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For my time abroad I am doing an internship at a health organization in Madrid,...

Spanish Adventures in Madrid

For my time abroad I am doing an internship at a health organization in Madrid, Spain. Now that I have settled in a bit at work, I am getting more comfortable in my role. I have come to observe that everyone in the office is busy and has their own predetermined roles. So far my tasks have varied from inputting data into client files, copying papers, translating documents for various people and was just recently assigned to write/create a project proposal for the UNHCR for $20,000. I was able to ask for help from a coworker who offered her support, which was great. I was honestly shocked that they gave this task to me because it is something way above my knowledge and experience. But I gave it my best effort and am waiting for feedback on my proposal from my supervisors. This work is aligning with professional goals to have diverse experience, because every single day is different and I never really know what to expect for workload. While it is not directly related to public health administration, I think that it is applicable in making my professional mindset more flexible and able to take on whatever task is given to me. I am definitely more flexible than when I arrived a few weeks ago. I have also seen that the internship experience here will largely be a result of my attitude and how hard I work to get tasks and assignments that are valuable to me personally and to my career. My goals for the end of my internship are to be more confident in asserting myself into professional conversations. Where I am now, I am not really comfortable giving feedback, because I am still learning how things work here and don’t want to be disrespectful. By the end of my time here I want to be able to say what is appropriate in the situation by reading the culture situation and knowing what to expect as a result of that.

Since arriving here in Madrid, I have become more comfortable in going alone to explore the city and do things independently. Before this, I would never go somewhere alone just because it interested me, but I have done that many times here in Madrid. I have also made progress on being more confident in creating relationships quickly. While I have learned the value of being independent, I have also seen that it is important to have some kind of social support. Since arriving I have been more direct in getting to know roommates and making more conscious efforts to connect with people socially and at work. I also found myself personally drawn to some of the staff because of their approachability and welcoming nature they displayed. This has in turn developed into growing relationships where I can trust them with questions about work and to advocate for me in meetings and other conversations. However, I still have room to grow in areas of Spanish fluency. While I am able to get by in conversations out and at work, there are often times that I come about words or phrases that I do not know. At work I am able to communicate at basic levels and have noticed the complexity of the words I am using increasing over time. Before coming to Spain, I did not anticipate the slang phrases that people here use in every single conversation. For example, I did not know the phrase “vale” which here means okay, yes, and so many other responses. But that is all just part of the experience.

The cultural experiences that stand out the most have been at work, especially because the clients who come in are all immigrants from other Latin American countries. Everyday clients come in and I hear their experiences as they are consulted by staff. However, the experience that stood out the most was that of when a client came in with her young daughter who only spoke Portuguese. While the mother was in her appointment, I was given the task of taking care of the young girl. Interacting with someone who I did not have a common language between was difficult but also a powerful experience. I could see that the young girl understood some of my Spanish but I also utilized hand signals and drawing to carry out the conversation with her. I think that this was powerful because as a learner of a second language I knew the look in her eyes of thoughtful confusion and being fearful of not knowing another language well. That was a similarity we shared in that experience, but it also served as a tool for me to realize that as humans most of us experience the same struggles, even when we do not realize it. I am excited for all of the different experiences to come in my last few weeks!