Earlier this year, Nina, a former student of Coffee Shop Spanish, was admitted to the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Spain. She arrived in the beautiful Andalusian town of Granada in late September, 2016 and has graciously offered to take us with her by way of weekly guest posts during her year-long journey.
Below, you can read about her second week in Spain.
Spanish helps me jump out of my comfort zone.
I remember that I first noticed it when I was in college. My university had a lot of students from India and they always seemed to hang out with each other. I remember thinking at the time, “What?! They come halfway across the world to attend college in the United States and just hang out with people from back home? They could have stayed in India for that!” I was maybe 19-years-old and aside from a quick trip to London and France for a week, had no real perspective on what life overseas was really like for a person.
Flash forward to about nine years later and I found myself doing the exact same thing when living in Nicaragua last year. All my closest friends were either American or Scottish… and I was in Nicaragua! I came to understand how easy it is for us to “find our own” in an unfamiliar place. So, this time around in Spain, I knew I would have to make efforts to avoid that.
I realized that if I was going to spend a year or more living in Spain – and improve my fluency in Spanish in the process – I had to do everything here that I was unable to do in the United States. The biggest things for me were to make Spanish friends and get as much Spanish immersion as I possibly could. My first step, therefore, was to find a piso (apartment) where all my roommates were Spanish. Many people in my English-teaching program find other language teachers to live with, and I can’t blame them. In a new and foreign place, it can be easier to find housing as a group. However, I wanted to hold out for exactly what I wanted, which would have been utterly impossible without knowing some Spanish. (Thank you, Coffee Shop Spanish!)
My search for an apartment took about a week, which initially was longer than I had expected. I’m 29-years-old, so I wanted to live with people somewhat close to my age and also really only wanted to live with Spaniards. (I blogged about my crazy and hilarious piso hunt over on my personal blog which you can read here.)
Every part of this piso hunt was in Spanish. I would read the ad on a website like Easypiso or Idealista… in Spanish. Then, if I was interested, had to send a message on whatsapp or an e-mail… in Spanish. And I mean, I guess I COULD have tried English… but I’m in Spain and I’m not sure I’d have had much luck. If the room was still available, we would set up the viewing, at which point I would then go view it and have to ask all the important questions about the neighborhood, the closest grocery story, how much utilities cost each month, etc… in – you guessed it – Spanish.
Now, this might sounds crazy, but the frustrating part was actually not getting to speak Spanish as often as I’d have liked from day one. I was temporarily living in a subleased AirBnb and didn’t have as much contact with locals as I’d have liked. I felt like it was really holding me in that aforementioned comfort zone for longer than I’d wanted. But I kept on going and finally found a place that I’m happy with. All my roommates are Spaniard and we only speak Spanish in the house. It also doesn’t hurt that the place is nice, clean and feels like home. What a relief!
The other amazing part of the crazy piso hunt is all the friends the piso hunt brought me. In a weird way, I feel like this was the universe’s way of bringing me some nice, new friends. I have already spent time with three of the people I met during that week who either had a room to rent or were looking for roommates themselves. I wanted immersion and am getting it left and right. I love it when things work out this well!
Have you ever had an immersion experience in a second language? Have you ever wanted to have one? Please share your story below!
Nina Bosken is a Cincinnati native living in Granada, Spain as an English teacher and blogger. She blogs about fashion and travel over at aworldofdresses.com. She can be found wearing a dress and updating her Snapchat story 95% of the time.