Advice from a Spanish ab initio student
In February I packed up my bags and left home to embark upon a whole new adventure: a semester abroad in Valencia, Spain. The sun was scorching as I stepped off the plane and I felt a little nervous about having to change tongues again as I spent my first semester in Lyon, France. I had been working as an intern and loved it in my new home as I was in my comfort zone as I’d been learning French for as long as I could remember. Spanish on the other hand is my Achilles heel. I first started Spanish as a beginner at university and freshers was hardly the greatest time to knuckle down and focus on Spanish verbs and vocabulary.
This is why 6 weeks before finishing my year abroad I am having a sudden panic. When I return to my home university next year I am expected to have the same level of Spanish as those who have been learning the language since they were in senior school. I think that had I thrown myself out there and found a work placement this may have been possible. As I am an Erasmus student at the university here, I spend most of my days listening to Spanish as opposed to speaking it myself. Until a couple of weeks ago the most Spanish I got a day was asking for my ‘café con leche’ in the break between lectures.
I do love Spain and I’ve probably been enjoying it a little too much, but once I discovered this harsh reality I decided that I needed to take action. I know that it is impossible for me now to achieve the same level of Spanish as my peers but I’m going to try my best before I leave. I am currently the tandem bigamist of Valencia. I have four Spanish tandems on the go as well as one French. I really enjoy meeting with my tandems as it is a great way to meet new people and practice spoken Spanish. All I had to do was sign up to a Facebook page and then I was instantly inundated with messages, as people were keen to improve their English. Admittedly some of the messages were from boys who I think were more interested in finding a foreign girlfriend rather than someone to practice their English with!
All in all Valencia is a great place with a great university and if you get the chance I’d recommend visiting! However if I were to follow my own advice now I would probably have opted for a work placement, as my weakness is definitely my spoken and written Spanish language. If you are a beginner and do go to university abroad I would recommend finding an extra language course or a tandem partner. Some of my friends go to a weekly church group choir to make friends with natives. Just be imaginative and think outside the box and then you’ll be bilingual in no time!