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During my experience in Spain, I had the chance to study at the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and focus on improving my Spanish. However, I think there were many ways I was able to improve my Spanish in and out of the classroom.

In the Classroom

My program at the UB had us take 8 hours of Spanish a week. In my class, we worked mostly on grammar, but we also practiced different vocabulary topics. The best part of the class was that we were able to speak and practice our oral Spanish daily. The professor was always helpful with any questions we had about a topic or about the culture in Barcelona. Also, we worked on our listening and presentation skills. Overall, the classroom experience was really helpful because I can say that I learned something new about Spanish culture and language every single day.

Out of the Classroom

Even though I had a lot of time working on my Spanish inside the classroom, I feel like my comprehension of the language mostly improved by talking with locals. The special part of studying abroad is that wherever I went in Barcelona, people were available to talk or even correct my grammar. I was constantly practicing speaking Spanish with the locals, so I was able to start learning the slang as well. For example, I always thought to say “cómo estás?” for asking how someone is, but most people in Barcelona say “qué tal?” instead. Also, outside of the classroom I began to pick up Catalan words. For example, most locals would usually say “adieu” instead of “adiós” to say goodbye, so I started to say it too.

Also, it is really easy to find different ways to have language exchanges. For example, Barcelona SAE would local college students to the weekly activities, so I would keep in touch with at least one of them and try to regularly get coffee. Also, my friends and I found a comedy show language exchange, so we invited one of the local students to check it out with us.

Both in and out of the Classroom

In my Spanish class, I was super lucky to meet students from all over the world: France, Italy, Japan, Ireland, England, and the U.S. A few of us went out a few times for coffee and lunch, and we had a chance to practice what we learned in the classroom in the real world. Because everyone spoke different languages at home, we were forced to speak Spanish with each other. I think it is super special that we were able to form a bond while practicing a new language. We even would teach each other words from our home languages.

Overall, there are many different ways to learn and practice Spanish in Barcelona, and every person learns differently while here. The first few weeks it may be tricky to go out there and be confident while speaking, but it gets easier with time and practice. Even though it’s hard, go out there and speak with confidence!

Nicole Toloczko

Nicole is an Advertising major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She studied abroad with Barcelona SAE at the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) during the Spring 2023 semester.

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