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So you’ve decided to apply to the Auxiliar de Conversación Program in Spain and teach English abroad. You might know what region of Spain or city you will be teaching in, and now it’s time to pack! But what do you bring when moving to Spain as an auxiliar de conversación?
You obviously don’t want to pack too little, but you also don’t want to bring too much to Spain and end up having to pay for extra bags filled with things you won’t use.
Well, this breakdown of exactly what you should, and should NOT, bring to Spain when moving to work as an auxiliar de conversación will help you plan out your packing strategy.
First and foremost, do not overpack. If you are at all like us, you notoriously overpack when traveling.
DO NOT DO THIS!
Remember, you are moving to Spain to live and work, not go for a 1-2 week vacation. This means you will be able to buy things you need in Spain, which has most things you could find in other countries. While the variety isn’t as great as it is in the US, it’s pretty similar, and Spain has come a long way in this since Mike was first in Spain in 2010.
What Type of Luggage?
It will be easy to spot the overpacked auxiliar de conversación dragging two gigantic suitcases, a backpack, and rolling carry-on by themselves in the airport. You don’t want to be this person.
You can probably leave at least one suitcase at home and still be comfortably packed for a year abroad with one suitcase, a backpack, and a carry-on—aka personal item and carry-on in the cabin.
There are plenty of styles of suitcases out there, but we recommend getting one large one to check, such as a large Calpak or Away suitcase.
You should also invest in a travel backpack. While there are tons of brands and varieties out there, we highly recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40 or the Osprey Fairview 40.
We have traveled with these backpacks for over 8 years and never had them break at all. Ospreys backpacks are super durable and versatile. These is particular are lightweight and are the maximum size for a carry-on, so you can stuff it completely full and still carry it onto a plane, making it the perfect travel backpack.
What Clothes Should I Bring?
A common misconception most people have about Spain is that they think it is always warm and sunny. We hate to break it to you, but this is absolutely false.
Now, there are a few areas of Spain where the weather is nicer all year round, but it’s not exactly always hot, except maybe in the Canary Islands. But mainland Spain varies quite a bit. It can be cold and rainy in the north, cold and dry in the central part, and mild and dry in the South.
As Spain is both mountainous and desert-like, the climate in different regions often depends on the geography, but because it is desert-like, you can count on it always cooling down quite a bit when the sun goes down.
For example, in Madrid in winter, it goes from 30°F in the mornings to about 55°F in the afternoons. While in Malaga in winter, it can be 45°F in the morning and 72°F in the afternoon!
Due to these changing temperatures—and the common misconception that Spain is always hot and sunny—you need to bring some winter clothes!
As far as winter clothes go, you don’t need to bring a huge, thick parka, but a decent winter coat, a hat, and gloves will do just fine. There’s no reason to bring winter boots unless you’ll be living in the mountains and plan to do a lot of winter hiking or skiing.
For some perspective, we’re from Wisconsin and used to harsh winters. We’ve worn our winter coats here in Madrid on winter mornings because it can feel cold, even if it’s nowhere near as cold compared to Wisconsin.
This goes to our second point regarding clothes and what to bring to Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación: pack clothes that layer well!
With the change in temperature throughout the day, if you can pack clothes and outfits that layer well, you will have no problem staying comfortable during the days in Spain.
This is especially important during COVID because schools have their windows open ALL DAY, including in winter. The heating is on but just escapes, so we teach with our winter coats on almost every day, all day.
You Can Buy Clothes Here
Related to the don’t overpack piece of advice, remember that you can always buy clothes here in Spain, so you don’t have to pack your entire wardrobe into a suitcase.
In fact, chances are you will probably want to end up buying clothes in Spain! And if you can hold out until January, you can take advantage of Spain’s famous rebajas, where everything goes on sale after the Christmas holidays!
And when we mean everything, we mean EVERYTHING!
It’s the perfect opportunity to buy a few things to add to your wardrobe while living in Spain and is precisely why you don’t need to overpack and bring your all your clothes from US to Spain.
If you are deciding what to pack when moving to Spain, one thing to consider is that certain brand names are way more expensive in Spain than in the US.
A few of these brands include Levi’s, Converse, Nike, and Vans.
You will definitely be able to find these brands while in Spain, but they will be more expensive. So if they’re an important part of your wardrobe, make sure to bring them with you or buy some extra before moving to Spain.
Keep in mind that while you might love these brands, there are similar brands in Spain that you can buy for cheaper here.
When moving to Spain to teach English, you will most likely be bring some technology with you. Think phone, laptop, camera, etc.
Generally, all of these products are more expensive in Spain, so you will want to purchase them ahead of time, especially if you are a MacBook or iPhone person.
However, the most important thing to know when moving to Spain is about your phone. You cannot just use any phone in Spain!
It must be an unlocked phone!
You can unlock your phone, so you can use it in Spain in two different ways, assuming you are coming from the United States. The first option is to buy a brand new unlocked phone. This will be more expensive as you’re buying the phone outright, but then you can use it with any provider.
The second option is to ask your cell phone provider to unlock your phone for you. They will usually do this if you are due for a phone upgrade. If you’re not, you can try to explain that you are moving abroad for a period of time, and they might do it for you, as their main concern is that you’re not switching providers to a competitor in the US.
The other piece of technology that is absolutely vital when moving to Spain as an auxiliar de conversación is a high-quality, durable adapter.
There are plenty of cheap, crappy adapters out there that will break on you, which is why we recommend the Epicka Travel Adapter. It is durable and has 4 USB ports to do all your charging on top of the standard plug. It’s also compact and lightweight.
While most things are amiable in Spain, there are some that aren’t, and one area that this comes into play is with toiletries.
If you like roll-on deodorant—and not spray on—you will want to bring some of this from the US. It is possible to find roll-on deodorant here, but it’s less common.
If you wear contact lenses, make sure to try to get a year’s supply to bring. You can always visit an optometrist here to get some, but while way cheaper than the US, most are private and will not be covered by your insurance. You can, however, find contact solution in most optometry stores.
Other toiletries you will want to consider are specific hair products or medicines, like Pepto Bismol and NyQuil as they’re not available here.
You will want to avoid bringing things like towels, soap, shampoo, or hair dryers as they will take up a lot of space and you can get them in Spain. This is, of course, unless it’s something specific to you that you really need.
Materials to Teach English in Spain
Chances are that if you are moving to Spain to work as an auxiliar de conversación, you have probably never taught English before in your life and are simply a native speaker with a college degree. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but there are a few things you can bring to Spain that will make you life teaching English so much easier.
These are games you can play in class at your school or use when teaching private English lessons in Spain.
Board Games to Teach English
The first group of these are small board games that you can bring from home to use when teaching English classes. They’re especially helpful for private English lessons you will most likely teach on the side for extra money.
Guess Who, Taboo, Bananagrams, Scattergories, and Uno are some of the best games to use when teaching English classes as they allow your students to use vocabulary and grammar structures in English while playing a game, so they don’t feel like it’s a “class.”
Other things to bring to Spain when working as an auxiliar de conversación are photos from home, some examples of money or something tactile, maybe special food from your hometown, or really anything personal that’s special to you.
Students love seeing photos of where you are from and learning about your life back home. They also really enjoy physically touching something, such as money, and it makes for a great lesson to explain the names of coins and bills in the US.
Lastly, you might want to bring some friendly comforts of home to decorate your room or apartment in Spain to give it a more homey feel. You will go through periods of homesickness, and this will help remind you that, while you are abroad, you still have people back home that love and care about you. It might not help with all of your homesickness, but it will help you get settled in.
If you are looking for more information on the Auxiliar de Conversación Program in Spain, make sure to check out all our other resources, such as the Guide to the Regions in Spain and the Day in the Life of an Auxiliar de Conversación to see if teaching English in Spain as an auxiliar de conversación is something you would like to do?