You’re applying for the North American Language and Cultural Assistant Program, and you’ve successfully navigated the super buggy PROFEX system. You have your very own, much revered, and very important inscrita number. You breathe a sigh of relief…but not for long. The question you’re probably asking yourself now is: “Is it low enough to get my first choice?” The short answer: This is Spain there is no short answer (get used to it).
Kidding aside, my personal opinion is that if the ministry takes in as many assistants as they took in last year, those with inscrita numbers as high as 2000 will receive placements. Whether you receive a placement in your region of first choice (or any of your choices) is pretty much all luck. (If Madrid is your first choice and your inscrita number is 300 or less, I’m 99% sure you’ll be place in Madrid.) For those wondering, I applied about 10 minutes after the application opened and my inscrita number was 51.
Long answer: there are a lot of variables affecting whether you will get your requested autonomous community. As you are probably well aware, Spain is going through some big economic issues. I’m not sure about this year, but for my cohort, this resulted in a few regions canceling their programs all together. As far as I know, they are not accepting any this year either. What this means is that there are less people in general being accepted into the program. On the bright side, applicants with numbers as high as 3000 were eventually offered a placement, although it didn’t happen until mid-autumn. Take into account how many assistants your preferred region takes in.
I don’t think it has been addressed officially, but some autonomous communities have also reduced the number of assistants it hired due to financial reasons. I know that a few provinces and cities had problems paying their assistants on time the past couple of years and I would hope that they learned their lesson to only hire the number of people they can pay. This is bad news for those with higher numbers, but it would be even worse to come to Spain and not be paid on time. Madrid takes in the most number of assistants.
Do keep in mind that you may not necessarily be placed in the city of Madrid. Placements are within the community of Madrid. I myself teach in the suburb of Móstoles, a forty minute commute from the centre. Another major factor are the number of people renewing for a second year. Incoming second years get first priority for placements. It doesn’t matter if an incoming second year has a higher inscrita number than you, all second years get their placements before you do. More second year renewals means less spots for first years. Only second year renewals get priority, anyone who has already been in here for 2 years gets no priority and will be given placements based on their number (in theory).
Despite all this, don’t forget that people change their minds. People who accepted the position in June may decided they have better opportunities elsewhere and decide not to go through with the program. Plus, there are a small number of people who get placements but are denied visas for various reasons.
Now, I’m going to explain a caveat in the PROFEX system that leads applicants with higher inscrita numbers getting the first choice of lower numbers that didn’t get their first choice. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to use small round numbers, but of course in real life the numbers are much larger. In my imaginary world there are 25 placements available to new applicants: 10 in Madrid, 5 in Andalusia, 5 in Galicia and 5 in Extremadura. There are 30 new applicants and their region of preferences are all the same: #1: Madrid #2: Andalusia #3: Galicia (No one wants Extremadura). The first round of cartas de nombramiento are given out and the placements are given thusly:
- Applicants #1-10:Madrid
- Applicants #11-15: Andalusia
- Applicants #16-20: Galicia
- Applicants #21-25: Extremadura
- Applicants #26-30: Receive nothing yet Applicants have 5 days to accept or decline.
If you fail to do either, you are automatically declined. In the imaginary world, one applicant from every region declines their position. (So now there is 1 position available in every region). The PROFEX system does not go back to Applicant #11 and offer them the declined placement in Madrid. This works to some applicant’s favour. The 4 newly available positions are given out like this:
- Applicant #26:Madrid
- Applicant #27: Andalusia
- Applicant #28: Galicia
- Applicant #29: Extremadura
By sheer luck they receive placement in their first choice region even if inscrita numbers lower than theirs had the same first choice and didn’t get it. This may seem a little frustrating and unfair, but the alternative would make the application process much, much longer and complicated.
My advice for those with higher inscrita numbers would be to make a few decisions. If you are offered a placement that is not in one of your preferred autonomous communities, would you still take the placement? What is your back up plan if you are not offered a placement?
My advice to everyone applying to the program:
- Save as much as you can. Most assistants arrive in Spain sometime in September to find an apartment. You receive your first paycheque at the end of October. Living expenses plus your rent money and your initial deposit make your first month and a half very pricy.
- Brush up on your Spanish. (I think this is pretty self explanatory.)
- Be realistic about moving abroad. Yes it’s fun and exciting to move abroad (I love my life in Spain right now) but culture shock, in varying degrees, hits everyone. At one point or another, home sickness will kick in eventually as well. If you haven’t lived abroad before or on your own, it might be a challenging adjustment. For me the biggest adjustment has been living with a roommate. Prior to coming to Madrid, I had only lived with my family and on my own in South Korea.
- Be patient. If the timeline for this year is the same as last year’s, first year placements won’t be given out until June. Even after you receive you placement you will have to wait a few weeks to for your visa application to be approved. Make the most of this time and hang out with your friends and family. Even though the waiting around is annoying, eventually when you are in Spain you will miss being able to grab a coffee or dinner with your nearest and dearest any time you want.
Good luck and happy travels!
Featured Image Source: Jean-Jacques Boujot @ Flickr, modified by Estrella Explores
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