I actually started writing this blog about two months into my time here when I started applying for internships (nightmare – don’t do it) and needed to think about how to explain my time abroad, but to be honest I got so tied up in everything here that I forgot about it for several months until recently. So here goes.
When reading what I wrote at that point, I focused a lot on the language struggles of being here. During my first two weeks we did a language course just to brush up on the basics I suppose but as opposed to helping me, it actually stressed me out way more. I got a big mental block about speaking Spanish because I felt everyone was better than me and would therefore judge my mistakes. Which is absolutely not true because I learnt quickly that everyone makes mistakes – even actual Spanish people (they’re actually awful at speaking their own language correctly) and it just comes down to confidence and throwing yourself into learning. And practice. Lots of practice.
Looking back on that time now, months later, I do still agree with a lot of my worries then and I still have some struggles with confidence in speaking, especially around people I think are better than me, however this year has definitely made it better. I’ve found that learning and practicing a language while you’re abroad requires a lot more effort and commitment than you’d expect. People say to me ‘surely you’re fluent now you’ve lived there for ages’ but that, sadly, is absolutely not the case. As an English speaker, everyone speaks English or wants to practice English, and I found I had to go out of my way to join a Spanish basketball team, make Spanish friends, do conversation exchanges in order to practice my Spanish. Although I’m still a long way from fluent, I can confidently say that this year has definitely improved my understanding and speaking.
I think the most important thing if you’re struggling with the language acquisition aspect of a year abroad is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Take every opportunity to practice when you can but try not to compare yourself to others or even compare yourself to your own expectations. Trust me – it does a lot more harm than good!!