In this episode of the Greenheart Travel Podcast, friends Tess Wallace and Katianna Higgins compare their experiences studying abroad in Spain at the same time.
Katianna: The amount of Spanish that we understood/spoke going into it made a big difference on our experiences in Spain. We both had amazing experiences, but for me, not speaking or understanding a lot of Spanish going in made it harder to do a lot of things. It made it harder to make friends even because I couldn’t communicate with people. It made it harder to do school and all of that. It made it harder to bond with people at first.
That wouldn’t necessarily be something that I would be scared though. If someone else was going into a country where they don’t really understand the language, I wouldn’t be like, ‘oh maybe I shouldn’t go.”
There was a couple major turning points for me when it comes to the language when I was in Spain. And the first one was like a month in, where I started understanding a lot of the things people said. Everyone was nice to me the whole time but as soon as I started being able to understand, I could laugh at people’s jokes and people could see my personality.
It took a little longer for me to have close relationships with friends at school, but it did happen. It just took a little more effort on my part to learn the language.
You have to put effort into listening to people because it’s super easy to tune it out when you don’t understand it. It took a little longer, but by the end, you can ask Tess that every single time that we met, like from the first point in Madrid, to Seville to Madrid again in the end, she’ll tell you my Spanish was drastically different every single time. Like in the last month my Spanish improved so much.
Tess: I went from seeing her in Seville to seeing her in Madrid, which was five or six weeks later, and she was barely putting together sentences to speaking almost fluently. I was like, how did you do that in the last six weeks, I’ve been trying to do that my whole like.
Katianna: It has partly to do with confidence. Like not wanting to speak because you’re afraid that you’re going to be wrong, to be like nobody cares let me just do it. That’s the point that I ended in. And not being afraid to do it.
Tess: The hardest part for me with the language was finding my personality but in Spanish. I knew how to speak, but I know how to speak what I was taught in school.
I want to see this, but I don’t know how to say it Tess-like. Or I don’t want to sound textbook, I want to sound like me.
Katianna: Like a human being.
Tess: Yeah. So it took a while to find my personality.
Katianna: Everybody is going to have a different experience. Sometimes It was hard for me that I wasn’t making as many friends, but not even as many friends as Tess but just as many friends as most people had, you know? But like, I got to that point. It just took me a little bit longer.
Allison: How do you feel like your social life now is going to differ after you’ve had these experiences of hanging out with so many Spanish teenagers and getting in that groove of things and now being back to California.
Katiana: People always talk about FOMO, the fear of missing out, and I really just kind of stopped caring. I was like, people are still going to be there when I get back.