Adapting,  Language Learning,  Living Abroad

My First Time…At an Intercambio

Dear Patri,

You’ve probably already read about Dani’s first time at an intercambio―where we actually initially met―but my first intercambio story is a little bit different. Like I have already mentioned a hundred times, I am a little bit socially awkward, so things like meeting people I don’t know is not easy for me. However, my first intercambio buddy found me, making it easy for me to step out of my comfort zone and take the plunge into the world of intercambios.

At my language school, a young girl (19 or 20 at the time) came by asking for a one-on-one intercambio partner. She wasn’t looking for me in particular, but it just so happened that we are of similar ages and paired up, ending up as decent friends. Although we initially met to speak a combination of Spanish and English, eventually we ended up just meeting to hang out―which means we mostly spoke in Spanish. While this was great for my Spanish, after about a year and a half (and me moving to Brasil, her to live with her boyfriend in the States) our friendship slowly petered out.

When I moved back to Granada after being away for just over 7 months, I felt pretty alone and friendless, even with my family close by. So, one day I decided to head to a Couchsurfing intercambio. For those people who don’t really know me, you might think that this is my jam―talking to a bunch of new people and making friends. However, it took me a long time (and a lot of emotional energy) to convince myself that it was a good idea and that it would be beneficial for me to go to a group intercambio.

While the story of my first time isn’t quite as successful as Dani’s, I did end up meeting some pretty cool people. I was also challenged to a baking contest* and told someone that “I don’t usually fist so early into knowing someone.**” In fact, to this day one of the guys I met at that very first group intercambio is someone I still see on a regular basis and enjoy talking to (although this might have more to do with the fact that he now owns one of my favorite coffee shops in the city).

After getting over the initial shock of group intercambios, I became much more comfortable going―although I don’t think I will ever truly be a social butterfly―, and have made several friends over the years this way. Overall, I feel like intercambios are really worth your time if you are either looking to meet new people or practice your language skills (and if you want both, they are perfect). In fact, I encourage most of my English students to get out there and meet some foreigners if they really want to improve their skills.

Have you tried intercambios yet? What do you think?


*Which turned out to be a series of really fun baking competitions of which I think I won one or two.

**I was nervous, but what I wanted to say was fist bump…obviously.

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