I came to Spain because I wanted to be fluent in Spanish. I’ve taken Spanish classes since I was 13 and was nowhere close to speaking fluently, so obviously Spanish classes in the States weren’t cutting it. So I looked into a couple cities – Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla – and settled on Barcelona. I can’t really even explain why I chose Barcelona. Spanish isn’t even the first language here, Catalan is. But everyone I talked to who went abroad in the past said Barca was their favorite city they visited, plus I knew a ton of IU kids that were planning on coming, so I figured why not.

I remember the very first day I was walking around with Brittany and we stopped in at Zara. When we arrived in January it was their huge after-holiday sale season, so of course it was jam-packed. We kept bumping into people, and “Oops, sorry!”or “Excuse me” immediately came out of our mouths. Then we got awkward because we didn’t know if we should be speaking in Spanish or not. After, we met up with some other girls from school for lunch. Ordering was a nightmare, not only because we were so jetlagged, but also because our brains couldn’t process what we wanted to say. It came out something like, “I want las patatas bravas con una Coca-Cola por favor. Thanks!” Umm, what? Talk about spanglish. And that’s how it went for the first couple weeks. I would try to speak Spanish, but quickly resorted to English when someone didn’t understand or I got frustrated. The only time I ever spoke confidently was with my taxi drivers at 4 a.m., for obvious reasons.

Making friends with Spaniards at Espit Taberna.

Three months later, things have changed. While I’m still guilty of speaking English almost all day, every day, I don’t freeze up when I go to the grocery store and the cashier asks me a question. I’ve had casual conversations on the metro, and I’ve had hour-long conversations in Spanish at the bars. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent by any means, but in a better place than I was when I got here. And I guess that’s all I can really ask for.