March 2005 issue

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Working in Spain

Learning Spanish and then working in Spain, either for remuneration or for a professional experience, is becoming increasingly popular. We profile some schools that are active in this field and provide an overview of options available.

Today, globalisation obliges that a great part of the working population knows the labour markets, labour cultures and languages of foreign countries,'' states Marisa Bernáldez from Step - Stage within European Programmes in Seville. She adds, ''Moreover, in many companies, young professionals will only reach a higher position if they have acquired intercultural skills.''

It is for this reason that increasing numbers of language travel students are choosing to look for a language course that can also offer an internship or period of work experience. Spain is no exception to this trend, and an increasing number of schools are responding to the current appetite among students for work experience.

''As the European Union (EU) subsidises mobility programmes of students and young professionals, we have students [enrolling] from all European member states,'' states Bernáldez, who explains that Eastern Europeans have grown in number on their programme since the EU expansion last year.

At Best Programs in Madrid, which initially offered professional training for Spaniards and then expanded its programme to international students, Managing Director, Jill Arcaro-Gordon, observes that since the EU has ruled that five-year degrees should be the norm across most of Europe, an internship is now more likely than ever to be a component of an undergraduate degree, ''because of the general trend towards putting theory into practice in educational environments and the craze for experiential learning''.

Svitlana Shtengelova at Enforex attests to the rising popularity of internships, observing, ''A professional internship is the most important link between the classroom and the professional world.'' As in other companies, internship options in various areas are available at Enforex, such as financial services, media, marketing, hospitality and fashion. Most schools try and fit a student with a number of companies.

During a professional internship, a student will be required to undertake various adminstrative tasks, using both their languages and interacting with other staff. A typical stay in Spain for a student can be from three to five months. Because of the timeframes involved, payment is often a question that arises. Some schools offer au pair options to help students with the costs of staying in Spain. At Best, au pair options are available for English speaking students only, as they are expected to speak with a family s children in exchange for room and board.

''It is not everyone's cup of tea because of the time constrictions it poses,'' says Arcaro-Gorden. ''On the up side, it saves the intern candidate around e1,500 (US$1,956) over a three-month period on [lodging].'' At Coined in Spain, Fernanda Rojas explains that au pair opportunities have been introduced recently for students who might be interested in exchanging their help in the home for cheaper living costs.

Some interns receive some form of remuneration for their work in an office, but as Rojas confirms, a salary is not the norm when students undertake an internship. ''In some cases, host companies pay for transport, lunch, and sometimes, even a bit of pocket money, but that is up to the company,'' she says.

The other option available to students with an eye on their finances is to sign up to work in a particular sector such as the hospitality industry. Don Quijote now offers paid work experience in the Costa del Sol, in partnership with an experienced provider of paid work placement, says Erin Corcoran at the company. ''We're very excited about the Study & Work course with paid work experience,'' she says. ''For some, it's a self-financed year abroad.''

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