Spring has just arrived, but some of you reading this may already know for sure that you’re hell-bent on making it in Spain over the summer. It can be tough, a lot of summer jobs get filled almost as quickly as they get posted, but we’ve got some tips and ideas to save you from having to beg your parents for money from July until October.
The good: live rent-free at the beach or in the mountains.
The bad: you are in charge of a bunch of kids in the wilderness.
The ugly: literally live at work and never be allowed to leave for 2-6 weeks.
If you have the right personality and get the right placement, being a counselor at a sleep-away summer camp can be a pretty sweet gig. The key phrase here guys is “have the right personality”. Do you love kids, the outdoors and have bundles of energy? Then get on board! Do you have 0 patience, like to sleep to late, and hate listening to miniature humans ramble on about shit like Pokemon Go and Frozen? Then you might want to look a little harder for another job. I reckon that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and only you can truly decide what pay, conditions and hours you’re willing to put up with for those 2 to 6 weeks.
One of the advantages of working at a sleep-away camp is that you basically live rent-free for the length of your contract since the camp provides you with room and board. This can be a double-edged sword though, as a few places will take this cost out of your check, which means you get sent home with less to live on for the rest of the summer. If you play your cards right though, you can be chilling in the mountains and stacking up that cash while the rest of us are sweating our asses off in the city.
Other pluses include: getting to broaden your social circle by meeting and making friends with teachers working both in Madrid and other parts of Spain, getting to see and experience other parts of the country, and doing lots of sporty activities to keep you fit and active. Possible disadvantages are: having to sleep in a strange bed and give up your apartment if you finally found one that you liked, being the adult responsible for the well-being of over a dozen kids who seem to have boundless energy reserves for shouting, fighting, running and crying, and never really getting a break from that since you’ll be living at work.
How to get hired: it’s a lot easier to land one of these gigs if you have an EU passport or permanent residency in Spain but there are camps that hire Non-EU auxiliars (make sure you do your own research about the legal ins and outs). Update your CV with any skills that could come in handy as a camp counselor. Are you CPR or First Aid certified? Don’t forget to include that! If you have to send an application letter do your best to sound professional and responsible, but also laid-back and able to roll with the punches. You can send your CV to dozens and dozens of summer camps if you fill out this form.
The good: go home and sleep in your own bed, continue to live your life.
The bad: lower wages.
The ugly: camp sing-a-longs, ice-chip candle crafts and freeze tag, all while you continue to sweat your ass off in the city.
Day camps can be a nice happy-medium; you usually get to work enough hours to give you something to live on, but you get to go home, maybe socialize with other adults who aren’t your coworkers and sleep in your own bed. They aren’t as intense as sleep-away camps, but you usually make considerably less since you’ll spend a lot less time there than someone who is literally living at their job for 6 weeks.
With that in mind though, you would still be free in the evenings and so you’d be able to hold on to any evening private classes if you have students who want to continue lessons over the summer. If you’re doing most of your private tutoring with kids, it’s somewhat less likely their parents will want to continue class over the summer but they might ask you to hang around as an English-speaking babysitter or Au Pair and pay you to play with their kids in English.
Where to find jobs: check out LingoBongo, TusClasesParticulares and the Facebook Groups.
How to get hired: be proactive! Day camps gigs in the past have filled up fast so be ready for when you see a listing or your friend forwards you a link. Make sure your CV is updated and that you’ve listed any skills that could come in handy as a camp counselor or activity leader. Music, theater and visual arts experience are little things that make you an attractive hire. Having a form cover letter ready to go isn’t a bad idea either.
Au Pair work/Babysitting
The good: no lesson planning and no grading.
The bad: make as little as 4€ an hour.
The ugly: put up with some kids’ crazy parents for up to three months to avoid begging yours for cash.
I’ll level with you guys, this is something I personally would never consider. I have worked as a waitress, a bar maid, a marketing officer, a courier, a writer and a teacher, and babysitting stresses me out more than any of them. You deal directly with the parents and just like in any other job, there is all kinds of crazy out there. On the other hand though, there are some great families out there and I’ve heard stories of people making an amazing connection with some wonderful parents who ended up helping them out later, or showing them a side of life in Spain they would have never experienced otherwise.
If you decide to go with an au pair job you may want to decide first whether or not you’re willing to accept a live-in position. Similar to sleep-away camps, you’ll be fed and living rent-free for the length of your post, but expect to only earn between 40€ and 90€ a week in pocket money. The work can be tough though, and you may be expected to do household chores. Live-out positions pay a bit better since the family generally understand that you have to travel there, buy groceries, continue to pay for your rented room, etc. However, it’s not unheard of for a family to only offer around 600€ for four weeks, Monday-Friday, 9 am – 1 or 2 pm. Upsides are that you get paid in cash, won’t have to do any lesson planning or prep-work, and you may get some perks like a municipal pool pass so you can take the kiddos swimming.
Where to look for jobs: try the usual boards like: LingoBongo, tusclasesparticulares, and the Auxiliar Facebook page. But you could also put the word out to your friends and around your school that you’re offering your services for the summer. There are also loads of au pair agencies but watch out for placement fees.
How to get hired: make a good first impression on the parents; be personable and fun. Experience and qualifications are great, but they aren’t the only thing needed to convince anxious parents to trust you with their kids for the next several weeks. Think about the kind of person your parents would have wanted to leave you with and do your best impression of them.
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell anyone that if you’re going to babysit or be an au pair, you should like kids, but just in case: make sure you like kids. You’re not a monster if you don’t like kids or don’t want to hang out with them for up to 6+ hours a day, but you will be totally miserable if you force yourself into doing something you really have less than zero desire to do.
Private tutoring/intensive classes
The good: be your own boss, make actual money.
The bad: do as much as or more planning and correction than you do October-June.
The ugly: be you own boss, make actual decisions and actually be in charge of everything from curriculum content to logistics.
Last year was the first summer where I had to find my own gig from July 1st, but I found plenty of private classes to keep me busy. All of my adult students were interested in continuing until I left in August to visit my family for a few weeks, and a friend put me in touch with a family who wanted intensive FCE preparation classes for the dad and two teenage sons.
It worked out great. As they were one family booking a ton of hours, I had to reduce my hourly rate quite a bit. It was totally worth it however, because I knew that I was booked for a certain number of hours and was definitely going to have X amount of money by the end of the month. It saved me from having to fret and worry every other time I had a cancellation that month and saved me a ton of time because I didn’t have to commute to different places for different classes.
Putting something like this together for yourself takes a quite a bit of hustle and initiative, but if you pull it off, I think the results are totally worth it. In the coming weeks I’ll be writing up a post with more detailed information but here are a couple of tips to get you started now.
First, this is going to be a lot easier if you have a recognized TEFL or TESOL certification and some experience. If you haven’t gotten there yet though, don’t fret. If you have 0 experience teaching things like grammar, collocations and writing, I wouldn’t recommend telling people that you have lots of experience. You might be brilliant at it, even without any training or practice, but you might also be terrible and have some very pissed off parents spreading nasty things about you when the next course starts.
If you’re an auxiliar de conversación, odds are you have some experience preparing kids for the speaking portion of KET, PET, Starters, Flyers, etc. This is a great place to start. If you’ve been doing private classes as well, then you probably have plenty of experience in helping kids with their homework and have an idea of how to get the grammar across. So, another direction you could go in, is planning an intensive course to catch up the kids who did terribly in their English class that year, or getting the ones who flunked ready for their make-up exams in the autumn.
Where to find jobs: rather than finding these jobs, you may have to create them. Ask around at your school if parents are looking for summer classes, post flyers in your neighborhood, put up ads on tusclases and LingoBongo.
How to get hired: first impressions are key and so is deciding in advance the limits of your negotiation. Have the minimum you are willing to work for decided ahead of time and start a little bit higher. If it doesn’t work out, be gracious. You never know what someone’s financial situation is and there is plenty of work out there.
The good: explore and live somewhere else during your 2 months off as an auxiliar.
The bad: the possibility of living in a place with no running water or WiFi.
The ugly: you have almost no way of knowing whether the people you’ll be staying with are chill hippies who are just really passionate about organic produce, or crazy people with plans to get the most work out of you possible while feeding you as little as they can.
WWoofing is another one of those things where you really need the right outlook or else you’re probably going to hate it. While a lot of people find farming incredibly rewarding and educational, it is hard, sometimes back-breaking work. You also never know what you’re going to get. I’ve heard plenty of stories from friends of friends that it’s a great experience, even if you do get worked pretty hard during your shifts. There’s also a fair share of horror stories out there, so do everything you can to investigate the farmers you’re thinking of staying with.
All that negativity aside, it can be an awesome opportunity to live in another region of Spain for a short-time. There are awesome hosts out there and if you are passionate about organic farming and sustainable agriculture, it can be a very valuable and fulfilling experience.
WorkAway offers opportunities to do different kinds of volunteering, and get a little experience in hospitality, education, childcare etc. It isn’t exactly “career experience”, but it could be spun into a useful line on your resume and give you a clearer idea of what you do or do not want to do in the future. Depending on your placement, you might have access to some awesome sights or activities to enjoy during your free hours. I knew a girl who did a WorkAway at a bed in breakfast in San Sebastian that was within walking distance to what are supposed to be some of the best surfing beaches in northern Spain.
It is possible WWOOF or WorkAway in another country in Europe, but the legal ins and outs of that can be complicated depending on the passport you hold. Some countries technically require non-EU passport holders to have a visa for any kind of work, even if it’s unpaid. Others will allow to you undertake unpaid volunteer work under certain conditions (for example, if it isn’t the primary reason for your visit) for a more limited length of time (usually less than 30 days).
You might find this reddit post useful, and it’s always a good idea to research the specific country you’re thinking of volunteering in. Immigration and visa rules change all the time, so it is important to always do your own research and not just trust what some chick on some blog wrote. This page for WWOOF UK has some useful information and it’s worth checking to see if other nations have similar pages as a place to start your research.
Where to find positions: WWOOF, WorkAway
How to get it: every single host will be different, so present your best-self to make a good first impression. Don’t forget to research as much as you can about a potential host so you aren’t left in the cold (and sleeping on a moldy mattress, like that girl in the Matador Network article).
Don’t wait too long to figure out your plans for summer, but from now until June there’s a pretty steady trickle of offers. They go fast though, so be ready! A ton of babysitting gigs get posted between May and June, and some day camps may be shoring up their numbers until just before the academic course ends. We’ll be covering some other ideas to keep some coin in your pocket soon.
Hang in there and have fun!