April 9, 2014, by Guest blog
Make an effort and get involved!
One of the main pieces of advice you’re given when leaving for your year abroad is to make an effort and involve yourself, whether that be with the language, friends, teachers, students, housemates…or whatever else. 8 months down the line I have to say that I can’t agree more. Making an effort and forming connections with friends and colleagues has helped me to settle in and enjoy my year abroad so much more.
Friendships on a year abroad are really important. It’s hard to make connections and form friendships with Spanish people, especially at the start as the majority don’t speak English and your Spanish seems to begin and end with topics and vocabulary related to ‘what I did at the weekend’, ‘pros and cons of immigration’ and ‘the environment’. Having been there, I would have to say the main thing I’ve learnt is perseverance and to involve myself, no matter how awkward and weird I feel! Setting up tandem exchanges has been great, especially when I was finding it hard to meet Spanish people. Despite the surreal notion of meeting up with a stranger in a café for 2 hours in Madrid’s Plaza de España, it actually worked. I’ve made a really great friend who plans to come and visit me and vice versa. I’ve now got somewhere to stay whenever I want to come back to Spain, and also have someone to look over and correct all of my essays and seminar prep! Granted, they weren’t all so successful…but the connections I have made with Spanish friends will be something I will keep up and continue to make an effort with!
As I’ve worked during this year, I’ve had loads of opportunities to mingle with Spanish adults, which is something I think is really good. Adults have a (sometimes annoying) habit of always correcting you, which is obviously actually very helpful and also of seeming to know everything possible about a city. I’ve been given details of backstreet cafés off the Plaza Mayor, special discount Corte Ingles shops round the corner and which food you should/should not buy and where you should buy it, to name a few pieces of useful advice! Having moved cities, I’ve made an effort to keep in contact with those from the last which makes my connections in Spain even stronger.
Housemates, wherever you are, can be great or can be awful. I’ve had a mixture of the two, but have loved each experience nonetheless. Having Spanish housemates makes life a lot easier in terms of practise, and offers of trips to their weekend homes in the mountains are definite perks. Non Spanish housemates are also great. Living with a French girl and an Italian girl here, whilst previously living with an English girl and 2 Brazilians has given more one of the most multicultural experiences possible, which is amazing and I’ve learnt so much about the world. A year abroad makes you feel very wise and grown up!
I will leave Spain in a couple of months with great new friends, experiences and connections which I think will continue for many years to come.
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