When I first arrived in A Coruna, everything was new. I had never had to deal with using a public bus system. I had never lived in a place where you can’t predict whether there’s going to be rain or shine on any given summer day. And, most importantly, I had never lived in a city located in Spain.
Moving here engulfed me in a whole new world where simple tasks were challenging. Everyday activities had to be completed under the context of a new culture and a new language. Over the course of a few weeks, I had to ask each of my three flat mates at three different times how the cleaning schedule worked in our apartment before I understood my chores. The first time I went out for breakfast, it was 10:00 am on a Sunday, which is the time in-between breakfast and most restaurants opening for lunch. After wandering around for 45 minutes without finding food, I ended up resorting to a Punto 24hr. My first breakfast in Spain was a sandwich out of a vending machine. Every time I needed to speak to anyone about anything, I would have to think about how to say it beforehand. Rather than reading instructions, public notices, news articles, and menus, I would have to translate them.
The experience of immersing yourself in a foreign language can be described as the very definition of new, and unfortunately, new is rarely easy. Putting yourself in a position where constant adjustment is necessary can be difficult, and frankly, exhausting. However, I can easily say that the rewards you gain in return really are worth it. I have spoken and formed relationships with people whom I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to talk to. I now have a better understanding of another culture, which gives me a new lens to look through at my own and appreciate their similarities and differences. And finally, the most unexpected result is that cultural immersion and language learning has enforced my confidence in my own capabilities. In my opinion, making mistakes under these circumstances is inevitable. However, when they are made, you have no choice but to move on and try again. If you can adopt this mentality and use it in all your pursuits, you will be more willing to reach for your goals and less discouraged when you make a blunder.
For those of you continuing to study a new language, I encourage you to surround yourself with that language as much as you possibly can. New may be difficult, but something can only be new for so long. With exposure, patience, and a whole lot of practice, new becomes familiar, and your confidence will grow.