7 Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone While Traveling in Spain

7 ways to step out of my comfort zone while traveling in Spain?! I know what you’re thinking… “Aren’t I already stepping out of my comfort zone by deciding to travel in the first place??” And the answer is, yeah! Of course you are. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to optimize your experience abroad, and make sure you are getting the most out of your travels.

              I started traveling to Spain last year for a month-long program to Segovia with my school. Now, here I am in Salamanca, one year later, interning for Travel & Education! I loved every second of my month abroad in Segovia, but now that I am here in Salamanca, without any of my American friends and influences, I am learning that there is so much I can do to have the best summer of my life, while reaching my goal of bettering my Spanish, and growing as a person.

Step number 1: Only speak Spanish. Seems pretty simple, right? Well it’s harder than you think! Especially when you’re traveling with friends and colleagues that speak English! (Not to mention the fact that Netflix exists around the world) The coordinator here always tells our students in orientation that they have the REST of their lives to speak English… but they may only have these two weeks (or however long their program is) to speak Spanish with authentic, native Spanish speakers. You cannot get better at speaking a language without actually speaking it!

Step number 2: Adapt to their lifestyle and culture. Your trip abroad is about learning and experiencing a new culture. It is not for you to continue scrolling through Instagram everyday! Try new things! Try doing things the way the people do them here. Eat something you would never have eaten in America. Dance Flamenco by yourself, even if no one else is! Take a walk around the city and listen to the conversations happening around you instead of lying in bed re-watching The Office. Get accustomed to taking a siesta (how hard is that one really?). Do things that make you a little nervous. My host dad makes singing videos to Spanish songs with his daughter. At first, I was too embarrassed to do them with him when he asked. Now we spend our nights laughing so hard we cry!

Step number 3: Try the food. Have you ever eaten croquetas?? LIFE CHANGING. Huevos rotos, calamares, morucha beef, jamon iberico, paella, the best bread you’ve ever had, pate, pulpo, chorizo, gazpacho and salmorejo, I could go on and on! There is a whole world of new food out there – you just have to have the guts to try them! I don’t know how smart this is though, because now when I’m in America, all I can think about is Spanish food!

Step number 4: Be willing to get lost. You’re in Spain! Let loose a little. Let go of the American mentality that getting lost is bad – that everything needs to be so orderly that there’s no room in your itinerary to stop and smell the roses. Embrace the day. Let the city tell you what to do. Spend a few days here and there with absolutely no plans other than to go outside and do whatever you happen to stumble upon. Eat at a new restaurant, climb the stairs to the top of a famous monument, go hiking, play soccer with a group of Spanish kids in the park. The possibilities are endless as long as you’re open to them. Which goes hand in hand with…

Step number 5: Do things outside of your norm. We have students that are terrified of heights, but they went to the very top of Ieronimus (tower of the cathedrals of Salamanca) on a spiral staircase with the support of their fellow group members. I was so nervous to dance with everyone in my Flamenco dance lesson, but our teacher was so awesome, and now I have a cool party trick. We go horseback riding a lot, against the Spanish sunset, and eat authentic paella afterwards. I can’t tell you how many students are glad that they took a chance and decided to forget their fear of horses, in order to have an amazing evening living the life of a Spanish cowboy.

Step number 6: Speak to the natives! Not only are you going to better your Spanish by speaking with natives, but you have the opportunity to learn about their history and culture. From someone who actually experienced it. Who has a testimony and a story to tell. Textbooks are great, but an in-person interview with someone who experienced Spanish history? Priceless. My host mom tells me about the pueblo where she grew up and how living in a city is so different. She loves to talk about the way her mother raised her, and how she has incorporated that into the way she raised her own children. She’s always talking about the changes in government or whatever was on the news at dinner. I feel really lucky to get a glimpse of her point of view, and the way she views this life.

Step number 7:  Speak up in class. This one’s for all the students! I know it’s intimidating. I know trying to use an authentic accent is kinda challenging in the beginning. But the more effort you put in, the more you’ll get out of your classes. Schooling here in Spain is based on participation and eagerness for learning. If you don’t care about your classes, not only are you missing out, but your teachers will notice and it’ll reflect in your grades! Take this opportunity to learn from professionals in their field. Remind yourself (even when you’re waking up at 8am to go practice some grammar) that you are so lucky to have the ability to learn and experience everything this country has to offer.

These 7 steps have really helped me break out of my shell while living and studying here in Spain. I still have a long way to go, but I thought I’d share my experience with you so you’re at least ahead of the game! It’s so important to put in the effort so that you end up with a trip you’ll never forget.

Thinking about studying or traveling abroad? Come hang out with us here at Travel & Education in Spain! Check out the types of programs we offer at travelandeducation.org! Let’s step outside of our comfort zones together.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s