I started learning Spanish just two years ago; As a freshman, I walked into my Spanish I class with almost no knowledge of the language. In a cramped classroom in Anderson Hall, I floundered over rolled r’s and double l’s. I awkwardly blurted out my first few words in Spanish and nervously awaited responses from my peers.
I’m sitting in a coffee shop a few minutes south of campus, attempting to complete my Statistics homework. Equations and numbers fill the page in front of me, but the only thing I can focus on is my upcoming trip. In just a few weeks I will be living and learning in the city of Oviedo in Spain. I will take classes at La Universidad de Oviedo, stay with a host family, and spend my days conversing with native Spanish speakers. How can I be expected to pay attention to Statistics? My study abroad experience is so close.
In that class I was pulled into a world I was not prepared for. I had heard basic phrases in Spanish while riding the subway and buying groceries. As the second most popular language in the United States, Spanish was not completely foreign to me. Nonetheless, I was wary of using the language on my own.
The first few days of my first Spanish class were startling. The professor let Spanish phrases roll off of his tongue; Hola clase…, Buenos dias…¿Qué pasa?… Siéntate… I felt uncomfortable. I attempted to respond to my professors’ questions, using a bulky combination of Spanish and English, mixing up vocabulary and floundering through conversation. I was nervous. While I’m embarrassed for this younger version of myself, I’m also proud. I pushed myself to learn a new language. I attempted something new and I diligently worked towards a goal.
Today my Spanish is much more developed. I can have short conversations with my professors and read stories in Spanish. Yet, I am still uncomfortable speaking the language outside of the classroom. I hear Spanish everywhere in Philadelphia; While in the Italian market or walking through Center City, I have the opportunity to use the language that I study. Though I have yet to find the confidence to interact with native Spanish speakers on my own.
I imagine that studying abroad will bring me the confidence I need to use Spanish in my daily life. Just like my first Spanish class, I know that studying abroad will be full of awkward and uncomfortable moments. I know that I will feel out of place. Yet, I will learn. The struggle associated with speaking a foreign language in a new country will be vital in the development of my Spanish language abilities. I will gain a new understanding of life outside of the United States and create unforgettable experiences.
I am looking forward to everything that study abroad will offer me.
Until next time,