When I first arrived in Spain, I was in complete culture shock. I was stuck in Madrid airport with no idea what was going on or where to go. I remember my first hour abroad was a complete nightmare. The only thing I thought to myself was, “Wow, culture shock is definitely real.”
Fast forward two months later and I walk around Spain confident, amazed, and continuously learning every day. Coming to a country with no prior language experience was the epitome of culture shock, but it has pushed me in ways I’ve never been before. Over the past two months, I’ve been shaped into a new person because I learned a new language. Here’s why you should, too.
I remember my first week in Salamanca, Spain and thinking “what have I gotten myself into?” I was extremely anxious to speak to anybody in my classes, in stores, or even to order my food. I was nervous to be in a country where I couldn’t communicate completely. As the weeks went on, my Spanish got better. I don’t think this was because I was reading a textbook or studying flashcards, I think it was because a college Spanish course was now my real life. The more I put myself out there, the more confidence I gained. It was great to have those around me helping me as I go and making me feel more comfortable with my Spanish.
I’ve looked up to others that could speak multiple languages. I have always wondered how they have the ability to switch languages so easily when necessary. I’ve found that learning a new language will educate you in ways far beyond just the one you know. Once I educated myself in Spanish, I found it much easier to visit other countries and begin to pick up on other languages as well. You begin to become curious about what else is similar and different, and this curiosity leads to so much more.
Becoming cultured is a big part of study abroad. When we think about studying elsewhere in the world, we joke about being “cultured” when returning; but this is for real. I have learned so much from those around me in the short few months I’ve been in Spain thus far. You will find that each person you meet and communicate with in the local language while you’re abroad likely shares a common interest with you. Whether it’s getting to know your new home, liking the same foods, or in this case, learning the same language, you continue to learn about a new culture every single day.
I would recommend traveling to a country to learn a language to anybody looking to study abroad. Although it is definitely a scary thought at first, it is rewarding. You will see yourself grow in many ways that begin to shape you into someone new. It’s important to be curious about a world much bigger than your own, and I think going into study abroad completely blind is the best way.