How to Prepare For Your Spanish Immersion Experience
Spanish immersion, huh? Lucky you!
Spain is such a marvelous place to do an immersion in! Between the rich culture, the delicious food, the buzzing party scene, and all the fun locals you will meet, I can only envy you for having one in your future. Not only that, but you will also get to massively improve your language skills! I am speaking from experience here.
My Spanish skills went from meh to wow in just three months.
And the immersion itself was ten days. The rest of the time was not even in Spain, but I had the fortune of meeting a bunch of great Spanish expats in my country. I basically spent the summer with them. There were days where I would mostly interact in Spanish. Along with a lot of cool memories, I gained enough skills so that I can now confidently say ‘I am fluent in Spanish’. Imagine if I had spent all of that time in Spain. Maybe my liver would have suffered a bit, but come on — that is just details.
On Feeling Nervous
Regardless of how excited you are, though, I am sure you’re also very nervous. Totally natural, if you ask me.
It’s probably why you are even reading this article.
The anxiety of going to a foreign country can be immense and besides all of those new people. Will you make friends? Would you even be able to communicate? It feels like you are a kid before summer camp, right? Don’t fight the anxiety, use it as a motivation to prepare well.
First Off, People And Culture.
I could probably spend the entire article hyping Spaniards. I have a lot of friends from Spain, so let this paragraph be a shoutout to them. You guys rock!
In short, you should not worry AT ALL about whether people will like you. This is something I adore about the Spanish and Portuguese culture, actually. They are very open, inviting people. Spain is a come-as-you-are kind of place and we really need more countries to be like that.
Clubs And Such
In terms of party culture, you can really see the chilled out, you-do-you vibe people have. It is no wonder why virtually every European student wants to do an Erasmus in Spain. The clubs are legendary! Even in smaller towns, but especially in larger cities, there is something for everybody.
From multi-floor discos with all the party extravaganza your heart desires to chilled out jazz clubs, there really is something for everyone. I understand that the party scene is not something everyone is interested in but everyone I know that has done a Spanish immersion has loved it (including me), so maybe let yourself get dragged to a club even if it isn’t normally your thing.
Before clubs, there is also the glorious tradition of tapas. Usually, Spanish immersion programs include a tapas bar tour and you should really take advantage of that. Later on, you could also grab a few new buddies and go exploring on your own.
In my experience, this leads to better results, especially if you take the time to pick authentic bars. It won’t be too hard since Spain literally has more bars than people. There is plenty to choose from!
One little tip from me: if in Madrid, go to El Tigre (I feel my Spanish boyfriend laughing at me for recommending this).
It is not refined at all, it is always crowded, and the decor is not exactly stylish. But!
You get good beer/cider (personally, I recommend cider) and a full plate of tapas style food.
It is really up to how lucky you get — sometimes it’s bread and jamon, sometimes it could be an entire tortilla de patatas. Just try it out, it is an experience, and also a cheap one, so even if you hate it, no biggie!
Food, Enough Said
And since we touched upon the incredibly important topic that is food, my best advice here is do as the locals do.
It will probably come as a bit of a shock how different a typical Spanish day goes. Lunchtime is around 14:00 (and sometimes as late as 15:00), then you have your siesta, then dinner is not until 10 PM. Show up at 7 at a restaurant and you will have to pretend you are only there for drinks.
Literally no local will so much as think about dinner before 9 PM.
One thing my friend and I used to do during our Spanish immersion is getting a jamon sandwich when we get hungry and then have a late dinner with the others. Jamon sandwiches are the best, by the way.
They literally contain only jamon and crispy bread, they are huge, they are yummy, and you can grab them at any time of the day without any weird looks from locals. Off the jamon shop you go (the key is to go to a shop that specializes in jamon only and serves sandwiches with their own product)!
Excursions Are The Best
Another common experience Spanish immersions include are excursions. My advice is going to as many as you can! No, being hungover is not an excuse even if you have to wake up early for the day trip (A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda!). You could spend months in Spain and still not visit all the essential cool places there are. Literally, that is how rich this country is in cultural heritage.
Get as much in as you can during your time.
Depending on where you are, these excursions might include overnight trips, in which case absolutely sign up for these. Say you are in Barcelona. It would be a shame to have visited Spain and not seen the capital, but Madrid is too big and too far away to be seen in a day. Go to the overnight trip! They are well-structured, you get to see some beautiful places, and you practice Spanish all the time!
So Let’s Sum It Up For Culture (Including Drinking Culture):
Spanish people are amazingly friendly and accepting. Talk to as many as you can! You will practice the language and get some great company to hang out with.
A word of warning for my girls: in clubs guys can get a bit… too pushy. I had a bad experience with this once (where it literally felt like everybody was there just to hook up) and my advice is to go in a bigger group. The said bad experience is when I only went out with one girlfriend and at one point it really felt dangerous.
Thankfully, nothing bad happened, but lesson learned: When going to a new club for the first time — grab a bunch of friends. It’s more fun anyways. Stay safe, my loves!
The food is yummy and you should really take advantage of any tapas/culinary experiences your Spanish immersion program offers. Don’t be afraid to go exploring on your own either!
There is no such thing as 7 PM dinner here, period.
Go to all of the excursions the Spanish immersion offers, or at least to most of them. They will be a great opportunity to explore this beautiful country, get to know your fellow students, and practice Spanish even more.
Preparing For The Spanish Immersion
Now that you know what to expect in terms of culture, how do you prepare for the immersion experience? I never told you about the language. One area where Spaniards are sadly lacking in is speaking a foreign language. Meaning that most of them will only be able to hold a basic conversation with you in English. A blessing and a curse, I think. It can isolate you a lot, but it will also be what encourages you to practice Spanish as much as possible outside of the classroom.
In terms of awkwardness, the fact that you will be in a program spares you some of that, since you will have your classmates and teachers to interact with. You will not be thrown all alone in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language. Research the immersion program well before signing up. There are some really great ones out there, which make sure you experience Spain as much and as authentically as possible, regardless of your language skills!
I do recommend having some prior knowledge of Spanish, though.
Don’t bother with an actual course — the Spanish immersion will include that. Focus on learning really useful, everyday words and phrases. In fact, do not bother with words, either. Rather try to learn entire phrases. In this sense, a wonderful starting point (as well as a great course in general) would be the Rocket Spanish program.
Their dialogs actually sound like real life—finally.
Another reason for me to recommend Rocket Spanish is that they have a lifetime access once you get the course. Immersions are great but they only last so long. You will need to brush up on your Spanish skills once in a while. It will be so useful to have a well-structured program like Rocket Spanish on hand!
Other than that, if you are a bit more advanced, how about watching Spanish youtube or a TV series. The one I really love is Malviviendo. It’s hilarious and it teaches you a bit of slang. OK, quite a bit of slang, you will need subtitles to understand it at first. But only get subtitles in Spanish, not English!
But most of all: Relax and enjoy it all!
PS: If you want to start coming to grips with the language, check out Rocket Spanish and get instant access now.