University of Sydney students with the Valladolid sign, located at the entrance to the city’s main park, Campo Grande

Experience the Spanish-speaking world: an encounter with español

23 February 2024
Engaging with a new language and culture overseas
What is it like to learn a new language in a new environment overseas? We caught up with Science student Dominique D’Silva, who shares about her experience in Spain where she learnt the Spanish language as a beginner through cultural immersion.

Since 2019, undergraduate students from various faculties across the University of Sydney have embarked on immersive language-learning adventures to Spain with host partner University of Valladolid through the Open Learning Environment (OLE) In-Country Experience program.

Bachelor of Psychology student Dominique D’Silva joined a group of students who travelled to the city of Vallodolid last year, where they gained new language skills, partook in various cultural activities and tours, interacted with locals and connected with a new culture.

Student Dominique in Spain

Psychology student Dominique D'Silva in Spain for the intensive OLE in-country language and culture unit

What was it like to learn Spanish in Spain with a partner university?

It was awesome being constantly surrounded by the Spanish language and always having other students or teachers to practise with. I really enjoyed meeting new people and forming new friendships with like-minded people from around the world.

Why did you choose to learn Spanish?

I had no background in Spanish and wanted to learn a new language and culture. I discovered how useful Spanish is for communication worldwide, as it’s the second-most spoken native language in the world.

What was your cultural immersion highlight?

The day trip to Segovia was definitely a highlight! Despite not knowing much about Segovia initially, it was great to learn about the cultural and historical significance of the city through guided tours and have our own free time to explore.

What valuable skills and new perspectives did you gain?

I came to understand a lot more history which has helped to broaden my view of the world. I gained more independence and was able to get out of my comfort zone a bit more by trying new things such as new foods and activities.

As our world is the most interconnected as it’s ever been, now is the time to learn about other languages and cultures directly from individuals who practise them. In learning new languages and cultures, we are exposed to different ways of thinking and different ways of life.
Dominique D’Silva, Bachelor of Psychology student

How does the in-country experience apply to your current studies and future?

Experiencing another culture and language deeply is useful in becoming more open-minded and sensitive to cultural differences. This is essential to my studies as a Psychology student and becoming more well-rounded as a person.

What advice would you give to other students about learning a new language overseas?

At the start of the program, I found it a bit daunting to use Spanish in real life with native speakers. If you feel this way, try to just go for it, make as many mistakes as you need in order to learn and take advantage of being in your host country!

Worth 6 credit points, In-Country Experience units are open to undergraduate students with little to no experience in the language to gain new language skills through cultural immersion with our partner institutions around the world.        

Browse Dominique’s photo album of her experience in Spain on the School of Languages and Cultures’ Facebook page.

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