As a graduate student, I’ve had the pleasure of studying abroad twice before so I understand the importance of immersing yourself in the culture of the country you’re visiting. It’s way too easy for English-speaking students like myself and my friends to spend the whole time together without truly meeting any locals in an international city like Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean you should!
Studying or interning abroad is an excellent opportunity to discover things about yourself as well as the world around you. If you want the life-changing experience that everyone talks about when going abroad, then here are three ways to immerse yourself while abroad:
Live with a Host Family
It’s tempting to live in an apartment with other students and feel like you’re independent, but you would be missing out on the rare opportunity to live with locals. Living with a host family means having home-cooked meals, travel tips from locals, and practicing a foreign language every day. I’ve been living with a family and a couple of other students in a beautiful apartment in the city center and I love it. We’ve celebrated birthdays, gone out to explore the city, and made plenty of memories already.
My host family is so supportive of me and my adventures while abroad, so I have never felt like I lost any independence by living with them during my time here. If anything, they’ve made it easier for me to find my way to the best spots that the city has to offer but tourists haven’t found yet and have given be insider tips on trips to nearby countries for weekend trips on my own or with friends.
Intern at a Local Company
Aside from that fact that it will make your resume stand out when you return home, interning at a local company means working with locals in your field that can teach whatever it is that you’re interested in learning while practicing a foreign language in a professional setting. My vocabulary in Spanish has grown so much just from the daily conversations that I have with my manager and colleagues. I’ve learned how to speak about what I do in an entirely different language and think about what career I can have from another perspective.
By working at a local company, you will have a greater understanding of what it’s actually like to live in another country. The lifestyle in Barcelona is very different than mine back home in the Midwest, but I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t experience it for myself firsthand. I commute to work using the metro in the mornings, take a siesta-style lunch break with colleagues, and end off with a long dinner at home with the family.
Attend Local Events Around the City
Barcelona is a cultural hub filled with endless things to do in the afternoon after work or over the weekend. I’ve attended neighborhood festivals, networking events, professional workshops, and more during my time here. By getting out of my comfort zone and attending these activities, I’ve been able to connect with people from different walks of life who’ve introduced me to new places, foods, and things to try. Luckily, my program provided plenty of opportunities for students to connect with other students, locals, and visit other parts of the country. If you want to fully immerse yourself while abroad, then make the most out of your program by putting yourself out there to connect with locals as much as possible.
Have you studied or interned abroad before? Or are you considering taking the leap yourself? Share your thoughts below!