I love doing community service, no matter what form it comes in. I knew being in a country where people did not speak English, my main contribution of giving back would be to teach a local English. Where I live in Barcelona would be considered “older Barcelona” which is before Barcelona became expanded due to the Cerda plan. On each street there is a “placa” which is a big meeting square where local will meet with their friends and enjoy a Clara ( beer with lemonade) or some tapas and wine before heading out. I was sitting out in the placa by myself enjoying my favorite tapas and met a local name Arnau and asked if he wanted to practice his conversational English. He seemed to be pretty good at speaking English in my opinion, but he begged to differ and wanted to perfect his English to sound like me. I found it so funny because I wanted my Spanish to sound like his.
Arnau and I met up a few times and every time I met up with him he did start to sound more and more like me. As a joke for one of his English conversational lessons i taught him how to speak like a New Yorker. This was one of the funniest meet ups we have ever had because he found it so funny the way some New Yorkers talk when I was doing the accents of people from different boroughs. Then hearing him trying to imitate them had us both laughing so hard in the middle of the Cerveseria, we got so many looks, but did not even mind it. Little did I know what I thought would be a community service project turned into me having an amazing friend I can always come back to Barcelona and visit. We hung out outside of our conversational meet ups and he showed me and one of my friends a big locals club in Barcelona called Razzmatazz. I absolutely loved it, it used to be an old warehouse, but now it is a club that holds over 1,000 people.
To me volunteering in general is such a great thing to do, but it is an even better experience while abroad because you can feel like you are giving back to a place that has given you way more than what you asked for. It is so important to be part of the Global Community and give back to the individuals in it. Community service has so many perks, one of which is that it is completely free and can mean so much to the people you are helping. I never expected to make such an amazing friend out of just teaching him how to perfect his English.
Most study abroad students do not realize how blessed they are to come into these countries and gain new experiences. I think taking a couple hours to help someone who does not enjoy the same luxuries we do is a completely selfless thing to do. Also, it makes you feel so special that you were able to help strangers out. Richard Slimbach said, “The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” For me it gave me a good confidence boost that i was finally able to approach a Catalan and have a conversation with them.
For most, you can even make their day by just telling a joke or too as well, which is what happened when I tried to teach Arnau how to speak in a New York accent. This experience has impacted my life because I now can understand the importance of giving back and how much these people appreciate it. Before I left I did not get a chance to see Arnau because my family came, but he could not stop thanking me via whatsapp for teaching him English and being his friend from New York. it absolutely warmed my heart to know that I made such a huge impact on his life. It was so special just to be there helping out in Barcelona.
Unfortunately, I do not have a great picture of me and Arnau, but to display a representation of what our encounters looked like here is one below. Our times were filled with great laughs and a lot of learning. I am glad I decided to think outside of the box when it came to doing community service in Barcelona.