This weekend I travelled to Ireland to visit my friends who are doing the Dublin IIP and one friend who was visiting from his program in London! This trip was great because it gave me a break from two of the most overwhelming parts of my life in Madrid: the language and the heat. In Dublin, I enjoyed a weekend full of English and 50-60º weather, which is a nice break from the 70-90º temperatures I have here in Madrid. In Dublin, I explored the city and got to experience my friends’ lives abroad which was very interesting and cool. It was crazy to see observe how different our experiences are even though their foundations are all the same.
These differences between our programs and the new experiences that we would have were something that Pitt prepared us for in many ways. Our IIP orientation clearly defined all of the life and culture changes that we could expect; from Spanish timing to the language barrier to communication styles, we discussed it all. However, this orientation was not the only way that Pitt prepared us/me for this experience. In our classes, Pitt always emphasizes the “to the world” aspect of our learning. For each professor, it is important that the students gain an understanding of how their subject material applies to jobs and experiences all over the world, not just in Pittsburgh and the United States. I am a Global Management and Politics & Philosophy major, so this is especially true for me. In my classes, I learn about different ways of viewing and understanding politics and their effects on the world and its international organizations. In my future business classes, I will learn how to develop an international perspective to the multiple different fields and processes of business as a whole. The thought-processes that are required in all of my classes in both majors contribute to an international focus because they teach me how to analyze certain situations and their impacts on different societies. In my classes, every topic has an extended international approach and analysis. I believe that this focus on international aspects is imperative in students´preparation for this experience, and I have first-handedly experienced the ways in which my experience at Pitt has and has not prepared me for this experience in Madrid.
At my internship, I write reports describing human rights and their connection to the changing environment. I spend my days researching and communicating complex information in a simpler way. My unofficial target audience are outsiders to the organization who have less exposure to its work, and my job is to help explain the current human rights issues and help Manos Unidas in the promotion of its efforts. I have greatly relied on my experiences with my writing classes, such as Business Communications and my various politics and philosophy courses. Having learned how to write to different types of audiences on complex topics has made this experience much easier for me. Even though my work is in Spanish, which adds another layer of difficulty, my prior-knowledge on how to format and research has made my work more efficient and a higher quality.
The other skills that I have been utilizing on this trip include those that have developed as a result of my responsibilities at school. My participation in different organizations has taught me how to properly delegate my time and responsibilities in order to manage everything that I need to. In my internship, I am dependent on my own schedule in order to complete my work, just like during my time outside of class at Pitt. Prior exposure to this type of responsibility has made the adjustment to this experience a lot easier. I am able to set personal deadlines and know how to stick to them. This responsibility that I gained outside of the classroom at Pitt has been my one of my most useful tools for success in my internship thus far.
Overall, my Pitt experience and prior travel experiences prepared me tremendously for this trip; however, there was one main thing that I felt unprepared for: the experience of living life in a completely different language. I have studied Spanish since high school, but in the US we learn Latin-American Spanish which is slightly different than the European Spanish, which has made the adjustment to the language more challenging. Also, in my classes at Pitt all of the Spanish teachers speak slowly because we are students so they want to be sure that we understand. This is very useful for my classes and exams; however, native speakers do not have that same concern. In order to combat this, I have begun to focus on attentive listening and practicing my Spanish as much as I can in my free time. I have switched to Spanish Netflix, books, and music to help myself fully immerse. This complete and total immersion still gets exhausting from time to time, but it has definitely gotten better throughout my time here. In all, the opportunity to work in Madrid and realize the ways that my experience in college can be applied to my future career has been an incredibly rewarding part of my time here. It’s exciting and motivating to watch my skills develop and be applied, and I am excited to continue to use them and gain more in the future.