Some more questions I received via email, this time from a current auxiliar on quitting and alternatives to the program …
I am an Auxiliar and I found your blog post about quitting and becoming an au pair in Madrid. I love it here, but, was thinking about quitting to be an au pair, or maybe do the WWOOF farm thing and really focus on my Spanish while I am here. I am also applying for jobs back home and want to go back if I get one. I am wondering about the process for quitting. Could you tell me how it went? I was paid for 3 months at once and am wondering if my next payment is like that, will I need to pay back some or.. I don’t know, I just could not find any information about breaking the contract or anything. How did the school react? Thank you for your help. I am glad I found the post.
I’d be happy to give you my two cents, though it sounds like there are a few differences between our two experiences!
First of all, you say that you love it where you are; if that’s true, then stay! Stick it out and continue enjoying your time. I have to say, I regret leaving the program because quitting something never feels good AND it’s awkward to explain to people why you didn’t finish, especially if the person asking is someone reviewing your resume. I know that at the time I was absolutely desperate to get out and felt totally alone in La Puerta de Segura, but I really wished I had tried a little harder to get through it because it was an extremely valuable experience, and looking back, I didn’t take advantage of so many things that I might never get to experience again. My experience in Madrid was great, but it’s one that so many people have and looking back, my most unique, valuable memories are the ones that came out of the little hardships of getting through the program. Chances are that very few people have ever experienced just what you’re experiencing right now, and it’s something to hold on to if you can!
That being said, if you are really miserable or unhappy or just feel like you REALLY don’t want to be where you are anymore, here is how I left the program.
1. I arranged my au pair situation before I notified anyone I was quitting. I used an online service and arranged a start date with a family, and all details (pay, vacation days, etc) were established beforehand. THIS CAN BE RISKY. You never know what the family is really going to be like, and a string of emails is not the same thing as a contract. I really really lucked out with my awesome family, but I know other people who didn’t fare so well. I had started looking for au pair positions in early December and didn’t leave until March 1st, so I also gave myself plenty of time to consider the decision and weigh all my options and really make sure I was making the right choice.
2. I gave my schools and my roommates a month’s notice. I didn’t have a lease signed (things were handled a bit differently in small town Spain!) so I was able to just give notice and go without any paperwork. The school was pretty much the same way. I did have to sign something saying that I was electing to leave the program, but they gave me my last paycheck and I left the next day (I was really poor and needed to time that right to survive!!). I was paid monthly, so I’m not sure exactly how it would work with your quarterly payments.
The schools reacted negatively, but differently. My elementary school was sad about my departure. I was closer to the teachers and students there and they had been more welcoming all along. They gave me a goodbye presentation and made me feel really crappy for leaving. My high school was a little colder about the whole thing. The principal there was not as nice and was bitter about having to live in the small town (evidently he hadn’t had much say in his assignment either!). I didn’t get much sympathy from them, but they were the ones who handled my paperwork and gave me my last check, no problems.
Some other things to remember is that the program is pretty great when you’re looking at hours you have to work and payment. You’re probably not going to find another set-up that gives you so much freedom. As an au pair, get ready to say goodbye to your weekends and independence, unless you have a REALLY exceptional family. I had one day off per week (though that didn’t stop the baby from wanting to play), and each month I got one full weekend. That meant no real traveling. I also was only free in the mornings and evenings, which was good in some ways but super annoying in others (you have kind of the opposite schedule of most people our age, though you can still go out at night). Babysitting at night could be a drag, and payment is suuuuper minimal, though all worries of running out of food/water/gas for your hot water are gone because the family takes care of that. Really think about what you want to get out of au pairing and what you have now in the program and make sure the trade-off is worth it.
I don’t know much about WWOOF except that it looks really cool, but also make sure that you have enough money to pursue that option. I’ve heard good things from friends who have done it in New Zealand and other parts of Europe, but they were ok with not having much mobility AND with roughing it, not to mention not having much of an income.
The last thing to think about is private English teaching. That is how I made most of my money in Madrid, and though it carries some risks and isn’t the most consistent of jobs, there are plenty of people looking to learn English in the big Spanish cities, and they are willing to pay good money.
Ok now the real last thing–your NIE should be good for one year from the day you got it, probably sometime in October of this year….why not finish the program and THEN WWOOF or become an au pair for the summer? My understanding is that a lot of families are looking for nannies in the summer when they kids are out of school all day. Spanish summers are incredible and you could extend your stay (kinda) legally. If you’re job-hunting in the US, I would say you are much less likely to find something when you’re not here to physically come in for an interview (that was DEFINITELY my experience), so if you’re not in a rush to come back, think about doing all of the above. Trust me, if I could have stayed longer, I would have in a second, but the long-term boyfriend and my student loans were beckoning and I pretty much ran out of money!
I hope that helps you a little, I know that there is not that much info out there on the program and there’s pretty much NOTHING out there on quitting. Hang in there if you can and please enjoy Spain for me! I miss it so much.