I have officially been here in Madrid for almost three weeks! I am starting to settle into a routine, feeling less and less (but still quite a bit) like a fish out of water each day. On one hand, my host mom finally let me help set the table for dinner, which, in my opinion, moves my position in the household from “guest” to “temporary household member”. On the other hand, I had a language mishap the other day, upon seeing a sign in a grocery store window which read “vendemos judías”. I was incredibly confused as to why this grocery store would claim to sell Jewish women… only to learn that judía is a synonym for frijoles, and means beans! So, no matter how much my host mom lets me help out around the house, it would seem that I still have plenty to learn.
One phrase I have heard quite a bit over the last three weeks is “no te preocupes”. This translates to “don’t worry”. More than anything else, I think this phrase demonstrates the difference between the way I am used to working in a professional environment, and the typical Spanish professional environment. In every job and internship that I have held previously, I have been given a clear schedule, guidelines, and expectations. I have been expected to arrive places on-time (if not early), and to complete all of my tasks in a timely and efficient manner. Contrasting this, the Spanish way of life and work is much more go-with-the-flow, laid back and flexible. At work, I will ask my supervisor questions such as “where should I sit in this office?” or “what time do I need to arrive at this location?” Often, her answer includes the phrase “no te preocupes”. In other words, stop stressing – we will figure it out.
Although this relaxed perspective has its benefits, it has led to frustration and a lack of clarity in my internship. I did not have an initial interview prior to my first day of work as I was told I would; instead, I spoke to my supervisor for a brief couple of minutes in the hallway of the hospital. There, she told me that I would shadow a different psychologist every week, introduced me to the first psychologist I was to shadow, and then left without providing further information. This first proved to be an issue at the end of the first week, when I was not sure who I would be shadowing the second week. Luckily, the psychologist I was shadowing first knew who I was supposed to observe next and was able to introduce me.
At the end of my second week, however, I had no such luck. I was told by the psychologists to arrive at 8:30 on the Monday of the third week (today), in order to meet with my supervisor and find out who I would shadow next. However, I do not think that she was aware that I intended to meet with her this morning. When I showed up at her office and asked for some direction, she seemed a little taken aback. She asked me how much longer I would be here, and when I said “six more”, she asked “days?” I then replied “no, weeks,” to which she seemed surprised. From what I was able to gather from her following rapid-fire conversation with one of the psychologists, I was given the distinct impression that she is unsure what to do with me for six more weeks. Eventually, I was introduced to a third psychologist to shadow this week, who was not informed ahead of time that I would be observing her.
I describe this experience not to complain, but to demonstrate a challenge in clarity and flexibility that I am facing. Being unsure of my schedule is not the end of the world; I will continue to show up each day, and the onus is not on me to find a place for myself – the hospital accepted me as an intern, and thus accepted the responsibility of assigning me tasks to do each day. The challenge is that, as a very “type-A” American, adjusting to this different culture of work is very stressful for me mentally. I have not quite figured out how to navigate this yet, as this is a new problem for me as of today. All I really need is the opportunity for a ten-minute conversation with my supervisor, so I can discuss what I should be expecting for each upcoming week. In person, I do not expect to have the opportunity for this kind of conversation; therefore, I have decided to email her if, by the end of this week, it is not clear what I will be doing next week and each consecutive one. I recognize that she is very busy, and suspect that email may be the only way for me to hold her attention for long enough to pass along my concerns.
Wish me luck as I embark on this journey towards finding structure and clarity in my internship!