Many people believe that simply existing in a foreign country is enough to absorb all aspects of culture and become as fluent in the language as the locals, but that’s an illusion. You have to realize that while on study abroad, you can only become as immersed as you allow yourself to be. That’s why after spending four months in Spain, I highly recommend that you join a club or participate in a sport while abroad.
1. Exercise: While you’re abroad you want to be able to enjoy all of your new experiences 110%. The best way to do this is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a strong immune system. You can join a gym, or you can use fitness as an opportunity for further your immersive experience. Seek out joining a sports club. Sign up for the football group. Go to the program’s volleyball games. Find a group in your local community.
This semester, that’s exactly what I did. I decided to try something new and started capoiera (an Afro-Brazillian martial art) with a local group about 15 minutes away from my house. Being abroad can completely change your routine. You’re in an entirely new place. Why not embrace the change and challenge yourself by doing new things?
2. A chance to meet new people: Being a part of the Grupo Ginga here in Sevilla gave me the chance to meet such wonderful and amazing people. I’ve met locals as well as people from The Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Brazil. These friendships really helped me create a home here in Spain. Plus, having local friends and interacting with them up to five times a week pushed me to practice the language and helped me to learn many colloquial phrases. What I didn’t know was that I would also have the opportunity to learn other languages, too. Through capoiera, I was able to become familiar with the Brazilian Portuguese language and further deepen my curiosity and thirst to learn more languages. Who knows, maybe I’ll study there next?
3. Learn more about the city: I was able to learn about the city by joining Grupo Ginga. The location of the gym was in a different neighborhood from where I lived and I’m almost 100% sure I would not have gone if I wasn’t training with the group. I walked to the gym, so I was able to find new places. One of my favorite places is the ice cream shop right across the street, opposite to the gym. Some days after training, some members of the group would go for tapas or drinks. This also helped with learning new parts of the city.
I think only good can come out of joining a sport group while abroad. I would 10/10 recommend investing your money and time into a group because the experiences you get out of it are priceless.
The Grupo de Capoiera Ginga has honestly been the best part of my time abroad, and it breaks me to leave the family that I’ve made in them. I cannot thank them enough for helping me grow and become stronger, and I actually don’t know how to put into words the kind of happiness I experienced while training with them almost every day. Please take my advice and find a group like them. I guarantee you will have no regrets.
Jenia Cunningham is a student at Mount Mary University. She was an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain.
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