Studying in a foreign country can be both exciting and scary at the same time, can’t it? You must have hundreds of questions in your mind as you prepare for your Spanish course in Spain, whether a short 1-month one or a whole year! Whilst you will explore the place and other customs as you go, we have 4 tips for making the most of your time here (my personal learnings).
Spaniards eat late!
This is one of the most surprising things to me when I stayed here! People often don’t eat lunch until 2 PM and dinner is usually at 9 or 10 PM – which seems so laid back! However, recently I found out the real reason why Spaniards eat late was that historically, Spain was in the same time zone as London and Greenwich (GMT) but a Spanish King had changed the time zone to CET to align with Germany and Europe (who would ever know right?). Still, in the summer, sunsets don’t usually happen until 9 in the evening, which makes sense for dinner time then, because you wouldn’t feel ready for dinner when it’s still bright outside! Therefore, don’t go to dinner at 6 or 7 PM as you might be told that the kitchen is not yet open!
2. Don’t let fear stopping you from speaking in Spanish
As language learners, we all understand why people are so afraid to speak in another language if they are still learning. However, take advantage of the fact that you are surrounding yourself with so many native speakers! If you say something wrong, the worst thing that could happen is that you both will have a good laugh and then you will move on. Therefore, don’t ever let the fear of saying something stupid get in the way of your learning adventures. I must have made so many silly mistakes expressing myself but I was always corrected (by my teacher at Spark or by the locals). Remember: Practice makes perfect. Speak, speak, repeat!
3. Shops do not open between 2 – 4 PM
Traditionally, Spaniards have something called ‘siesta‘ where all shops would be closed for a lunch (or beach break) from 2 PM until 4 PM (sometimes 6 PM). However, big supermarkets such as SuperSol or Aldi are still open during this time and on the weekends also. (The supermarket near Spark open from 9 AM until 10 PM every day). Remember the opening hours then if you want to get something from the shop! This way you could avoid walking in the sun for the hottest hours of the day and wait until it gets a bit cooler!
(Closed for the afternoons)
4. Prepare some simple questions in Spanish
Very few people spoke English here in El Puerto de Santa María (I have met only one person who does – he was a young bartender in a local club in the city centre). Therefore, you should prepare with you some simple questions, such as: How to get to the nearest bus station? How to get to XYZ street? How much is it? (In restaurants and supermarkets), Can you speak more slowly/ loudly?, etc… or simply ‘Yo no hablo Español muy bien’ (I don’t speak Spanish very well) if you are starting out as a complete beginner!
5. Write blogs in Spanish
Don’t be afraid to write about your daily routines in Spanish or about what you have experienced! This is a great way to practise and learn new words as well as Spanish structures. You will be happy and surprised what you achieved at the end of the course when you look back at your first blogs! Write about your experience in English as well is also a great way to help other students as they prepare for their study abroad experience.
My Spanish has improved tremendously only after 2 weeks at Spark, to a great extent due to the many opportunities I was given to speak Spanish both in and out of the classroom. If you want to leave a course being more confident as a Spanish speaker, come to Spark. Check out our Spanish course page for the plenty of courses we offer!