Finding Myself in My Own Culture

A big reason as to why I decided to continue studying Spanish in college and also why I decided to participate in a study abroad program in Spain is because I am half-Spanish. I wanted to feel connected to my culture. I believe that living in the country that embodies both of these things is definitively going to help me with this goal.

Although I’ve only been here a few weeks, I have accepted the fact that I am an outsider in Spain. No matter how hard I try, my Spanish will not sound exactly like theirs and because I am already 20 years old my personality and character traits are pretty much set in stone therefore I will most likely not fully acquire the extremely confident and outgoing aura that many Spaniards have (although I will try my best!). I used to find these things discouraging and thought they might debilitate my Spanish experience but I have transformed my mindset. I now find the fact that I am an outsider to be an advantage. I am experiencing Spanish culture from my own perspective. From the perspective of someone who is trying to understand a culture they identify with. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is allowing me to grow and learn more about myself.

I’ve been in Spain for almost 3 weeks now so I’ve had the opportunity to explore Madrid. So far my favorite places have been “100 Montaditos” (a restaurant chain that sells 100 different kinds of small sandwiches for 1 euro each and plenty of other cheap tapa options), Madrid’s largest park called “El Retiro”, and a bar called “Coyote” that plays solely Latin music and has a live bongo performance almost every night!

This bar/nightclub usually has a mix of tourists and locals. One of the things that I love about Spanish culture is the aspect of going out and dancing. Somehow, everyone knows how to dance. Especially at “Coyote”. A few nights ago, I was observing everyone in awe wishing that that could be me. Suddenly a guy asked me to dance and I almost backed out but I’m so glad that I didn’t. I stepped out of my comfort zone and it felt great. I danced and spoke Spanish with this guy for a few songs and felt like I truly belonged. 10/10 recommend letting loose on the dance floor in Spain because it is a great feeling.

In terms of language barriers/ cultural differences, I have encountered the most challenges in the work place. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am interning with an organization that provides assistance to refugees entering Spain in order to facilitate a smooth transition and them to integrate better into Spanish society. A lot of the information that I have received over the past few weeks have related to the process by which refugees integrate into Spanish living/society and how my organization plays a role within this process. Because I do not live in Spain, I did not have much previous knowledge on Spanish governmental practices, so a lot of this information is new to me. That makes it exciting but also challenging. At first, I was extremely overwhelmed with the  amount of new information that I was receiving, especially because it was in Spanish. I found myself asking  my supervisor to repeat himself multiple times because I wanted  to make sure that I was understanding him correctly and interpreting the information with accuracy. I continued to compare myself to the intern that I work with (a Spanish native) who seemed to be grasping all of the concepts/tasks perfectly. During a few frantic conversations with my mom about the situation at hand she told me a few things:

  1. never compare yourself to other people (it’s only going to discourage you!)
  2. you are an extremely capable person
  3. you just started this position and it is without a doubt going to come with it’s challenges
  4. you speak excellent Spanish
  5. contribute in conversation during lunch with my colleagues
  6. don’t be afraid to ask questions

Mom’s are the best.

After these  kind words and advice from my mom as well as other family members and friends, I truly feel more confident. I’ve noticed that when I’m in a confident mindset my Spanish becomes 10x better. This is extremely important to me, because at work when I am content with the way that I’m communicating in Spanish I not only feel better but I complete tasks with more accuracy. Even the simplest task that I mastered (managing to copy and scan a document correctly- TECHNOLOGY IS HARD) I felt accomplished.