If you are reading this article, you are probably about to start your adventure as an international student. You have been accepted at a university somewhere in the world, far from home, and it seems you can finally relax and go on with your summer. Until reality kicks in and you start thinking about all the preparations you need to do before arriving in a new country. 

So, are you aware of what it means to live and study abroad in an international environment? 

It is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience but you will face some challenges, especially at the beginning. And one of them will be to communicate in a language other than your mother tongue. Being alert and prepared is good, and we are here for you! Take notes, and don’t let any obstacle stand in the way of your journey as an international student! 

Here are some helpful tips for dealing with language barriers.

1. Watching series or movies in the language

In the first days, when you’re settling into your new destination, you will probably spend most of your time at home, watching movies and videos on Netflix, HBO, or YouTube until you start meeting people and socializing. Well, this is your moment! Use this opportunity to watch them in the local language, with subtitles in your mother tongue. This is one of the most effective ways for your brain to retain a new language from the comfort of your home while enjoying your favorite series or movies. You can also start doing this a few months before settling in the new country, so you can get used to it and have part of the task done.

2. Joining university clubs and activities

Once you meet a few people, you will feel confident enough to join a university club – a group of students with common interests in organizing activities supported by the university. They are usually initiatives related to culture, art, sports, and leisure. You may even find activities focused on the country’s culture and, therefore, its language. If not, it will be an excellent opportunity to meet new peers, interact with the local buddies of your new friends, and perhaps find your Tandem partner. Wondering what Tandem is? Read on! 

3. Practicing Tandem: Find a language partner

Tandem is a language learning method based on mutual exchange between two people, where ideally, each person is a native speaker of the language the other person wants to learn. In practice, it consists of meeting your partner, usually in a cafeteria or a bar, and simply getting to know each other by speaking in each person’s language. Commonly, universities organize Tandem sessions through their activities for newly arrived students. There are also apps for it. And there is another more straightforward option: meet someone in the first days of classes and propose to be their tandem partner, surely there will be other students interested in knowing your language!

4. Attending lessons

You can always go the traditional way and sign up for language classes, in person or virtual. Sometimes, the university or associations working with international students offer them either for free or at an affordable price. You may not need the local language to attend your official study program, but learning it will be advantageous in your day-to-day life and look great on your CV.

 5. Going out and practicing

It may make you feel awkward, but one of the best ways to learn the language in a new country is to practice it in your daily routines. When going shopping or to a restaurant, start by greeting and thanking and use the few words you know. Local people will appreciate your effort, help you, correct you, and teach you new words. Imagine that every week – having language lessons without even realizing it! 

The benefits of overcoming the language barriers 

Moving to study in another country, with all that that implies, is a challenge. But at the same time, learning with people of different cultures and backgrounds drives knowledge, creativity, and success. These qualities, by the way, are highly appreciated in the labor market. It may not be easy, but once you overcome the difficulties around communicating with someone who does not speak your language, you’ve got it! You have stepped out of your comfort zone and opened a door that will never close again.

We, at SRT, are also here for you as you begin your journey as an international student, providing you with the best resources to make the right choice. Stay tuned for our next blog posts for trends in education, advice, and first-hand information from university representatives and counselors! 

Marta Valverde
Event Coordinator for Spain at SRT Fairs. She studied Journalism and Communication in Tenerife, Spain, and is now based in Sofia, Bulgaria.