Studying Abroad: Communication in Another Country – Lauren Reed

When I began my planning to study abroad, I thought about all of the sights I would see and fun experiences I would have. However, when I stepped into a country where I did not know anyone and struggled with conversations, I thought of how out of place I felt. Studying abroad in Barcelona was a huge lesson in communication for me. But it was not just communication in other languages that I learned.

Improving my Spanish in real time (and learning Catalan with no background in the language) was intimidating. The lady who hosted me at her home only spoke a few English words. Through conversations with her and others around the city, I learned that hand gestures, smiles, and supporting graphics can go a long way. However, I learned that assuming a certain term is universal could be confusing for both parties. Communication technology, such as was a great resource for when I got stuck! I found myself slowly improving both inside and outside the classroom. Also, the best tool for learning was pushing myself to not switch from Spanish back to English.

Communication differences went beyond language. Despite most of my classes having English as the primary language, classes were run differently. My previous semester at Ohio University consisted of mostly long essays for the finals. In contrast, all of my classes in Barcelona had oral presentations. The professors allowed slideshows as a visual aid, but I quickly learned that many professors took “not just reading off the slides” to a whole new level with “only seven words per slide” as the rule. Spending time at SCRIPPS taught me how to write, but some isolation from the pandemic made me forget how to speak. Preparing for these speeches reminded me of the importance of being able to talk out loud, which is something I am doing once again now with interviews for internships.

Many of my communication troubles were not even in Barcelona, but with everyone from my life back home. Though the internet and social media allowed me to view news and events in real time, the six hour time difference put a halt to the usual virtual communication I had with friends. Often the only way to talk with friends and family was to find a scheduled time. I could get into the bad habit of staying up late to talk with my friends back home and sleeping in to catch up on sleep. However, I learned that living in the place I was at and in the moment was the best way to feel alive. The other students who came with me were almost always up for an adventure after class, I just had to ask. Learning other students’ stories was interesting too since they were from almost everywhere in the United States. Spending time with people in real time, even those with life experiences different than mine, could be so enjoyable.

Ultimately, I learned how communication is so important in so many aspects of life. After getting through communications roadblocks, there is a whole world out there with amazing stories to tell and friendships to create. I am extremely grateful for my experience and hope to remember my lessons as I continue with my life back in Ohio.

Lauren Reed is a journalism-strategic communications student. Follow her on Twitter here and on LinkedIn here.

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