April 14, 2014, by Guest blog

Seven months on, I’m pleased to be able to tell you that I’m no longer such a tragic figure

For at least the first month after I arrived in La Rioja just under seven months ago, I felt overwhelmed and homesick. This feeling was quite unexpected, not least because I’m an independent and usually quite confident person but also because I hadn’t experienced any problems settling into Nottingham when I moved away from home to start University, or into Munich, where I au-paired for a family over summer.

La Rioja is the smallest of Spain’s autonomous communities, in terms of both land area and population, and in Logroño it seems that everyone is connected to each other in some way. Relationships have been developed over lifetimes and at first it seemed that such close-knit friendships were impenetrable and that I’d never be able to connect with anyone. I studied Spanish from beginners’ level at University and upon arrival here, my level was still so low that I struggled to make myself understood in shops, so it seemed impossible that I’d ever make any friends and I worried that I’d continue to feel as horribly lonely for the next 9 months.

Seven months on, I’m pleased to be able to tell you that I’m no longer such a tragic figure! In October, I found an intercambio (language exchange) partner. We meet at least once a week in different cafes and speak for about 40 minutes in English and for a further 40 minutes in Spanish. Not only has she helped me to develop my Spanish and my confidence in using it, she has introduced me to different parts of the city, advised me about area- and culture- specific problems, and has become a good friend.

I’ve also connected with a lot of my work colleagues. I work as a language assistant in a tiny village just outside the city, and a teacher who lives near me gives me a lift to and from work. At first, I was quite shy but as my language ability has improved, so have our conversations.  Since Christmas, which is really when I became able to take part in conversations, other colleagues have also invited me to dinners and parties. I have a lot more time off in between classes than most of the teachers, so I spend them in the café drinking (too much!) coffee and chatting to the lady who runs it, who is very patient with me and has been teaching me colloquialisms and idioms!

Posted in Making connections