Updated on Friday 1 March 2013
Immersing yourself in the Spanish culture to learn Spanish, while initially challenging, is probably the most effective way to learn the language. Just as gratifying, however, is what you´ll learn about yourself and others during your experience abroad.
Two nights ago, I had a conversation with my roommate, Agatha from Hungary, that brought an interesting thought to mind: there exists a class of people throughout the world that are unified not by national identity, but by a spirit of openness and a willingness to relinquish predictable security in favor of adventure and exploration. Leaving behind their native lands for weeks, months, or years at a time, they establish common meeting grounds not restricted by international borderlines.
This time, the meeting place is Malaga, Spain. Agatha and her friend Melissa have both expressed the feeling that they’ve always felt somehow different in their countries of origin; they’ve never had the sense of truly fitting in. But here in Malaga, a land they’re both completely new to, they’ve finally found what they’d been missing: people they truly feel comfortable with, people with whom they share the spirit of open-minded exploration.
Agatha and Melissa are both enrolled in an intensive Spanish language course offered at Malaga University. As a native Spanish speaker, I’m amost as surprised by their level of competency in Spanish as I am by the almost familial bonds they’ve created between themselves and the international students they study with; people who, weeks ago, were complete strangers to them.
Agatha is 26, easy-going, very friendly and has lots of animo. The day I arrived in Malaga, as soon as I stepped foot in the apartment, she offered me a glass of wine and made me a delicious sandwich of Hungarian sausage. Perhaps in her last life she was a Flamenco dancer; her dream is to learn to dance Flamenco with true passion. She says that when she dances and listens to Flamenco music, a strange energy takes over her body – a feeling she’s sure is much better than any drug.
Melissa, 20, was born on a small island in the Caribbean but lives and studies in Lyon, France. She’s very open and talkative and surprisingly mature for her age. Though superficially she and Agatha don’t appear to have much in common, they share an easy friendship rooted in mutual respect. They are both very aware of having found a similarity in themselves they had difficulty finding in their homeland friends: a desire to explore unknown horizons, have fresh experiences, and learn new things.
For Agatha and Melissa, studying Spanish in Malaga has been more than a purely academic learning experience, and this despite the fact that they both seem to have made incredible strides with the language in a very short time. Fully immersed in a new and stimulating culture and surrounded by like-minded individuals, they’ve come into direct contact with life – more alive and in touch with their feelings, they say, than ever before.