I decided to go to Spain during the summer of 2018 to learn about Spanish culture and pick up some language skills along the way. I have always felt a connection with Spain and I really enjoy the music to fully understand the songs and films I enjoy watching I decided to try and learn Spanish. Little did I know, I would go on to learn more about myself than expected. To know a new language is a highly desirable skill for engineers in industry. I hope in the future this will provide me with more opportunities for work.
Before leaving for Spain I was mainly worried about not being able to convey my opinions. Which as you will read, I had a huge problem with in the beginning.
Over my 2.5 months away I learned, truly, what you get from an experience is from what you put in. I dove head first into a completely different culture, with next to no prior knowledge of the language other than it stems from Latin and that it sounds nice! Now 4th year in a 5-year MEng degree I begin the year with a fresh outlook on studying, eager to translate my learning experiences from living in Spain and implementing them into my academic career.
I begin the year with a renewed motivation and determination to perform at my utmost best. However, perhaps, the most important skill I learned is in communication. Having already had a role within the university as class representative I understood the importance of communication and the power it holds in life. Yet, my experience abroad has reinforced this and provided significant additional support. Having the confidence to just ask someone something and communicate with them can yield the most unexpected results. Infact, just through conversation (with someone I thought was just a random from the street) blossomed massive benefits for myself and a few friends, where we were then treated to tapas and entry to Parque Guell in Barcelona by the man and his company. (It was later revealed that this man was the CEO of Enforex & Don Quijote language schools). Asking for directions turned into a brilliant experience I will remember forever.
I have learned to push my limits and take risks with confidence. Something I would never have thought I would have said 6 months ago.
Monday 16th June
Today marks the day that I have been here in Barcelona for two weeks. I hadn’t written anything for the first two weeks since it was so hectic settling in and I was too busy enjoying the weather and getting accustomed to my surroundings. For the most part I have only taken pictures and videos that capture the most special moments from my time in Barcelona but to sum up the first week… Since I have friends in Barcelona I decided to stay with them for the first week of my trip (to save money) while attending my classes. My friends showed me the side to Barcelona that the tourists don’t really get a chance to see. The best; routes, views and restaurants in the city even taking me with their families to Costa Brava where we had a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The first week was 100% the hardest of my trip. I came to Barcelona to learn Spanish and I was plunged into it as a beginner with only a few words under his belt like, cerveza, por favour…you get my drift. I spent the first week struggling and not really enjoying myself…but with some advice from family members I pushed on. I found it exhausting to constantly translate everything I heard and even harder to formulate a response. It was a real test of resilience and endurance after this experience I have found the utmost respect for international students. One thing I know for sure is that after this trip my communication skills will have improved 10 fold.
The first week passed and I began getting used to the climate, accent and colloquialisms used by Barcelonés (people from Barcelona). From this point if I have any advice for future solo travellers in a country where they speak none of the language it would be this. Really make an effort to learn some of the language – give it a huge effort before you go and you’ll be in a much better position. I quickly realised what you receive is purely put down to what you put into it. I had made the mistake of being too relaxed with learning before hand.
The first week is always bound to be the toughest when learning a new language- you begin to understand what everyone is saying but you don’t have the vocabulary or grammatical savvy to be able to create a response quick enough in conversation with locals. It is difficult but if you push on you will be amazed at what you will accomplish.
During this week I took the time to wander the streets of Barcelona, going into markets, visiting the most famous of attractions and eating anything and everything Spanish. Pro tip: Eat Paella on Thursdays in Barcelona… it’s the most fresh.
Overall view of the language school:
My chosen place of study was Don Quijote, the school is great. The facilities are amazing and the people are even better. I began the first two weeks in the lowest level, A1, but I felt it was moving too slowly and so I moved up a level to A2. Don Quijote also gave excursions for free as part of your studies. Taking full advantage of this myself with some friends I made at the school took the opportunity to begin learning salsa, go on tours of rural parts of the city and even visit a prison (museum)- brutal! I later went on to visit the national museum of Cataluña and many neighbourhoods. At this point I began to miss home because many of the streets of Barcelona closely resemble those in Edinburgh and its rustic look. Another Pro tip: Go to as many “Intercambio de lenguas” (language exchanges) as possible. It really boosts your confidence in speaking a new language and you even get to chat to locals and get a better insight to the city.
One difficulty I had to quickly learn to avoid is due to my nut allergy. For me this could be fatal so I had to navigate this by using my newly developed language skills. This would often make me feel bad having to miss out on meals with my friends.
I made the most of my weekends by going on trips to neighbouring towns in Cataluña like, Girona and Sitges. Getting to know the “Real Spain”. The people here are very friendly and will help you if you need it!
My 6 Weeks in Barcelona flew by… I learned so much about Spanish culture both inside and outside of my classes. My Spanish took huge leaps during this period- where I was able to have conversations on various topics comfortably. Here are a few more photos to highlight the time I spent in Barcelona.
After my time in Barcelona I spent 3 weeks in Madrid, the heart of Spain. Here my grammatical skills in Spanish improved greatly and I learned to express myself more confidently. The only issue now is to keep it up whilst continuing my academic studies in Scotland. At first it was strange being in Madrid. The vibe is totally different from in Barcelona, which I had grown to love so much. Madrileños (People of Madrid) are very proud to be Spanish. Here I experienced a totally different side to Spain than I have ever experienced before… It felt strange hearing Spanish but not being right next to the seaside! In Madrid I took the opportunity to visit a few museums. Spain is a country steeped in so much history. One thing I am not in favour for is Bull fighting a typical Spanish tradition. An event I was so excited to see based on cartoons and films growing up through childhood which was depicted as a fun dance between man and animal. I was destroyed to see what actually goes on inside the ring.
This allows you to see history through images (which in my opinion is a lot more interesting than reading about it in a book!) I would recommend visiting Museo del Prado and Museo Reina Sofia if you are ever in Madrid. Madrid as a city reminded me more of a typical British city for the most part but where possible there were monumental buildings with in-your-face designs. The architecture here has definitely stolen my heart. Actions speak louder than words, so here are a few pictures to illustrate my time in Madrid.
These are just a few of the millions of photos I had taken whilst away in Spain. They don’t nearly capture its beauty enough. The only way to know for sure is to go for yourself! – you won’t regret it.
The most important thing about learning a new language in a language school– if you know English. DON’T SPEAK IT UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. – Everyone nowadays know how to speak English and this will act as a real disadvantage to you in learning your new language. The key is total immersion. I would recommend staying with a host family where they know to talk in their native tongue to help you learn. Now, I understand it is practically impossible to do this unless you already speak some of the language. But I urge you to give it a try for yourself. Buena Suerte.