There have been 3 things that have defined my life in Spain so far: work, friends, and food. In this blog post I want to explain how each of these has and will continue to be important aspects of my time.
I chose Spain for one main reason. Porque no hablo espanol. Though I have been studying Spanish for 10 years, I still can only admit that I have intermediate proficiency, at best, and that is mainly for reading and writing. My spoken Spanish is an absolutely incoherent mess. I get so flustered attempting to speak Spanish I also forget English. I can understand if it is spoken slowly enough but as anyone knows who has ever spoken with a native speaker, it is never slow enough. From the interview, which to my great surprise was in Spanish, to the first day of my new life in Spain, when everyone seemed shocked that I didn’t speak Spanish, I was a bundle of nerves about how my Spanish would hold up in a professional setting. The answer is not well. My office has been very understanding about my lack of knowledge but there is obviously a language barrier since my office only speaks Spanish.
1. Work in Spain
How I am trying to work on my no hablo espanol? While I was waiting the first day for my supervisor to come in I downloaded Duolingo. I also began to look up Spanish podcasts and lessons online. Since I only work from 10-2 I figured I had time to practice. I also downloaded the Google translate app, which has this nifty phrasebook feature where you can save words or phrases. Quickly, I realized that learning on the job is difficult. No one has time to correct your grammar or translate the word you didn’t understand. I came to Spain to learn Spanish and so far, my life in Spain as an intern is testing my Spanish abilities. While my Spanish hasn’t necessarily gotten better, I have become more comfortable speaking because I have to be.
2. Friends in Spain
Luckily my housemates do also speak English. They also are some of the most welcoming people I have met. We live in a mix of Intern Group and non-Intern Group people. From day one they were so nice, inviting us (the new interns) to tapas with them. There was no initial awkwardness or not knowing what to do or say. It’s unfortunate that most of our housemates leave within the next few weeks but they have definitely made the initial experience great. My advice would be make friends with your housemates, Intern Group or not. I also suggest jumping right in there. Go explore the neighborhood and go see the sites on the first few days. There is no time to feel jetlagged if you keep moving. Life in Spain doesn’t slow down. Within the first 2 days I went to Retiro Park, rowing, and saw the Pablo Picasso exhibit at the Reina Sophia.
3. Food in Spain
For eating, food in Madrid is less expensive than I thought it would be. Living on Gran Via, I assumed all the restaurants would be super expensive but they are pretty nicely priced. Definitely try as much as possible but also look for that one place you know will be “your place”, the one that you’ll go to when you’re way too tired to trek the city looking for food and that you can suggest when no one can decide on a restaurant. I’ve been able to try a few different places that range from tacos (from a place actually called TaKos), to udon noodles, to French brunch. I’m still looking for my favorite place but I can’t say that I mind searching. Also,a word to the wise; keep sandwich stuff in the fridge but don’t be overzealous on your first shopping trip. You will find that despite having a full kitchen you’ll probably cook less than you think you will in Spain. RIP the bag of spinach in my fridge.