I'll be honest, I didn't decide to study abroad because of the academic benefits and as my final month in beautiful Alicante, Spain is coming to an end, the classroom has been but a small gateway to learning the Spanish language.
From the moment I walk out of my room, I hear my madre española's musica española, I talk to her in español, I eat an español breakfast, watch the news in español, am met with españoles when I step foot out of my door, read signs in the tram station that are in español, listen to the people on the tram talk in español, and then finally make my way to school to learn español. So there is a lot of español happening even before I get to school! At my college I had only talked in Spanish during my 50 minute daily class and then afterwards would carry on with my life, but here, we are living in the classroom.
If somebody were to ask me "¿Sabes español?" six months ago, I'd have been like "Sí, más o menos," but from the moment I had to switch my brain into Spanish mode and keep it there for a week, I realized how little I really did know. There is no time to whip out your pocket dictionary during a conversation, you have to improvise! When the word on the tip of your tongue just won't come to you, you've got to think of synonyms, examples, and the ever useful charades! It's like a constant game of Taboo. I have found it to be both incredibly frustrating and a rewarding challenge.
Living in a homestay has helped immensely! I can't stress enough about how great of an experience it has been being completely surrounded by Spanish language and the Spanish lifestyle. I am able to learn things in the classroom and come right home to use what I had learned, it's such a rewarding feeling! My madre española corrects my grammar when I'm wrong and tells me how to say the things correctly so I am constantly learning.
Went to Las Fiestas de San Juan with mi madre española
to see her mom who was on one of the floats!
At times the language barrier can be annoying because it makes simple things take about twice as long to be understood, but as long as both you and the person you are talking with are patient enough, you will probably be able to articulate all of the confusing gibberish going on in your mind. I was apprehensive about coming to a country and city that I knew very little about (besides that the beach is within a 30 min walk), but just last week friends from Germany came to visit with little Spanish- speaking abilities and my friend and I were able to translate, speak on behalf of all of us and comfortably show them around our lovely city.
The first month was nerve racking as we were all trying to get our bearings here, but once you get the hang of things, your city will become home and a semester, or even a year, just won't be enough!
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