My biggest fear about studying abroad wasn’t speaking the language, figuring out transportation, or taking classes. It was making friends. I know that even if my Spanish grammar is bad, I’ll get my point across. Transportation can be confusing, but there are always people to ask if I get lost. Classes are hard, but I have supportive professors, tutors, and program. However, making friends is on me. For me, friends make or break my experience. Getting lost alone in a railway station is frustrating and stressful. Getting lost with a friend at a railway station is frustrating and stressful, funny and ridiculous. Struggling through classes alone is overwhelming and upsetting, struggling with friends is a way to grow closer and learn from each other. Struggling with speaking Spanish alone can be embarrassing, but with a friend we can combine both our knowledge and styles of communicating to express ourselves. With a friend I have someone to share my fear and awe with, someone to laugh with and cry to. Someone who I will talk to when I return home and no one understands the experience I just went through. Someone to share churros and chocolate with.
So I dedicate this post to my friends in Salamanca. Never did I have trouble making friends here. Being thrown together in a strange city is a very good way to quickly connect with the people around you. I’ve stumbled around the city getting endlessly lost, I’ve stammered through interactions with locals, and I’ve complained about classes. And each time I’ve had friends to get me through. And the best part is that I’ve shared these experiences with both the students from my program and Spanish students. I’ve never met people more welcoming and excited to get to know a “guiri” than the young people of Spain. They watch me struggle with their language and then try to struggle with mine. They help me with classes and tell me places to buy cheap baguettes (yes, it is possible to eat a whole baguette in one sitting). They invite me to hang out with their friends even though I feel like the stupid American. It has never been this easy for me to make friends in the States. So to students who are hoping to study abroad and are worried about making friends, don’t worry. Seriously. You will meet wonderful people and have a bond with them that’s different than any bond you have with your other friends. Don’t be afraid to use the local language to talk to people. Even when I struggle with grammar and say things I really wasn’t trying to say, they listen and treat me like any other human being. I know you’re still worrying, but just trust me and take the risk. Once you start talking to the people around you, you’ll start to realize you’re more similar than different.
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<p>I'm Kat, a junior from the College of Wooster studying in Salamanca. Besides photography and Spanish, I love camping, running, and getting lost in beautiful places. Everyone has a unique view of the world, so here is mine.</p>