Thursday, February 7, 2013

bear with me, this one's long

It’s application season for the North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program. It feels like, every time I meet up with another American here in Lugo, the question of renewing comes up. “Do you want to stay for a second year?” we ask each other. “Are you applying anyway?” “Will you apply to stay in the same school? here in Lugo? in Galicia?”

My answer to the first question is “I don’t know”; to the second, it’s “Yes”; and to the last ones…well. That’s been something of a work in process.

I knew I wouldn’t stay at the same school. Elementary-aged kids are not for me, and I get more frustrated with my head teacher daily. (Example: The fourth graders don’t know how about “he” and “she.” The concepts of “we” and “they” have never been broached in any class I’ve been in, in any grade.)

I went back and forth on staying in Lugo, staying in Galicia, for a long time. (This is probably why all I talk about is renewing: I’ve been bringing it up every time I see anyone.) One day, I’d want to stay in Lugo: it’s a manageable city, it’s cheap, I know my way around, I have friends, there’s lots of green space for Gwen, I’ve sincerely loved living here. The next, I’d want to move to Santiago: Lugo doesn’t have enough culture, Santiago is more vibrant, there are more young people, it’s still inexpensive.

And then on day three I'd consider leaving Galicia entirely. I’m sick of the rain. I want to experience someplace new. Galicia feels so closed off from the rest of Spain. Bueno, Europe. The biggest cities in Galicia don’t have anything close to the Prado, or the Alhambra, or the Guggenheim, or the Sagrada Familia.

Finally, I was helping the secretary at my school fill out the recommendation form I would have to submit at part of my renewal application. There were questions about what kind of school I wanted to be in (“Well, I’ve enjoyed being here, but I really loved my old job at a high school, and I think I’m more suited to working with older students…”), and, of course, where I wanted to go. My mind went completely blank and I said I wanted to stay in Lugo.

Decision made. The next day, I opened Profex, the application system, and chose three regions of Spain. 1. Galicia, where I would be virtually guaranteed a placement, since second-years get preference over first- and third-year applicants. 2. The Basque Country. And 3. Madrid, because I like art museums and concerts and why not.

After I hit submit, I wasn’t particularly excited, but it was done. Can’t change it now, I thought, and went about my life.

Until the next week. One of my good friends from home asked about applying to the program, and as I was poking around getting answers for her, I realized I’d mistakenly applied as a first-year, first-time applicant. Not as a returning second-year. I would not get the preference I’d earned through blood, sweat, and tears at my school, and could potentially be sent anywhere in Spain. (Fine, I’d probably still end up in Galicia, since no one applies to come here, but the program is much more accommodating about special requests, e.g. “please keep me away from three-year-olds,” for second years.)

I immediately emailed my regional coordinator, who referred me to Profex support. I couldn’t reapply as a renewal with an application already filed, so the solution? Cancel my existing application, so I could apply again, this time with the correct status.

Do-overs in terms of your regions are unheard of in the auxiliares program. I have not heard of a single person, ever, successfully requesting a different region after they’ve submitted their application. Getting placed in Galicia when you requested the Basque Country, Cataluña, and Andalucía, yes; changing those original requests, no. I’m hardly an expert, but I read the Facebook groups and this forum, and every question about the possibility of changing regions has been answered with a resounding no.

But I would get to.

I decided that my lack of excitement about staying in Galicia was something I needed to pay attention to. Chances are good that I won’t have this opportunity again, at least not in its presently unencumbered form--no boyfriend or husband, no kids, no student loans, parents still in reasonably good health. So why would I stay someplace that I wasn’t looking forward to being in for another year?

So, the second time around, I switched. 1. The Basque Country. 2. Galicia, since hey, I’d rather live here than in Murcia or Badajoz or Algeciras. 3. Madrid, because I still like the Prado.

And now, I can honestly say, I’m excited. I love the Basque Country. I love Galicia too, but I didn’t research the auxiliares program to come back to Galicia. I didn’t apply last year to come to Galicia. I didn’t spend one of the happiest weeks of my life traveling in Galicia (except for when I got sick in Bilbao; almost passing out in the Guggenheim was not so fun). I didn’t salivate over all the Michelin-starred restaurants in Galicia. I didn’t read up on the history or culture of Galicia anywhere other than Wikipedia (should I be admitting that?). I didn’t cheer myself up when I was having a bad day, by flipping through pictures of Galicia. I did not, as a matter of fact, make the background of my blog about Galicia a picture of Galicia--it's a view over the bay in San Sebastian.

look familiar?
Of course, even after all of this, I still don't know if I'll be in Spain again next year. I've applied to grad school, and if I get in, there's a very good chance I'll go. I'd say, pre-application switch, I was splitting 85% towards going to grad school; now, it's looking more like 60% towards grad school, less if I can defer a year.


  1. Ah I had the same emotions about renewing! I eventually did, and put Andalucía as my first choice. But I also have no idea if I'll be back next year. (You're not the only one who feels like they talk way too much about renewing...jeje)

  2. This makes me so glad to hear you were able to get your application changed for renewing. Which makes me even more reassured about preferencing Galicia as a second year having heard so many good things about the region from you and Annie O. (who I met on the airplane over here…¡qué casualidad!) IF (and that’s a big IF) I do a third year, I’m thinking about asking to be in the Basque Country (like you) or maybe Madrid or Aragón.

    And here in Andalucía the elementary school kids are *just* as behind in language-learning as they are up north. Buff…