Biggest Challenge in Spain

The biggest challenge I have faced since being in Spain is finding time to have meaningful and genuine conversations with local people from Spain. Because the Pitt program is housed in university residence halls with mostly students from the United States, it has been hard to encounter natural situations to have conversation in Spanish. The few Spanish students living at the Lope de Vega residence hall speak very good English and want to practice it with us. When going out and about in the town of Alcalá de Henares, the interactions I have in stores and restaurants are largely the same every time and repetitive. I quickly learned the few phrases needed in stores for things like the probadores or fitting rooms. To address this challenge during my time in Spain, I have made a conscious effort to strike up conversation with random people I meet. I have been able to have brief, but interesting conversations with Lope de Vega security guards, housekeeping staff, and dining hall staff. In addition, as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have had lots of fun speaking with Uber or Cabify drivers in Spanish. I have also met many people my age, while on public transportation going to or from the Madrid city center. From this challenge, I have learned that immersing yourself in a language is an active and conscious effort, as in a more and more globalized world, it can be easy to find others who speak the same language and fall back in to a comfort zone of sorts. All of this is not to say I have not enjoyed meeting lots of new people from all over the United States, but I had expected to feel completely immersed in Spanish language and culture, which has not really been the case. If other students studying abroad encounter a similar situation, my advice to them would be to make every conscious effort to limit their use of English and to step out of their comfort zones and try to talk to as many people as possible, whether it be on public transportation, in restaurants or bars, or in other public settings. I have found that generally the people I have met from Spain are very kind and very welcoming to foreigners. I would also encourage them to sit at bar-style seating in restaurants, because conversing in this setting with employees has been very entertaining and a good way to practice Spanish in a more realistic setting.

Leave a Reply