It´s been officially a week since I started my internship! I have learned so much and it´s going really well so far. My on-site supervisor had a family emergency on Monday so I was alone in the lab and had to complete my experiment by myself! That was really nerve wracking and I had people from other laboratories I was able to ask for help. They only speak Spanish so it really pushed me out of my comfort zone to ask questions in Spanish and interpret their answers when I was already confused in the first place. It was definitely a huge learning experience, and David was extremely helpful and willing to help me. Not having my supervisor, Marian, in the lab made me second guess my procedures a lot and took me a lot longer to complete them. I had to use a spectrophotometer to measure the concentration of a protein dilution I made, and it ended up taking eight tries before I got it right. It was frustrating, but I was glad that I took the initiative to ask questions and figure it out in the end. Things are going a lot smoother now that I have a better grasp of how things run in the lab. Marian also taught me how to analyze my data to find the binding affinity between the DNA and protein I am studying. It´s awesome being able to see my results right away and determine if my experiment that day was a success or if needs to be repeated the next day. My results have been good and bad, but they are not really consistent so far. I hope to improve as I start doing more experiments and are able to gain a better understanding of the equipment I am working with. But so far it has been a really good start!
This experience has opened me up to handling new equipment in the laboratory, but also matured me as an adult. All the people I work with are older than me, and how I interact with them has to be different than how I interact with people my own age. One of the goals I had for myself coming into this was broaden my perspective in working with people from different cultures and this definitely has happened! I have met people in the research center doing different kinds of research and specializes in something different. Marian is also letting me explore different experiments with her colleagues as well. I shadowed David for a day and he showed me how protein purification is done, and even allowed me to do some of the steps. It was very interesting seeing the process being completed after learning about steps such as ion exchange in previous classes before. I did DNA purification in the laboratory I worked at last summer, and it was interesting to see some of the similarities and differences between that and protein purification. I am glad that I am able to explore beyond my own project, and I get the chance to venture out and broaden my learning experiences here. I hope for the next month of my remaining internship (wow, time is going to too fast!), that I can get more opportunities to take part in different experiments. I also hope to improve more and more on my experiment and achieve more accurate results.
I have constantly been surprised by the openness and kindness of the people in Spain. Anytime I interact with locals, they are always patient in listening to my slow Spanish and stutters when I try to figure out the correct verb conjugation and phrase to use. This had made me more willing to use my Spanish and practice my speaking every day. Although Spain is not THAT different from the US, there are cultural differences here that do add up and sometimes causes me to be a little culture shocked. For example, their eating times are different. Lunch is normally at 2pm or later, and dinner is after 9pm. I never had a strict eating schedule, so it wasn´t hard to adjust to eating at different times, but it was surprising to me when people invited me out for dinner at 9:30pm and ate a full meal, when usually if I ate that late it would be a snack or dessert. Grocery shopping is also something that is done quite often here. It´s not abnormal to go grocery shopping every day. Their produce standards are also different, and when you go buy fruit/vegetables, you need to wear gloves and weigh out each item on a scale which then gives you a price sticker to place on your bag. The cashiers don´t weigh them out for you, instead they just scan the tag. Cultural differences like these aren´t huge adjustments I had to make, but when little things here and there add up, sometimes I get overwhelmed. But all in all, it has been adjustments that have made me feel more and more like a Spaniard every day! Another thing that has also made me realize how different my Spanish is compared to native Spaniards, are the words I use in my speech. I learned Latin-American/Mexican Spanish, and some of the words I say aren´t used here at all, and although they can understand me through context, they can tell that I didn´t learn my Spanish here. It is very interesting seeing the difference between the two, and how they can be so different! It is exciting to see the changes I am making in my speaking and how I am more and more integrated into Spanish culture every day.
One of my biggest personal goals in Spain was to step out of my comfort zone more. Spain has truly done that! The people there have truly been welcoming and open, making me feel so comfortable. I am constantly surprised at what I can handle and do by myself. It has truly been a rewarding experience. I can get comfortable with my life and tend not to step out of my comfort zone if I don´t have to. I realized more and more now, that as I venture out more, it enhanced my experiences in Madrid. My cross cultural goal was to immerse myself in Spanish cultural as much as possible. When I go out to eat I spoke as much Spanish as I can, even though a lot of waiters can speak English. I also met a girl here studying Spanish, and she speaks English as well. Even though we can communicate in English better and quicker, we spoke Spanish with each other as much as possible. Because of this, when we traveled together many people are amazed at our ability to speak Spanish. We traveled to Segovia one weekend, and while we were waiting for the bus, a lady in front of us turned to us and complimented our Spanish. We began talking and she even gave us some suggestions and places to go in Segovia. Had we not been speaking Spanish, we would have missed out on this opportunity. Another time, we went out for tapas for dinner, and a table next to us started talking to us because they were surprised at our ability to speak Spanish so well. The couple was from Venezuela and are visiting Spain for vacation. I am so glad that although I am not completely fluent in Spanish, I have met many new people just by speaking Spanish.
I seriously cannot believe my time in Spain has come to an end. It all felt like a dream. I never thought I would have established a life there. It was truly a memorable time because it was the first time I truly did everything by myself. People always ask me if I feel like I grew as a person during my time in Spain. And I DEFINITELY did. Not only was it the first time I travelled by myself, but it was also the first time I lived by myself without any roommates, and had to establish a life in Spain all by myself. Living with roommates in college, I am able to invite them to go grocery shopping with me, or even ask them basic everyday life questions because we live together and I always have someone there to talk to. But living by myself in Madrid, I had to figure out every aspect of my life by myself and figure out every little detail by myself as well. Even though it wasn’t hard to do, it was still an adjustment I had to make. I began “talking” to myself a lot in my mind when I was out, figuring out if it was the right time to do that thing, or go that place, or eat in that location. I told many of my friends that this experience made my truly feel like I am really 21 years old.
Living in a new country by yourself is extremely terrifying, but one thing I will say is the quote “you never know unless you try” was very real to me this summer. This doesn’t mean to not be conscientious of decisions and end up in dangerous situations, but to me, it pushed me more out of my comfort zone and do things that I normally would not do, like initiating a conversation, travelling by myself to another city, or even trying new foods. I am really proud of all the things I have accomplished this summer in Spain, and it has shaped me into a more mature adult. It has also made me more aware of my own culture and upbringing, and truly realizing what it means to adapt to a new culture. After coming back to the US it was hard for me to jump right back into my American life when I had been living a Spanish life for the past 10 weeks. It felt like I had abandoned a life and nothing ever changed. But it has been comforting keeping in touch with my friends back in Spain and also learning how to incorporate what I have learned culturally into my life here in Oregon. Spain has truly left an imprint on me and I am really excited for future travels I will embark on to broaden my perspective even more on different cultures and enhance my intercultural experiences. But for now, I will say, España, yo he dejado mi corazón contigo. Spain, I have left my heart with you.