To make the most out of any study abroad experience you have to force yourself out of your comfort zone and try your best to get to know the people of whatever country you are visiting. If you keep yourself enclosed in a small bubble (only eating food that you’re used to, limiting travel to tourist destinations, not attempting to speak the host language when communicating with locals etc.) did you really visit the country at all? Speaking Spanish in Spain and meeting other Spaniards is how I have connected with this culture. I speak Spanish every day at my internship, when I go to the grocery store, when I go out to restaurants and when I go shopping. I have found myself using typical Spanish expressions, gestures and using a Spanish accent when I speak. Its been really rewarding to spend so much time speaking a language other than English because it’s excellent practice and I also I feel as though I can connect with locals on a more personal level.
At my internship the other day (CAR – Vallecas: Center for refugees) a resident came in to get more information about “segunda fase” which is the second phase that residents go through after their stay at the center. During this phase, residents are supported by non governmental organizations in finding a place to live. Anyway, the resident that came in knew English better than Spanish so I asked him if he would like to speak in English instead and he said yes. So we started speaking in English and I kid you not I forgot basic words because I’m so used to hearing Spanish. I started speaking in more of a Spanglish than English.
In addition to putting my best effort in speaking the host language, I’ve also tried my best to get to know the non-touristy parts of Madrid because non only are they less crowded but it’s also nice to experience Spanish life the way Spaniards do. I still have a long way to go in terms of knowing my way around Madrid but I have faith that I will get there! I also hope to plan trips outside of Madrid while I’m here and already have one to cross off of my checklist which is Toledo!
Last weekend my sister and I went on a day trip to Toledo which was previously the capital of Spain and is known as the “city of three cultures”. It’s called this because Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted there. It was so beautiful and was a nice break from the fast-paced city life of Madrid.