Spanish immersion: The local & regional perspective
Written by guest blogger Joe Meringolo
If you’re preparing to move to Spain to study, you’ll be surprised by how much you will learn, and you’ll be humbled with the hospitality of the Spanish people. You’ll arrive in Spain with your luggage, and you’ll walk away with memories if you embrace the challenges of living abroad.
You won't need to go far though to enjoy the variety that Spain has to offer.
For example, the Erasmus program, or the European Union exchange network, allows student mobility from countries within the EU, and you’ll meet students from all around the world on campus.
But one of the biggest surprises that you’ll find is that Spanish will become a vehicle for you to better connect with people who don’t speak English, and you’ll use Spanish as the common language. You’ll be enthused to connect with people from central and eastern Europe, who very well might speak English, but they’ll encourage you to speak Spanish instead.
Also, during a typical week at college in Spain, students generally stick around the main cities. Thursday nights tend to be popular in university cities, so be prepared!
On the weekends, however, they tend to go back home to their towns or villages, so to meet local Spaniards, especially in smaller university cities, you’ll most likely have to go out and do meet-ups during the week to get to know people.
But when you’re in Europe, you’ll be enticed to travel internationally on your weekends due to the proximity of all the countries. You’ll have time to explore those places later, so why not spend some time checking out how different the regions in Spain are from each other?
While you’ll find a lot of the same ingredients across Spain, you’ll be surprised by how much they vary from each other depending on where you visit. You’ll taste and try cheeses, meats, seafood, wine, local drinks, local dishes and music that change drastically from region to region.
The famous flamenco and Spanish guitar, for example, tend to be prominent in Andalusia in southern Spain, but bagpipes and muñeira, a local folk dance, can actually be found in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
In terms of language, you’ll hear Spanish in all the major cities, but when you visit other regions and the smaller cities, you’ll have an opportunity to hear and interact with other languages commonly spoken. Most prominently, you’ll hear Galician and Basque in the north, and along the MeCatalan across the northeastern Mediterranean, you’ll hear Catalan in Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic Islands.
Within all these regions, you’ll have an opportunity to use your five senses to distinguish the Spanish Autonomous Communities that are equivalent to U.S. states. Each Autonomous Community has local festivities that celebrate different towns and villages throughout the year, and often times the locals even identify themselves more closely with their region than their Spanish nationality.
In every place, however, you’ll find a combination of the three B’s - bueno, bonito, barato, or good, beautiful and cheap. So don't spend all your time traveling internationally, or you’ll miss out on opportunities to use the local language and gain a true perspective on Spain’s beauty.
Joe Meringolo is the Director of Program Development at EdOdyssey. He manages EdOdyssey’s marketing content, specializes in custom short-term programs for Peru and Spain and manages select partnerships and programs. Click here to learn more about EdOdyssey.