This burst of heat we have seen over the past few weeks has had me thinking about my time in Spain as an Erasmus student and missing it dearly.
Whilst being in a stuffy classroom in the hot spring was not always the best experience, popping to the local bars after class for an ice-cold Mahou beer afterward always made up for it.
I loved doing that with my friends after most classes, except for exam season where ‘an ice-cold Mahou beer’ turned into ‘several ice-cold Mahou beers’. You can decide if I am joking or not…
I have so many fond memories with friends which I will cherish forever. However, I remember on my first day thinking that integrating myself and introducing myself was going to be like mission impossible.
I am a fairly chatty person, but the prospect of moving to a new city, in a new culture around people who do not speak my first language was scary. If you’re embarking on an Erasmus trip, be it for a semester or a year, or moving to Spain on a work placement, it’s vital you make connections with your peers and feel comfortable around them.
Having a few familiar faces every day really helps and you will feel confident in no time. Based on my experience, here are a few tips on how to integrate yourself and find your feet in a new social environment.
Tip 1: Break the Ice!
It may feel as though this goes without saying, but it’s so easy to just keep quiet and on the sidelines in a new place. If you’re moving to a new university, it’s likely that people will already have their own friend groups so you need to make the effort.
You can introduce yourself by sitting next to someone new and asking them about the classwork for instance. Ask them what they are studying, if they’re a home or international student, and where the best local bar is.
Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of speaking in Spanish
Especially in professional environments, people will really appreciate your effort with the language. Unlike in British universities where speaking English is often obligatory, it is common in Spanish universities to have the option to study in English.
Therefore, there are many students who do not speak Spanish. Most of the time, your skills will naturally improve as you become more confident. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers how to pronounce things, or how they would be said.
Tip 3: Join an Erasmus language exchange!
Language exchange groups are a fantastic way of meeting new people, practising Spanish in a safe environment, and boosting your confidence.
Students will want to practise English with you, so you won’t be short of opportunities to talk! There are groups like this attached to universities across the globe, but the one I used to go to was in Madrid. You can find the link for it here.
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