It’s hard to believe that I have officially crossed the halfway point in my experience in Madrid! It somehow feels as if I just arrived yesterday, yet have been here forever. I feel that I now understand why everyone I talked to before going on this program who had been on a study abroad spoke of their experiences as some of the largest periods of personal growth in their lives. While I am not learning many technical skills at my internship, given that my placement is entirely observational and I am not qualified to do any of the tasks in the hospital, I have gained a plethora of invaluable transferable soft skills and experiences.
The largest soft skill I have been developing throughout my time in Madrid is adaptability. It goes without saying that being thrust into a new country and culture creates a mountain of new challenges and things to which I have had to become accustomed. For example, living in another family’s home has meant that I have had to adapt to the familial and cultural differences that exist between their household and my family’s house back in the United States. From small things like doing laundry without a dryer, to larger things, such as eating a family dinner at ten in the evening every night, I have learned to keep an open mind and stop trying to anticipate how things are going to happen, instead trying to be more flexible and “go with the flow” when we do things such as have breakfast at eleven in the morning. This attitude of flexibility and adaptability is incredibly important to develop, as it will prepare me to successfully face any new scenarios that require a change in my habits or mindset in the future.
Another soft skill that I have been finding myself developing is my ability to be forthcoming when asking for things that I need. Especially being in another language, asking for things without them first being offered to me has seemed a very intimidating ordeal. For example, at my internship at the hospital, I was given a long sleeve white hospital coat to wear. However, the hospital does not have air conditioning, and this week, temperatures have been upwards of ninety five degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, the long sleeves have become very uncomfortable. While I was not offered an alternative, I did see some of the psychologists and psychiatrists wearing similar coats with short sleeves. I asked my supervisor if I could get one of the short sleeve ones, and she did not know. I was tempted to just quietly suffer, as I did not want to make waves. However, I worked up the confidence to keep asking, until someone was finally able to point me in the right direction, and I was able to obtain a short sleeve coat! Perseverance and advocating for myself is something that I have had to do a lot here, and as such I feel that by confidence and ability to do so has improved.
Similarly, the soft skill I have been intentionally working on improving and developing throughout my time here is the confidence to take risks and try new things. This experience is the first time in my life I have gone dramatically out of my comfort zone. So, while being here, I have made an effort to continue to push myself and not let myself get comfortable. For example, on my own, I found a local martial arts gym and signed up for classes. Martial arts is something that I love to do back in the United States, and I wanted to take a risk and try this hobby that I love in a different language. I was extremely nervous to try this – I even turned around outside the gym and had halfway retreated to the metro by the time I worked up the courage to go back and enter the building. However, this class has been the highlight of my experience so far, with each class providing me both a physical challenge as well as a linguistic one. Through experiences such as these, I feel that my confidence in myself to step out of my comfort zone and try new things is higher than it ever has been. Of course, this is an incredibly transferable thing to learn, as there will always be choices in life, between staying comfortable and trying something new. I firmly believe that the adaptability, ability to advocate for myself, and confidence in trying new things that I have gained throughout my time in Madrid thus far will serve as incredible tools in the future for whatever opportunities I may encounter.