Overcoming Foreign Barriers

By Jayme Yen

I believe in venturing to a foreign country to discover a lifestyle that is vague to you. I believe being an outsider is truly significant to understanding a different culture, language, or idea. But most importantly, I believe in the ability to overcome the barriers of being foreign with the help of good people.

Yearning to know more about a culture aside of my own, I travelled abroad to Zaragoza, Spain. At the I.E.S. Gallicum high school, I learned that the language barrier seemed impossible to cross and my poor Spanish speaking ability did not earn me any friends. Dressed in my Red Sox hat and my faded Abercrombie jeans, it was obvious to everyone in my school that I was a foreigner.

On a crisp, autumn day, I wandered through the school courtyard. I found myself discouraged by the fact that I had still not made any friends and wondered if I would ever accustom myself to life in Spain. As I was listening to the crunch of dried leaves with every step I took, I was distracted by an upbeat tune playing close by. As I drew closer to the sound, I saw a group of boys standing on the concrete steps of the school playing a song from a cell phone. We made awkward eye contact and I blushed. Embarrassed for intruding, I turned to leave, but it was too late. “What’s your name?” one boy called out. I replied timidly and couldn’t avoid engaging in conversation. The boy’s name was Abner and as it turned out, he wasn’t from Spain either. Abner then introduced me to his group of friends, all of who were not from Spain. They shared their difficult experiences with me and reassured me that they understood the insecurities that I felt. I soon learned that all of these boys were immigrants whose parents had moved to Spain for economic opportunity. I realized that this group had a strong common bond that brought them together: being foreign. We continued to converse, and within no time, I was welcomed into their group. Finally, I no longer felt like an outsider, but someone who belonged.

As the end of my study abroad approached, I stood one last time on the concrete steps of the high school. I reflected on the obstacles that my best companions in Spain had helped me overcome. With their help, I was able to overcome a language barrier that had once seemed impossible to conquer. Because of them, I was able to assimilate myself into the Spanish culture and gained an immense amount of knowledge on the Spanish food, customs, traditions, and even some from the native cultures of my foreign friends. For all of this, I had my foreignness to thank. Due to being foreign, I was led to people who had already learned the significance of being from an outside culture. By the time my study abroad came to a close, I felt that I was no longer living as a foreigner, but as a native.