Six months ago, Lester Herrera, 31, was unemployed in the San Francisco Bay area…a victim of “down-sizing”, despite having a business degree from USC.
He had been laid off from a non-profit organization where he worked as a career counselor. After several attempts at finding another job, he decided to retire early…to Spain.
Today Lester lives in dynamic Madrid. “I only work four days a week,” he says. “I have Mondays off. When I travel, I go for a long weekend.”
His official job employs him for approximately 25 hours a week. “I work from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. and I have a two-hour break in the middle of the day.”
On his long weekends he goes exploring in nearby cities like Barcelona, Avila, Salamanca, Segovia, and Zaragoza. He plans to visit relatives in Switzerland soon.
Although Lester’s not getting rich on his salary, he’s getting paid to live in Europe, with health insurance and a visa issued by the Spanish government.
How did he semi-retire at only 31-years-old? It all started when Lester visited the annual Los Angeles Times Travel Show.
“I’d visited Spain three years ago and I fell in love with it and wanted to go back,” he explains. So he wandered over to the Spanish booth to ask them how he could possibly teach English there.
That’s when the Spanish representative told him about the Auxiliares de Conversacion program. It’s where native English speakers help teachers in Spain teach English. All Lester needed was to be a native speaker with a college degree. “Sign me up,” he laughed.
Lester filled out the form on the Auxiliares de Conversacion website and supplied the requested documents.
“If you apply early you get a choice of regions to be placed in,” he explains. “My top three choices were Madrid, Catalonia, and Basque Country. I got Madrid.”
And he’s very glad he did. “You learn so many things, like trying to be bilingual or being improvisational. I’ve been able to meet a lot of cool people here in Madrid, it’s the center of everything.”
While other countries offer similar teacher’s aide programs, only Spain offers this opportunity to everyone, regardless of age. The region of Madrid is the exception, requiring applicants to be under 35.
In between teaching, learning Spanish, and travel, Lester finds time to make new friends. “The Auxiliar program is one big network. Someone might teach a free yoga class, or a group might get together for a bike ride, or to see a museum.” In fact, he is enjoying himself so much he’s thinking about staying another year to perfect his Spanish and get his TEFL certification at a language school.
“At the school I work at, all of us teachers get together for lunch, and talk as friends,” says Lester. “The Spanish really value that. They work to live instead of living to work.”
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