One thing I wasn’t prepared for on my year abroad was how difficult it was to make friends in my classes. I think this might be a Spanish/European thing, as most people I know who went to America or Australia or Canada had no problem with this. I came to Barca with my best friend, and we live in accommodation together, but equally we both wanted to widen our group and meet new people.
When I arrived in Barca, I expected it to be similar to first year, with something like an equivalent to Soton’s Bunfight, where you can see all the societies they have to offer and sign up for some sports teams. However, as is the European way, we were just dropped into studies, with no extra help for the Erasmus students at all. I found it really difficult to find out about societies and in the end didn’t join any at all.
So then I decided that class would be a good way to make some friends. Wrong. I was attending third year modules, and therefore the people in the class were already in their friendship groups and it was difficult to join, especially being that English girl that doesn’t speak very much Spanish.
Interestingly, one thing I noticed was in class not only was there a divide between the Spanish and the internationals, but also between the Spanish and the Catalonian students. They would sit in their groups, and often would only speak in their language. I met a girl called Gloria, who was really nice and fluent in English, German and Spanish. She told me how she had been sitting in class, and tried to strike up a friendship with a group of girls next to her. She spoke to them in Spanish, assuming that would be a good way of introducing herself, but they quickly switched to Catalan, so she was unable to join in.
Before you go on your year abroad, they encourage you not to just make friends with the other international students, but honestly I had run out of options. I was lucky enough to have a few classes with a girl called Mila who was originally from Bulgaria but lived in Germany. It was so nice making a friend who was in classes with you as you had a friendly face, and someone to do group work with. Weirdly, we never really met up outside of class. In December I decided to ask her if she wanted to go for drinks and we had a lovely time, but it was then she revealed that she was only in Barca for one semester! So that was a shame.
In my accommodation, I became really good friends with a girl called Paula. She studied in the UK for 3 years so she understood my British humour and we got on so well. She had a large group of friends and so through her I met more people in the residence which was nice.
Our accommodation used to put on trips for us, so we met some people through that. We went on a tapas tour, went to a carnival, and went to most of the parties that they held for us, which in addition to alcohol, made it so much easier to chat to people. From that I made some whatsapp groups, and if I was going for a drink, I’d message around and see who was free. I ended up going to Oktoberfest with a big group of people which made the night even more fun.
I don’t regret not making a massive group of friends on my year abroad. Its made my friendship with Milly even stronger, and sharing an experience like this with someone is something I count myself very lucky for. It was so nice having someone there to enjoy the good times and help you when you’re feeling down, who you know is an actual friend for life, who won’t disappear after a semester or just wants to get drunk with you. We had so many soppy moments when we basically just told each other how happy we were to have been put in the same country, and how happy we were to have someone who completely understands exactly how you’re feeling living in a different country. At the same time, the few friends that I have made are equally lovely, and its always a good thing meeting people from different cultures to you, who will make fun of you for drinking copious cups of tea and making tuna pasta which apparently is “disgusting” (she’s crazy I know). Basically what I would say is, follow these top tips.
- Talk to the international students, they’re just as desperate for friends as you are.
- Don’t be afraid to make the first move and meet people outside of class! You don’t want to regret it.
- Meet people in your accommodation by hanging out in communal areas.
- Go on any excursions offered to you and talk to the people there.
- Don’t forget the friends you already have! Catching up with home friends is always a good thing to do.