17 Nov Intern in Barcelona: Navigating Moving Abroad From the UK
Hi everyone! My name is Anna Sheridan and I am a Marketing Intern in Barcelona here at Absolute Internship. Originally I’m from the UK and am currently in the 3rd year of my bachelors degree in International Business and Spanish at the University of Birmingham. I decided to take the leap of faith this summer and move to Spain for my year abroad to further my professional marketing experience. I have now been living in Barcelona for a few weeks and wanted to share my experience of moving abroad with you!
Culture Shocks as an Intern in Barcelona
When I think of culture shocks that I’ve experienced as an intern in Barcelona, the first thing that comes to mind is the pace of life. In London I notice everyone rushing to the next thing. They always have somewhere to be and rarely stop to appreciate the beauty of life. Here in Barcelona I started to notice this difference within the first few days. Walking down the stairs in the metro hearing a train pulling in, I started to run to catch it. Then I realised…no-one else is running! People are at peace with taking life at their own pace and simply waiting for the next train. Why was I even running in the first place? I had no where to be. Appreciating the little things in life can only happen when you stop to look around.
Of course the other huge cultural difference that everyone thinks of when they think of Spain is the meal times. In Barcelona it is very common to eat lunch after 2pm and dinner after at least 9pm. Most restaurants don’t open for dinner service until 8pm and if you go before 9pm you will most likely be the only table in there! The other food related shock I had was that lunch is by far the biggest meal of the day. Back home I would usually have a small sandwich or salad for lunch but here I find myself devouring huge bowls of pasta and other carb heavy meals at lunch time. This means a few tapas in the evening will be enough to fill you up!
Adapting to a New Environment
Having travelled to various locations around the world on holidays I liked to consider myself well travelled and well versed in intercultural fluency. However, I have now realised that holidaying in a location is extremely different to living there. When you move abroad, you want to be part of a community and a lifestyle and integrating into that new way of living can be challenging. Although culture shocks can appear trivial they are very real and can sometimes leave you feeling overwhelmed. As long as you are able to acknowledge these differences and try your best to overcome them, you will feel more integrated very quickly! Remember you can always reach out to friends and family members or even your new colleagues for advice and someone to talk to.
The other thing to consider is the language barrier. Depending on your destination it’s important to remember that people will be expecting you to understand and speak the language. Although I’ve been studying Spanish for 5 years, I still don’t feel 100% comfortable when talking to native speakers due to the speed! I also forgot that Catalan would actually be the main language spoken in Barcelona! For the first few days I was wondering why I couldn’t understand anything! My advice is to always try your best, even if you don’t speak any of the language, making the effort to learn a few key phrases will get you a long way with the locals. It shows you are respectful of their culture.
Making Friends in a New City
Although this can feel like one of the most daunting parts of moving abroad, it will also be one of the best things you do. Getting to meet people from so many different backgrounds is one of the things that has made my experience so special. Be bold! Make the first move! How are people supposed to know you’d like to be friends if you don’t ask? Join group chats and facebook meet ups. Here are a few of my favourite Barcelona groups that I am part of:
Girl Gone International – they have these groups for so many locations across the globe, exclusively for girls. They organise meet ups/events for like-minded people and I have met some amazing people here!
Language Exchange Barcelona – a great opportunity to practice speaking Spanish with native speakers. They also have language exchange groups all over the world.
Expats in Barcelona – another group for tips/advice on your new city. You will find lots of information here but less events.
Of course please always do this safely and ensure you are meeting people in a public place. Be sensible and go in numbers, take a friend or colleague along with you or at least let them know your location. Always keep your wits about you.
My Advice to You
Know that your feelings are valid! Even though you have moved to a new city and are following your dreams, you can’t always expect to feel on top of the world. It’s a strange concept to come to terms with but this is your life now! Were you always in an amazing mood every day back home? NO! Then why should you try and force yourself to feel this way in your new city. Ride the wave of emotions and try not to burn the candle at both ends too much! Relax and enjoy your surroundings, they’re not going anywhere.
Also, be curious! That’s how you will learn and grow as a person. Try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that is new foods, new languages, new hobbies…you won’t regret it. Keep in touch with your family and friends back home when you feel homesick and remember that you’re living your dream, so enjoy it! I’m loving my experience as an intern in Barcelona and would encourage everyone to consider it!