Guiri 101: A Crash-Course on How to Find Summer Work in Spain

 Think of summer. Popsicles, parades, swimsuits (and if you’re me, likely a sunburn that sends you inside to pout about how you can never get a tan).

For me, summer is rarely synonymous with beaches and sunburns and barbecues, but rather pencils and books and scrambling for cash. Even though I am eligible for unemployment benefits when my contract finishes at the end of June each year, I nearly always work during the month of July to help pay for my tapas-and-beer binges and need to travel.

Finding summer work in Spain can be both easy and frusterating. While many of my teacher friends choose to go home or just deal with the burn out in front of the air conditioner, I’ve compiled a list of jobs and websites that are available to North Americans (or otherwise) for the summer.

It’s important to know that tourism picks up during July and August, and most Spaniards have their holiday time during these months. This means unemployment takes a steep drop, and you can look for opportunities around Spain or even Europe.

Summer Camp Work

Like many other native English speakers, I have a ten-month contract as a teacher. The skills I use in the classroom transfer well to working at a summer camp, which can prove to be both intensive, but worthwhile and often lucrative.

What’s more, camps have gotten extremely popular for Spanish children whose families cannot afford to send their children abroad. Teachers can expect to earn from 500 – 1500€ for one month, depending on the job, hours, location and experience. If you’re at a residential camp, your housing and meals will also be paid for, allowing you to save up a fairly substantial amount if you’re smart.

I personally have worked for Forenex Wonderful Summer Camps in La Coruña. Based out of Madrid, Forenex is one of the oldest and best-known combination sports/language camps for Spanish kids from 5 years and up. Successful candidates will work for 4-5 hours a day with small classes to improve oral fluency through fun, dynamic activities. A course curriculum is planned, but having control of your own classroom is a great way to learn and see if teaching is for you. There are camps all around Spain that provide housing and your meals, along with emergency insurance.

TECS is also a popular camp in Andalusia, based out of El Puerto de Santa María. Most of the camps are in rural settings around the Cádiz province and include extracurricular activities in English, so you can expect to be outside of a classroom setting a bit more. As a counselor, you’ll be both a teacher and monitor. You can apply for these positions, as well as coordinator gigs, on their Work With Us page.

If you’re based in Seville, SOL’s day camps look to hire around 15 teachers each summer, as does Proyecto Búho for several native speakers. It’s also worth checking out private schools in the area, as many have begun to offer activities and day camps.

Canterbury TEFL out of Madrid is another company that offers veterans of its programs positions around Spain in various summer camps.

Want to volunteer teach while in Spain? You can try the Diverbo Pueblo Inglés, where you will participate in various activities as a language instructor and be compensated with room and board. Should you have more experience, you can also try for a coordinator position. Check out their jobs page to see if Pueblo Inglés is for you, and be aware that they also seek out teachers for available positions for the school year.

Websites like Dave’s ESL Cafe and TEFL.com are also places to look for academies that run summer programs or intensive classes in your preferred area of Spain. 

Au Pair Work

Au Pair jobs give you free room and board and a bit of pocket cash in exchange for several hours of light housework, childcare and cooking. Not the most glamorous way to spend your summer, perhaps, but many of the families who take on au pairs will spend some time at the beach or a summer homes.

Word of mouth is perhaps the best way to go – ask any of the people you tutor, Spanish friends with young kids, at academies or private schools. Alternately, you could try websites and placement services. Before you go, it’s a must to read this great au pair FAQ about how to find a family and have a positive experience from my blog friend Alex Butts (and check out her blog – it’s SandS with just as much sass and more great German beer).

Tour Guide Work

Jobs for tour guides abound during the summer months. Try wineries, seasonal museums or outdoorsy attractions, or even see if you can get part-time work through contacts at your study abroad school. As most Spaniards take off for the summer months, you may be in luck (particularly if you speak multiple languages).

A great way to get your foot in the door is to contact the tour company beforehand to take a tour yourself, or to ask the owners how they got involved in the business. As my friend Natasha says, people love to talk about themselves, so take advantage of that!

Bar Work

If you’ve got work permission and are looking for short-term summer work, consider working in a bar or restaurant. Think Spain’s Jobs Page has many real-time listings for jobs in holiday areas, particularly on the coasts and at summer camps. It’s also helpful to ask around at hostels in the city you’d like to spend a few months in, or just up and move there and hope for the best.

Jobs can also include PR and promotion, such as handing out fliers to tourists at their resorts or other venues, slinging drinks or, if you’re lucky and connected, you might even score a gig as a VIP (free drinks counts as a job, right?).

Resort Work

The July and August influx is not just about Spaniards flocking to the coasts – many holidaymakers from the UK and Scandanavia, as well as the US, come to Spain. Along the coasts, you can find ample opportunities in resort towns to work. Forget about hotel reception – resorts in Spain have been reinventing themselves during the crisis, and jobs are available as child care workers, water sport instructors or even drivers and couriers. Tour companies also look to hire people to be on-the-ground logistics handlers, though this may require work permission.

Seasonworkers.com lists dozens of short-term work opportunities around Spain, particularly on the islands and along the coasts.

Hotels and hostels tend to fill up, so if you’re also looking for a place to call home during the summer, consider working at a hostel for a few hours in exchange for a place to sleep. Sites like Hostel Jobs (which also has forums on summer camps and resort jobs) and Hostel Travel Jobs have searchable databases with ever-changing postings.

Cat says: I was not paid in any way to promote any of the jobs or companies posted here. Considering I get many emails regarding summer work, this post is purely informational and based on research and my own experiences. It is not, however, an exhaustive list, nor can I give you more advice than directing you to websites and giving ideas.

If you’re curious about working in Spain, visas, social security of have general enquiries about living in Spain, be sure to contact me on my other site, COMO Consulting Spain.

Seville Snapshots: Coruña’s Blue Hour

Julie lead us out of the bar and out towards the ocean. Seeing the Riazor and Orzan beaches, which nuzzle up to the isthmus of the city of La Coruña, continually takes my breath away as I remember long days laughing in the sun, learning how to surf in the gentle waves and raucous night botellones with teachers during summers past.

The city sits on a peninsula on the northwest corner of the region in the northeast corner, meaning its days are long and bright – when it’s not raining, that is.

At nearly 11pm, there was just a thin strip of pinkish-golden light that faded into the horizon as the waves slowly lapped at the pebbly beach. “My dad calls this the hora azul,” Julie explained of her coruñés father. What a privilege to live just steps from a city beach and to be able to pop down when the weather turns nice.

We stayed for nearly ten minutes, watching the natural light dwindle as the streelights twinkled, reflecting off the bay. When the weather gets hot and sevillanos flock to their beach home, Coruña feels like my own.

Have you ever been to La Coruña? Seville has its own golden hour, when the sun sets over the Aljarafe and kisses everything with one last little effort at lighting up the city.

Seville Snapshots: Un Poquiño da Coruña

Galicia, the region resting quietly above Portugal, is one of my favorite parts of Spain. Just this week I turned in my final project for my master’s, said adiós to my mom until Christmas and flew up to La Coruña, where I’ve spent the last four summers eating octopus and drinking yummy Estrella Galicia working at a summer camp (for real, I work my culito off!).

Coruña is a mid-sized town on the coast, sitting on a peninsula that stretches between a cresent beach and a bustling port. It’s often called the Crystal City because of the way the sun hits the large windows and the glimmer it leaves on the cool water of the Cantabric. I love its food, its people, its singsong language, and it feels like a second home to me.

After I spend three weeks at camp as the Big Bad Boss Lady (while eating at La Bombilla, drinking crisp Albariño wine and hanging out on the pebbly Orzán beach), I’ll join my friend Hayley in Asturias and walking 200+ miles along the coast and back to Galicia on the Camino de Santiago. I’m doing it for charity, so if you’re keen, read my reasons for walking or follow along on twitter and instagram at #CaminoFTK.

Have you ever been to Galicia? Check out my related posts on Coruña if you’re interested in all things gallego, and consider visiting this little-known region.

Travel Highlights from the Last Six Months of 2012

When I reflected on just how much travelling I’d done during the first half of 2012 – from two new autonomous regions of Spain to fulfilling a nagging want to see Istanbul, I vowed to slow down a bit during the second half. Not because I don’t love the butterflies of savoring a new place, but because I wanted to use this year to focus on a bit more than moving – slowing down to complete a master’s, to work on this blog, and stop to enjoy actually living in Seville.

My roommate, Melissa, used to call me Macaco after his hit, Moving. All the people moving, she said, was me; indeed, my parents claim that I never walked, but went right to running.

Go, Cat, Go!

July

After leaving my job and watching my friends Lindsay and David give one another the “si quiero” in the other’s language, I cheered Spain onto victory in the Euro Cup finals, had to say goodbye to Kike, and then set up camp on my own in La Coruña.

My fourth summer in this little rinconcito of Spain was just as magical as always, full of sweeping views of the peninsula, afternoons spent snuggling in bed with my computer in front of me catching up on some work, and plenty of fresh seafood. Our plans to see Fisterrea were foiled by the rain, per usual, but I left camp feeling ok about it.

August

My birth month found me back in Chicago, which truly is the ciudad de mi corazón. My friend Phil was back from a 2-year sojourn in San Francisco, so we spent time catching up and playing tourist in a city we’d both known for decades. Sweet home, indeed.

After 27 years and 28 countries, I finally made it to New York City. Cue Alicia Keys song, and you’ll understand my fascination. Sadly, all of my pictures not on social media were lost, but we hit all of the big places on our girls’ trip – the Rock, Central Park, Fifth Ave, Magnolia Bakery, Le Tren Bleu, The Financial District, Ellis Island. My friends Kim, Pedro, Monica and Cait all came in from Long Island and Jersey to help me celebrate my 27th birthday doing the things I love most – drinking beer, laughing like a crazed person, boating and eating well.

On the actual day of my birthday, Margaret, Nancy and I took the Bolt Bus to Boston for a family wedding. My birthday cake was made of cannolis and toasted with Blue Moons, courtesy of my father, and I ate an enormous lobster. Boston was a gorgeous city and just the right size, and I had the added bonus of celebrating my second consecutive birthday with my friend Bri and attending my cousin Thomas’s beautiful wedding on the Boston College Campus.

From there, I caught up on reading on the Amtak to Stamford, Connecticut, where my friend Christine lives. There were barbecues and flippy cup tournaments, boat rides and water skiing, and lots of laughs as we caught up in Spanglish.

September

Coming back to Spain after Labor Day was tougher than it has been, as I feel a bit in limbo over my future in Spain. As I got off the airplane and into a cab to get to Lauren’s house, I left my laptop in the backseat, never to see it again. There went my pictures, some semi-important documents…but I found that parting with it wasn’t the end of the world (and the excuse I needed to upgrade to a Mac). Baby steps, people.

Lauren, Liz and I attended Travel Bloggers Unite in Porto Portugal, a wonderful and oft-overlooked city with a thriving art scene. I was jet lagged, bummed about the computer and not looking forward to networking or selling myself or anything more than a glass of port and a stroll around the city’s old quarter. I was pleased to find other, well-established bloggers willing to help out and informative talks that inspired me to keep pushing on this project, making me feel less like a clueless newbie.

Kike took me to Cádiz the weekend afterwards as a late birthday getaway for us both. We explored the beaches in Tarifa (pictured above), Zahara de los Atunes, Bolonia and Zahora before the summer slipped away.

October

The ruins of Aracena castle

I started working with my students and a master’s all at once while adjusting to a totally new lifestyle by working in the evenings. Even with Fridays off, I opted to save a little money so I could buy a new Mac and pay the second half of my program in Public Relations. Kike and I did get to Aracena, a gorgeous white village in the mountains, for their annual ham fair. I was even interviewed while stuffing my face full of pig products by Canal Sur!

November

November blustered in with cooler temps, and I began to buckle down on blogging, teaching and masters-ing, taking the time to take care of my friendships and enjoy the lovely destinations in the province. We ventured north to San Nicolás del Puerto, the village where Kike’s family has property, to celebrate their patron saint’s feast day. Unfortunately, Camarón’s auto focus broke, leaving me with little else that weekend but instagram (follow me @sunshinesiestas).

A few weekends later, I was a guest in Estepa with Heart of Andalusia. This pueblo blanco in the eastern reaches of the province is famous for its mantecados and other Christmas treats, and we were treated to a lovely day out in a place I’d always wanted to visit.

December

Spain’s commemoration of their Constitution and the Immaculate Conception means back-to-back days off, so my friends and I rented a car, got pulled over by the cops, and barely made it to one piece to La Rioja, Spain’s Wine Country. While there, we feasted like kings on the famous Calle Laurel and took a trip to Marques de Riscal’s gorgeous bodega in nearby Eltziego.

I also made it to Madrid for my cuñado (brother-in-law)’s wedding, a food tour with Lauren of Madrid Food Tour and a quick trip to visit my host family in Valladolid. The following day, my family descended upon Madrizzz and we spent six days exploring Catalonia and Andorra (country 29 and already with Christmas sales!).

2013

2013′s travel plans haven’t been fully set yet, but my family and I are celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Plaza del Sol. In the works are an anniversary trip to Bologna, heading to Toulouse to visit friends and attending TBU wherever it may be this time around! And, without a doubt, walking the Camino de Santiago this summer!

Where are you heading or hope to visit in 2013?


Seville Snapshots: Baby’s First Goose Barnacle

Justin’s idea to spend our hard-earned cash money stemmed from a desire to indulge in Galicia’s finest, the shellfish that give lifeblood to the region’s economy. I had been a few times to Meson O Galego and eaten all the regional dishes they offered, washed down with a cold glass of Albariño wine. The deed was done. Between Justin, Scott and I, we split a 46€ mariscada, replete with crusty-shelled goodies.

Plump shrimp, a lobster tail, razor clams and crab legs all ended up on my plate as I wrapped up a phone call with my boss. I reached for more clams and fished around to see if any coquinas had made it onto the tray while the other teachers looked on, probably wondering how I could eat just so much seafood. For someone who comes from a landlocked, beef-producing state, my affection for all things aquatic didn’t begin until Spain.

Only one type of crustacean on the tray remained untouched. I’d seen the likes of it around supermarkets and in the windows of high-end seafood places. Percebes. Goose barnacles, or percebes, as they’re known in the Galician tongue, are filter-feeding crustaceans whose very sight caused my stomach to turn. Far too expensive to pick up in the supermarket for a snack (my local mercado sells them for 36€/100g!!), I’d never dared order them, lest I hate them and be none the richer.

It was now or never. Justin patiently explained that the coarse outside, which resembled a closed claw, was meant for nothing more than to protect the fleshy, edible part from the constant battering of the waves along the shore, and that the leathery suction cups were not to be eaten, either. One must twist the leathery part and pull, revealing one long, red part to be consumed. But, ojo! he warned, they squirt. Napkin tucked into my collar, I pulled with all my might, tearing the leathery body off of the claw. I consumed. It tasted like a sea urchin – like grainy, salty water. I tried a few more, for good measure, but my face above reveals just how much I loved them – I’ll stick to zamburiñas, por favor!

If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!

Sun, Sun, Sun!

Sunny days in Coruña are hard to come by. In the four months I’ve spent here over the years, the rain-to-sun ratio is probably at a 50-50 – not bad for a place whose average yearly rainfall is far higher than most places in Spain.

Usually, the rainy days in summer are good for a book and hot drink, or at least getting work done on my part, and they make the few days where the sun decides to peek out absolutely blissful. Just Sunday, after nearly two weeks of overcast skies and steady showers, the morning storm passed into a bright day – and the forecast had predicted rain.

Camarón was in tow, along with my new photographer friend, Justin. We have that kind of master-pupil relationship: me as his boss at summer camp, and him teaching a green thumb about aperture and ISO speed. The result? Photos that reflect Coruña’s Old World personality and a tummy full of ribs and belly laughs.

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