Ready for Takeoff!

¡Hola! My name is Kathryn Altman, and I am a rising senior in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. I am working towards a major in Psychology, as well as minors in Spanish and Neuroscience, and will be pursuing the Bachelor’s of Philosophy distinction through the University Honors College in the fall as well. I am involved in a variety of ways around campus, as a Pathfinder, member of the Hillel Jewish University Center, and sister of Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority. I also conduct research in two separate labs: the Infant Communication Lab in the Department of Psychology (PI Dr. Jana Iverson), and the STEADY Study in the Department of Psychiatry (PI Dr. Stephanie Stepp, post-doc Dr. Salome Vanwoerden). I am very passionate about my research, and love challenging myself to come up with creative ideas and solutions.

My career goal is to pursue a PhD in Neuropsychology. At first glance, this may seem completely irrelevant to this trip to Madrid. However, the field of research psychology often neglects non-English speaking populations, particularly in the United States. It is for this reason that I initially chose to pursue a minor in Spanish, as well as elected to participate in this program. My main goal for the next eight weeks is to improve my Spanish fluency, as well as my cultural competency. This could allow me to reach under-researched populations in this country, and participate in research that could include a larger, multi-lingual population.

Outside of school and extracurriculars, I enjoy taking walks and exploring new places, reading and journaling, and going to the gym. A fun fact about me is that I have been practicing martial arts for over ten years, and am a huge advocate for everybody, especially women, empowering themselves through physical activity and self-defense. I love meeting new people, and am looking forward to getting to know the other students on this trip, my coworkers, and my host family.

In Madrid, I will be working in El Hospital Infantil Niño Jesús, in the eating disorder recovery ward. Although this does not align perfectly with my future career goals, I am beyond excited for this opportunity. I have extensive experience working with children and teens of all ages through work as a martial arts instructor and a Hebrew tutor. Additionally, issues regarding body image and mental health are very important to me, as a young woman involved in athletics. I hope to be able to provide the patients at the hospital with whatever support they need, be it a listening ear, an encouraging word, or anything else. I am also excited to learn from the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. Healthcare is a very broad field, and oftentimes psychologists must collaborate with other medical professionals in order to help patients receive the best quality of care. This experience will help me to better understand the perspectives and roles of medical professionals in other fields.

Although I am excited for the professional opportunities that this experience will offer, I am also extremely nervous for the program. I have never traveled by myself before, and have never lived anywhere where English is not the primary spoken language. Normally, I consider myself to be a chatty person who makes friends easily. However, in Spanish, I am much less confident in my ability to communicate and make connections with others. For these reasons, this experience is completely outside of my comfort zone. Yet I hope that this challenge will push me to grow as a confident, culturally-competent individual, and I am looking forward to putting in the work to adapt to this new environment.

Overall, I am eagerly anticipating the professional, academic, and personal challenges this program will bring. I have never worked in a hospital, never traveled alone, and never lived abroad. However, I believe that growth is found through overcoming challenges, and I am excited to see what difficulties this program brings, and how they facilitate my growth.