Brooke Hasl is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with Veritas in Sevilla, Spain.
One of the things I was most excited about when preparing to study abroad was getting to know locals and making Sevilla my home rather than merely feeling like a visitor for a few months. Though classes, travel plans, and other adventures will fill your schedule before you know it, besides helping you practice Spanish, befriending locals can help you form priceless relationships and make your time studying abroad truly exceptional.
Participate in a language exchange
It’s incredibly easy (and a ton of fun!) to participate in an “intercambio,” or language exchange. Once you’re matched with a local university student, it’s up to you to coordinate meeting times that can take the form of going out to a restaurant for a meal, cooking together, or simply hanging out in the gorgeous Parque Maria Luisa, usually spending half of the time speaking in English and the other half in Spanish.
Volunteering has been a wonderful way to get connected with locals, practice Spanish, and give back to my new community all at the same time. Once a week, I spend a few hours helping teach English to a class of elementary students at a local school. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to build relationships with the sweet students over the course of the semester!
Go where the locals are
To meet locals, you have to go where the locals go. Often, that means getting out of the more touristy areas like El Centro and exploring side streets and neighborhoods to find the restaurants, cafes, and spots frequented by locals. In Sevilla, I would highly recommend exploring the more residential barrios such as Triana and El Porvenir to get a taste of life as a local.
Join a church/gym/club, etc.
If you’re passionate about something, chances are you can get connected with it in your study abroad city and meet locals along the way. Finding a church in Sevilla was one of my first priorities, and it’s helped me get to know local families through church potlucks and other events.
Stay on the weekends
Though it’s tempting to spend every weekend traveling across Europe, don’t be afraid to give your wallet a rest and stay in Sevilla every once in a while. The parks, streets, and restaurants are always packed with local families on the weekends, making them the perfect time to make some new friends and get a taste of authentic Andalusian culture.
The world awaits…discover it.