Branching Out

When in a new place, especially somewhere where English is not the language, it is very tempting to just stick around with other Americans or even other international students from English speaking countries because it’s comfortable.  As difficult as it is to break the habit, it is necessary, especially if you want to get the full cultural experience.

Meeting locals can feel like a daunting task, but here it has been made fairly easy with the use of intercambios, where you meet up with a Spanish university student to practice both English and Spanish. While these may sound intimidating at first, it is a fun and easy way not only to enhance your grasp of the language, but you also get the local scoop on the best things to do and see in your host city.

While intercambios are a great way to branch out, it is still important to be safe and careful.  As such, you should meet up with your intercambio in a public place, under the clock tower in the Plaza Mayor is usually a good place to meet; it’s crowded enough that anyone can see any problems unfolding, and it is also a central, well known part of the city that everybody can easily find and wait for their partner. Another way to help you to stay safe when looking for an intercambio is to contact somebody through a “safer” avenue. For example, when I have intercambios, I look through the university’s site, or I set one up through one of the English schools I volunteer at with students I’ve already gotten to know a little bit.

Branching out from what the rest of your American friends are doing in your host city once in a while is a priceless piece of advice that I’m glad someone gave me before going abroad. While it is sometimes easier said than done, it is something I do not regret doing with my time here. I get to practice the language with locals, help them with their English, and learn some of the ins and outs of Salamanca whenever I go to meet intercambios. Perhaps the biggest plus of branching out is that I get some new Spanish friends in the process.


Rynne O’Connor is a student at St. Michael’s College and an official API Student Blogger. Rynne is studying abroad with API in Salamanca, Spain.

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