We asked fellow Dreamers Abroad what they would do differently if they were just starting out on their adventures now and here is what Sam had to say.
WHAT I KNOW NOW:
Things I would differently… really not much. But what I wish I knew then, that I know…
1) HAVE PATIENCE WITH PEOPLE. Remember you are coming into someone else’s culture. You are allowed to be frustrated, but that doesn’t give you the right to think that it should change. While you might experience some of this even at home, recognize that you might be more impatient in an atmosphere that is foreign and to find a way to consistently remind yourself to be patient.
2) RELATIONSHIPS. Relationships are so important. The best part of this entire experience has been the connections I’ve made with others of every background and nationality. You’re already out of your comfort zone, push further out and go that extra mile to meet new people all the time!
3) IT’S OK TO HAVE AN “AMERICAN DAY.” As much as you may want to integrate, if you dismiss all of your culture and alienate yourself completely from other people from your country, your Spanish may be fantastic but you will be miserable and burnt out. As basic as it sounds, some days I just need to meet up with an American friend, talk politics, American football or the Kardashians and drink a Starbucks. But that’s okay – it’s possible to fall in love with a new culture and still miss yours! Be proud to be an American living in Spain, and don’t apologize
4) SAY NO AND SLOW DOWN. This has been a difficult one for me because in the States I was so used to saying yes to everything all the time. Yes to extra work or babysitting opportunities, yes to every social function, yes to every trip, dinner and concert. When I first arrived in Spain, I did the same, but I quickly learned that to really experience the culture, you can’t just speak Spanish, eat tortilla espanola and hang out with Spaniards. You need to learn and adapt to their way of life. The Spanish culture isn’t rushed, it isn’t an agenda packed full of meetings, social events, etc. Its about relaxing, spending quality time with people you care about and SLOWING DOWN. For me this meant saying no to some private classes, trips with my American friends and weekly dinners etc. and boy has it made my experience so much better. I gave myself time to take my experience in, really contemplate it and determine what I wanted to get out of my time here.
5) IT’S OKAY TO ASK QUESTIONS AND SAY YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. The “verguenza” or shame that everyone suffers from when trying to learn a language can be debilitating, but when you’re forced to use it in your every day life you have to find a way to get past that! A good way for me, that I wish I had known earlier on in my experience, is that by asking questions or simply telling people you don’t understand something, you can learn so much and the reaction 99% of the time is positive. Be curious about the culture, if someone tells you something and it doesn’t make sense to you ask them to explain. I love Spaniards because for the most part, they are very friendly and take pride in explaining different sayings or customs to you. So… this is also a great way to make friends!
Sam is going to be living another year in Madrid. She’s actively immersing herself in Spanish culture day by day. Have a question about this or any other post, please contact us here.