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21 January, 2011

This spring, I decided to come to Spain for a month to improve my level of Spanish and to learn about Spanish cooking. I had studied cooking in Miami, but I didn’t know a lot about Spanish cooking.

I found the program organised by Instituto Hemingway on the Internet and I decided to take part in it.

As I am American, I obtained a student visa for 6 months and I travelled to Instituto Hemingway’s headquarters in Bilbao, where I took an intensive course in Spanish language. I found it especially useful as I didn’t know much Spanish before. I soon learnt that not everyone speaks English in Spain and that my time here would be much more beneficial if I could communicate confidently in Spanish.

During my stay in Bilbao I learnt a lot of things about Spanish culture, and above all about cooking. With www.institutohemingway.com , I took a course in basic hospitality online that helped me to understand the catering industry in Spain, although I have found that the best way was to discover by myself by visiting the restaurants in Bilbao. Bilbao is situated in a region of Spain called the Basque Country, where you will find the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants….and now I know why. All the bars offer delicious tapas called pintxos, and are miniature versions of the delicious dishes. The restaurants offer menus based on products from the market; meat, fish and vegetables that you can buy at the local markets, like La Ribera along the river in Bilbao.

After a month in Bilbao at Instituto Hemingway, I aimed to do a work placement at the hotel restaurant Casa Arauko in Valdegovía. www.valdegovia.com
It is situated 60km from Bilbao, and 35km from Vitoria. Valdegovía is a rural area where it is easy to make friends and meet the local people. I went there, and I met the owner of Casa Arauko, Arancha, who welcomed me with open arms. Arancha is an excellent cook, although she always denies it, and I have learnt a lot about Spanish and Basque cooking from her. Now I have learnt to cook various types of paella, cod and even peppers in squid ink, as well as other specialities involving mushrooms and game.
At the restaurant I worked 5 days a week, and during my free time I visited the famous vineyards of La Rioja, and other nearby cities such as Logroño, Burgos and San Sebastián.
I have returned to Miami with the idea of opening up my own restaurant. I know that it is difficult, but I will try to achieve it.
I would like to thank Arancha and Instituto Hemingway for all that they have done for me during my time in Spain.

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30 Comments

  1. Zoobia2011-07-14 ,

    The reason students are required to gain work experience on internships, usually throughout the summer months, is that most employers will hire someone who has already had experience in the tourism field. However, this is not always the case as many people become part of management team only having a bachelor's degree and working their way up through the ranks to senior management level. travel management school Philippines



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  2. A. Maurice - USA2011-02-17 ,

    I am so curious about this program, and am ready to start immediately. I am just cutious to know who pays for the airfare to Spain and back to the US when/if time comes? This may sound like a dumb question, but this info is not said. The program i am going for is "STUDY AND LEARN - in SPAS AND RESORTS". Though i have not read everything on the site, honestly, i do intend to. For i am STILL very interested and will make it my priority to persue.

    Again, as much help/assistance/positive direction anybody can give me, please do so. This will be greatly appreciated.

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  3. sandy Sander2011-02-15 ,

    I did this placement in Spain last year, and I was really happy with Instituto Hemingway. Their treatment was always efficient and really helpful. It does at first seem like quite a lot of money to be spending but the experience you gain is really valuable, especially to enhance my CV. It was a really great way to spend a summer! I recommend it to everyone

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  4. chema2011-02-15 ,

    was so happy to work through Instituto Hemingway. I highly recommend Instituto Hemingway for their professionalism. In their rules you have the right to be offered a second placement and I am surprised they didn´t. All I can say is that my experience was fantastic and I would recommend Instituto Hemingway by all means for any work abroad programs. I have heard that sometimes Instituto Hemingway keeps the money paid for up to a year for other programs you might take. This could be also a good option.

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  5. Melanie Globber2011-02-15 ,

    Have you thought about working for a british tour operator out here in Spain? In 2005 I worked for canvas holidays in a campsite in the costa brava and it was great fun and you don’t have to pay any fees to work there. They pay just under £500 a month and you live in a tent! However it’s not bad living in a tent when you’re in the sun!!! The job itself is hard work but there are loads of young people and you make lots of new friends, both british and spaniards. I would recommend it if you’re looking for something for next summer. They also pay your flight to Spain too. Yes it’s hard work, yes it’s rubbish money, but you’re not out of pocket paying someone to look for a job. If you’re interested start applying now, or in September to make sure you get a place!

    I also did the british council language assistant position and that’s another programme which you don’t have to pay to be on. You get around €630 a month for 12 hours work a week and you can do private classes in your spare time to make some more cash. If you want to do that also you’d need to start applying around.

    Instituto Hemingway seems to be a great option too

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  6. Sandra locker2011-02-15 ,

    And also I find it shocking how helpful and how good an attitude the Instituto had with you! I can’t imagine how great it must have been to be enjoying in Madrid by yourself with Instituto Hemingway to help you! There was no other interns in the hotel I worked in so I know how you felt!
    I also found it strange how the Instituto had limited contacts for placements… that job at the riding centre sounds very strange!! Especially with no experience! What if you didnt want to work with horses?!

    I loved all things they did.

    Airdale - did the hotel ever mention anything about paying you? My hotel certainly did not mention it to me once! Even if it was cash in hand - which I expect it would be because they didnt take my bank details - I would think that the hotel would at least have mentioned when they were going to pay me but they didnt! Very weird!

    Finally I was paid in cash and loved my experience.

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  7. Norma Paters2011-02-15 ,

    Hi everyone!
    Sorry that I haven’t been on this for a while! My emails didnt alert me that there were new posts!

    I have now extended my placement in Spain with Instituto Hemingway so this is my experience with them in Spain.
    It wasnt a big problem but it meant that the hotel thought I wasn’t coming to work there and so my room in my apartment had been taken by another worker.
    My apartment was a 10 minute drive away from the hotel I was working in. And I was driven everyday by one of my co-workers.
    I shared an apartment with 2 other female co-workers which at first made me feel a little uncomfortable but for the short time I knew them they were pleasant enough but I still don’t agree with the situation that they put me in. Instituto Hemingway in 48 hours arranged everything for me again and from that point on I am very happy. It was shocking at the beginning but now I am fine.

    My job within the hotel was a waitress in the restaurant. My job was to clear the plates of the clients, set the tables, and things like that. The job was ok. I was not allowed to talk to the clients which sometimes made me feel stupid but at other times the clients were very kind the men were nice and always talked to me etc Onto my shifts….I worked 6 hours a day. I was picked up at half 7 in the morning from my apartment, worked until half 12. Then at night I was picked up at 6 and finished at 8! I slept so well all my days there. I was so happy that I could think that was my paradise! Surely this should indicate that something is right.
    So I extended my stay in the hotel without consulting the Instituto, there was very professional and said no problems, when I applied for this internship they offered me 3 different hotels, . They told me that usually they only offer interns 3 hotels and that they were being extra nice to me by offering me the one in Barcelona. I.
    All in all, Im glad I undertook this oppotunity, I learnt alot about work in Spain and it opened my eyes to the cons of the prons and cons of programmes. It also means I can advise people on here on what to expect. If I hadnt of done this placement then I wouldve regretted not doing it.

    So after I left the hotel I made my way down to Alicante where my friends are working for a stag and hen company and in bars in Benidorm. I am still here although I am leaving this week to return home. I could try to find work here in Alicante but my friends are leaving soon and it is too dangerous here to live by myself.
    I feel like I have been successful and that my friends and family back home will be pleased that I extended my stay many months in the hotel There is always next year to try working in Spain again, and luckily for me for my forth year of university I will be studying in Spain! I can’t wait!

    Jessica - you’re so brave to be staying there yourself! But that is good you have made friends and that you have been given time off to explore! What kind of shifts do you work there? That is also good news that they have moved you up to a position running the restaurant! There was absolutely no opportunity for promotion in the hotel I was in!

    Anyway, sorry for this very long post but there you have it, please feel free to ask questions! Thanks to Instituto Hemingway I made my dreams true

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  8. Jacob Wanders2011-02-15 ,

    I understand your feelings but for example Instituto Hemingway does not recommend to travel around Europe while working and Jess is doing that. I carefully read all the FAQs they sent me. Most of people, including me, didn´t have a clue about Spain (just some stereotypes, movies and that it is it) and now I know that Spain is divided in 17 regions with lots of competences, that there is a Socialist government in the power, that there are Nationalist parties in Cataluña area that have forbidden teaching in Spanish in any Primary or Secondary School of Barcelona etc. Spanish people are lively and proud of their culture. Try to get involved with them!! Do not be mixed with other expats I sent my girlfriend to study with Instituto Hemingway and she loved that!! They are honest and trusworthy. When you say they didn´t have hotels to place you inmediately, and above all in cities. They need interns in villages but students like me don´t want to go there. Hope that this things I am telling you are reasonable. I am just trying to explain how it sounds everything

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  9. Luz Light2011-02-15 ,

    Hey Everyone, and thanks for your replies!

    Megan: They did tell me the name of the Hotel before I began. However, I looked at the map provided by the hotel’s site which of course makes it look very close to the center of Madrid as an appealing feature of the hotel. What I should’ve done was use Google Maps because it shows actual photos of the location. I got the impression that this was the closest hotel to Madrid, because when I asked if I could please go to a different location within Madrid, I was told the ONLY other choice would be for me to go to Pais Vasco because there were no other locations available. I was convinced that the 100 Euro placement fee would mean they would try a little harder to find contacts!

    Sally: I talked to some of my co-workers, and they told me that as a tourist I could use my license from the US for up to 30 days. I looked up cars to rent but they were 800-1000 Euros per month (I might as well take a taxi everytime I need to go somewhere, because I think it would turn out cheaper!)

    The work situation is getting better… I worked a little bit extra and got some time off to get away to Amsterdam for a few days. I have less than 4 weeks left of my program… Krissa how is yours going?! Insituto Hemingway answers me inmediately and I am very happy with the service provided.

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  10. lisa2011-02-15 ,

    Chema, obviously the reasons you stated are fantastic for Hemingway’s program. Yes, it is a cheaper option to come to Spain. Yes, it may offer a good service. I appreciate that you offered your experience, Apparently you enjoyed a lot and it is like us. That is the reason Instituto Hemingway is a reputable company with many years of service. Thanks God this is the best company I could meet. On a second note; Jess, yeah the car thing does sound a bit complicated. From what I’ve read you can get an “international drivers license” which seems pretty easy. But I’m not sure if you had to do it in your home country. Also, you can get automatic transmission cars in Spain, they’re just not popular for some reason. You’d probably have to pay more for it, but I guess that’s always the case!
    Also, glad to hear that your work situation is improving!

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  11. Sandy Sanders2011-02-15 ,

    Hi Jess! I really appreciate you coming on here and sharing your experience. Did they tell you the name of your hotel before you left? (i.e., Would I have the ability to look it up and figure out where exactly it is before agreeing to go there?) Did you get the impression that you’re in the only hotel they have a connection with “in Madrid”? I think that this company works very good. Thanks

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  12. chema2011-02-15 ,

    This is Chema again. I wish I could work for Instituto Hemingway…. Unfortunately I am broke and looking for a new job in the international field. Think about ourselves for a sec. Would you have worked in Spain if it not had been for this company? The answer in most of cases is NO. I have also found out that according to my previous jobs many people dedicate a big chunk of their scarce time to criticize the company they were working for, which I hate it. Some times is like a kind of sport… Why instead of doing that just do things on your own?? If it was the case you would probably be in your home country yet or would have squandered tons of money in funding your time in Spain. This is what I was trying to explain. At least one voice in the desert to defend the good name of a company. By the way, I was in the Basque Country and I loved it. At least there is not massive tourism and people speak Spanish very clearly, not like in Barcelona or in Andalusia.

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  13. Jessica gonzalez2011-02-15 ,

    Hey Sally,

    I missed the last part of your post. I have thought about getting a car, but I’m not quite sure how licenses work around here. I have a license and car in the US, but it seems like EVERY car I’ve seen here is manual transmission (which I don’t know how to use). I’m not sure if it’ll be worth the expenses to get a car and pay for the license and insurance. Also, drivers in Spain, from what I’ve seen, are CRAZY. There are so many different things (like the numerous traffic circles and a million tunnels) that aren’t in the US. If there was a closer metro or bus stop that didn’t require crossing that treacherous highway, I would be soooo much happier!

    I’ve straightened out some of my issues with the work- I no longer have to wash dishes or clean the kitchen, I just take care of the dining area. I also like talking to the clients because most of them are here on business and apparently bilinguals (English/Spanish) are a rare find in Spain and many are quick to ask for my CV- so this may actually help with networking.

    Again, I can’t compare the Instituto and the Hotel because they are two completely separate companies.

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  14. Lucas Woityla2011-02-15 ,

    I have been at my hotel in Madrid for 8 weeks now, and will work/live here until the end of August. For the first week, I was happy because Instituto Hemingway told me what I was going to have and they were honest. Instituto Hemingway is a great company. They were, indeed, offering me the best they could. I talked to my coworkers and decided to extend my stay, The work has gotten better, mainly because I’ve gotten to know my co-workers and feel like I could be more vocal about my preferences. I’ve also made some friends in the city which makes things so much easier, and gives me something to look forward to when not working! I just find it interesting how Instituto Hemingway boasted about their contacts throughout Spain, but when I asked to me moved to a different location, I only had one option which was completely in a different part of the country in a small village of 100 inhabitants (as I said, I’m a city person). All in all Instituto Hemingway did their best. I am sure about it but could give me more options to choose from.

    I agree Krissa, I couldn’t find any information on this company when I was in the registration process. I wish I did, but now I know I could be of help to people like yourself.
    So, how did your first week go? What kind of work will you be doing? I’m in a room in the hotel and I eat from the hotel’s restaurant which isn’t the greatest- but it’s free. Let’s just say I’ve lost a lot of weight- haha. My contract did say that I would be a waitress, so I knew I would be working in the restaurant. My first week was a little shocking because as a college grad who is bilingual I was surprised at how I was treated, but after almost a month here I’ve established myself and my responsibilities are more challenging and some nights I run the entire restaurant by myself (this includes serving the food, taking orders, cleaning the restaurant, and also all of the billing/transactions). I’m just happy to have the international experience because when I return home to the US I’ll look for jobs within international companies and it will certainly help. Any other questions, just ask!

    Instituto Hemingway is a great company

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  15. Sam Sanchez2011-02-15 ,

    Thanks Chema for your great comments. I really appreciate them

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  16. Liz Sanders2011-02-15 ,

    Hi everyone!

    I am starting my internship with Instituto Hemingway on Monday! I have been searching for information on this company for months and nothing came up and now this! I considered so many options but with the unemployment rate in Spain being very high I thought there was no way a foreign student will find a job this summer easily! I am British so luckily I dont need a visa but it is still difficult to find anything! So I have gone ahead and paid them the money and have gotten a placement…

    Instituto Hemingway by far is one of the best companies to find internships in Spain.

    I’m going to the coast to work in a hotel for 2 months. I dont want to get into too much information about my experiences with the company just now as this may be used against me since this information is obviously publicly accessible!
    But dont worry I will let u all know how I get on at the hotel when im there…hopefully my job wont consist of being bossed around by other employees and cleaning floors etc. And once my internship is over I will write a long review on the institute!!
    Can I ask you jessic what it said on your contract your job responsibilities are? And what kind of accommodation are you living in? I hope I have a room in the hotel and not somewhere else!
    Thanks!

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  17. Pat Ocana2011-02-15 ,

    Thank you, Chema- I sure hope you’re right!

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  18. Chema2011-02-15 ,

    Hi there!

    When I took my internship in Spain I found other guys who were working with me and were in the same situation like you. I must say that the company (In this case Instituto Hemingway) had TONS of patience with this type of participants. At some point I just thought some interns looked to be clients of the hotel rather than interns. They didn´t stop complaining 24/7. The program is not a cheap place to stay in Spain but a cultural and new way of life inmersion to adapt to. I LEARNT A LOT throught Instituto Hemingway and NEVER got dissapointed with them. The director is a nice guy with an important cultural and linguistic background and is there to meet the needs of everybody but not to put up with situations that have to do more with emotional problems rather than with the program. I am sure that after some time there you will make friends like the guys I met and globally it will be a rewarding unforgetable experience

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  19. Danny lombe2011-02-15 ,

    Hello Everyone,

    I have already been at my program for about a week. So far, it really going well. I was told I would be in easy access to the center of Madrid, but the hotel I was placed in is located in the city centre and there is quite a lot of noise in the streets. Please keep in mind, I am a young woman (20 years old) and I love it! Also, I am a college graduate and expected to have a job that would utilize my abilities and I got it!! I know that my placement was to work in a hotel, and this met totally met my expectations. It is more than I thought. The hotel is GREAT!! Everybody here is friendly and are helping me a lot with my Spanish. So, I just can say good things of Instituto Hemingway. They told me all things I got here and I am enjoying so much that time goes by so quick.. I do not miss USA at all!!

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  20. lisa matter2011-02-15 ,

    Jessica—When do you start? Let us know how you like it!

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  21. jessica Clohe2011-02-15 ,

    Hey Everyone,

    I’m participating in an Instituto Hemingway program starting in 4 weeks. I will be in Madrid for 2 months, and the program fee was 560 USD (400 Euros) and my round trip flight for 580 USD. I think it’s a good deal, considering I’m a recent college grad and always wanted to travel, this is the cheapest option I found. I’m already fluent in Spanish, and this was the only program that I could find that wouldn’t force me to pay and take Spanish courses that I didn’t need (I was a Spanish TA and tutor in College, I could probably teach the classes myself haha ) Anyway, I think it sounds like a great deal (especially since the US job market is terrible and it doesn’t look like I’ll find a job anytime soon!)

    let me know what you think!

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  22. chema2011-02-15 ,

    Hi there!

    I took part in the same program run by Instituto Hemingway. I had a GREAT experience and it was easy, simple and low-cost to organize it. My Spanish improved A LOT and made tons of friends. I worked in a resort and at the end of the day I just can say that although at the beginning I was suspicious of the program, now I just can say THANKS to Instituto Hemingway. I also took Spanish courses with Instituto Hemingway. It is much better to take Spanish lesons to adapt yourself to a new way of life, language and culture. I strongly recommend it to you even if your Spanish is good enough.

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  23. sandra thomas2011-02-15 ,

    Hmmm that’s disappointing. My boyfriend was thinking of maybe applying for 2012… I’ll let him know if he wants to do it he needs to get in his application really early! I am planning to study abroad .. probably in Bilbao. I hate Barcelona. Everything there is in Catalan. Obviously, he would need to be in the same city. We’re trying to figure out a way for him to make some money while we’re there.. but, you’re right, $700 a month isn’t much, so we’re looking into other options, too.
    I got a book from the library “Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America” by Mark Ehrman. It has a lot of testimonies from people who have moved abroad from the U.S. It seems like many people are able to find unofficial ways to stay and Spain and other European countries and take English-teaching jobs under the table. But I’d like us to stay official if there’s any way possible!
    I’m researching this stuff a lot, so I’ll let you know if I come across anything that might be useful!

    Instituto Hemingway is my second choice if not the first one.

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  24. Lucas Pawton2011-02-15 ,

    I really appreciate your suggestion, but it is funny that you mention the cultural ambassadors program. I have already applied and been accepted to that exact program. The problems are:

    1) They pay 700 euros a month, total, and that IS NOT in addition to room and/or board. So, as you can imagine, I’d need to arrive with a considerable chunk of change. I was planning on doing it anyway, though, and looking into various ways to come up with the extra money, but. . .

    2) I told them the regions I would prefer, and not only did they NOT put me in any of the THREE top regions I asked for, they didn’t even listen to the demographics I specified. I checked the box which indicated I preferred to be placed in a city of over 500,000, and I was in fact placed in a town of approximately 15,000. It is in the Castilla-La Mancha region, in the Ciudad Real area, though not in Ciudad Real but in the town of La Solana.

    I have only another couple days to say whether or not I want the position, and I’m leaning toward NO. I have written letters to several people involved with the program, and they have all said that there is no possibility of changing to a different location.

    The program works on a kind of first come, first served basis. I got my application in about a month BEFORE the deadline for this year. Apparently, that was so late that I couldn’t get a position in any urban area in any region of Spain. I’m actually quite upset about it, as I’ve been planning on participating in this program for over a year. I got a recommendation letter from a teacher a year and a half ago specifically to send to this program.

    Anyway, I think it is a great idea, but for everyone’s future knowledge, you should apply REALLY early to get a spot in the region you’re interested in. The program allows current assistants to “renew” for the following year, so the ones in really great locations have the advantage over the new applicants, as they are reassigned to the same place the following year.

    As for me, I’m more of a location first, vocation second type of girl. I don’t want to live in a 15,000 person town for 8 months, even if it is in Spain.

    Then, I think I will apply for the program with instituto hemingway. They are better organized that these guys from goverment

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  25. Lisa Perez2011-02-15 ,

    I spent my time with Instituto Hemingway last year and had no trouble with them at all. I highly recommend you to take the online hospitality management program they have. It will give you a feedback of how life is there and how you can adapt yourself with no problems at all. Thanks for your time and thanks to Instituto Hemingway

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  26. Megan Loghry2011-02-15 ,

    Thanks for the post, Mac. I mean, I haven’t broken any law anywhere since I turned 21. (I was known to have the occasional beer before I was legal.) It sounds like Although I am a little resistant to pay them a fee, I mostly just want a financially viable, legal way to spend many months in Spain. I will keep looking into that. Instituto Hemingway seems to be the best option

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  27. megan Loghry2011-02-15 ,

    Thanks for the reply. The problem is that I don´t have much money and I don´t know them personally. I know lots of people have gone through that program of Instituto Hemingway, but how does that really work? Also, has anyone else in here just started teaching with no training whatsoever? How difficult would it be to find a position under those circumstances? I think Instituto Hemingway is the best option but I am just need more feedback

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  28. Peter Macdonalds2011-02-15 ,

    This sounds fantastic in my opinion. Anyone that goes to the extent of offering this kind of package, in my opinion is GREAT as you will enjoy your time in Spain as never before. Your placement fee is not so much as it is good value for money. I would recommend coming with the Instituto Hemingway with no doubts on it. There are many advantages to come with them and one is honesty and second they are very professional

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  29. Megan Loghry2011-02-15 ,

    Hi everyone. I studied abroad in Bilbao several years ago, and now I would like to come back for a while. I plan to head there in the fall and stay for about 10 months at this point, and then I’ll probably head home again, unless I get too addicted and feel my Spanish is good enough for a paramedic job.

    Anyway, I don’t have enough capital to really feel comfortable just moving there and seeing what happens. I’m an American, and I’ve heard that much of the teaching work would have to be under the table and not pre-arranged since I don’t have a degree or any experience in that area.

    I found Instituto Hemingway which has already guaranteed that they can find me a hospitality-type job in a hotel for the duration. (Receptionist, maid, waitress, etc.) In exchange I get all room and board and a minimum of 50 additional euros a week as pocket money, depending on the hotel. The lodging is EITHER in a room in the hotel or in a nearby apartment, once again depending on the hotel. In addition, I have to pay Insituto Hemingway a placement fee. My first questions are, has anyone heard of Instituto Hemingway? After reading this article and many others I feel relieved


    If they are on the up-and-up, I think it would be a good arrangement for me. I like the idea of paying for a couple thousand worth of plane tickets and program costs before I go, but then knowing I have a roof, guaranteed job, and pocket money for the duration.

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  30. Julius Pandori2011-01-26 ,

    I took part in the hospitality management program and I just loved it!!

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