received your volunteer assignment and official program dates are announced. Your coordinator will let you know once it’s safe to purchase a ticket. You can expect to know more details about eight weeks prior to departure.
Do I need a visa to volunteer in Spain?Click to Open
No! Participants on our program utilize the 90 day tourist/visitor/volunteer entry permission that US and Canadian citizens are granted upon entry into Spain. This is super convenient since it means that you don’t need to go through a complicated visa application process before departure. It does come with a downside, however: after the 90 days are up, you will need to leave the European Schengen Zone and wait another 90 days before you can visit again.
Can I travel in Europe before or after my program?Click to Open
Yes, but we recommend you chat with us first. Our program duration is roughly 75 days, which leaves participants about two weeks to use before or after their program starts. Participants on our program utilize the 90 day tourist/visitor/volunteer entry permission that US and Canadian citizens are granted upon entry into Spain. After the 90 days are up, you will need to leave the European Schengen Zone and wait another 90 days before you can visit again.
How can I travel around Spain without a car?Click to Open
Spain has an excellent public transit system! Madrid has a great metro system, and to travel between major cities, there are trains and coach buses available. Even small towns and villages will have regular bus service to regional hubs. Google Maps doesn’t always have information about local buses, so the best place to find those schedules is on the website of the specific city or town you’re looking at.
Can I bring a pet to Spain?Click to Open
In most cases, the best thing to do is to find a friend or family member back home who can care for your pet while you are teaching abroad. Things like vaccination requirements, quarantine, animal importation procedures, and pet hotels are beyond the scope of our program, so CIEE cannot advise or assist you with these. You will also need to research the procedures and rules for re-importing animals back into your home country when you return. It can also be difficult to find an apartment where pets are allowed. All told, it is an undertaking that can be very expensive and inconvenient.