I have participated in the U-wide exchange programme organized by OAL from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I have been at the University of Navarra as a full-time exchange student from September 2022 to December 2022. It is in a town called Pamplona, and it is a high-ranking university in Spain.
I have been assigned to the faculty of philosophy and literature to conduct my studies. I have registered for four courses in total, including a course about the historical events of the Greek and Roman civilizations, a course about the literature of English from the Anglo-Saxon period to the turn of the 19th century, and two courses about learning Spanish. Apart from attending courses for approximately 20 hours per week, there were different activities organized by the university for exchange students to join. There were varied activities designed for foreign students to learn Spanish by interacting with local students, for instance, there were lunch meetings biweekly, and a round table of Spanish.
Since I did not formally study any Spanish before arriving in Pamplona, I encountered lots of difficulties in the first month. Pamplona is a city with extremely low English usage. I was told by teachers that most of the people out of the university are unable to communicate in English. I could only use body language to communicate with people in different social settings, such as restaurants, supermarkets and inside the public transport. Sometimes, I have to use the translation app to present my thoughts, and I have to utilise the audio function to translate their words into English. It caused lots of inconvenience in my first month in Spain. Luckily, people in Pamplona were patient and kind. They were willing to offer a hand to me most of the time.
Although there were varied inconveniences, there were full of memorable moments. I highly participated in the lessons to improve my Spanish. They provided comprehensive materials for me to pick up a new language. I was keen to practice what I have learnt in my daily life as well. At the end of the semester, I was capable to read most of the instructions in different places and interact with local Spanish without using any app for translation.
Also, I have tried my best to assimilate into the local community by speaking their language and imitating their living habits. I met friends living in Pamplona and they introduced lots of underground rules in the city. They also taught me how to become more “Spanish” by listing some “common sense” guiding what should do. Despite globalization, I found that there are still many differences between culture. By practicing differently, I can taste the similarity and differences between society and culture. Impressions made during the trip might be abstracted and over-generalized, but they made my days and leave good memories.