Academic and institutional discourses on study abroad (SA) have often reinforced the belief that it benefits language and intercultural learning, using the “metaphor of linguistic and cultural immersion”. The social networks that students develop during SA have been deemed one of the most relevant factors affecting individual differences in language learning. Although not explicit in the excerpts analysed, the researcher drew on the shadowing observations when asking questions or raising different topics in relevant interviews and focus groups. All participants linked their tendency to interact with other Spanish students to the fact that these largely outnumbered any other national group within the international cohort in Italy. From the beginning of SA, the participants, who had not been required to undertake a linguistic preparation pre-sojourn, realised that expressing themselves in Italian or in English was very demanding. At university, some participants had the opportunity to choose between English-medium courses and Italian-medium courses.