These past two months in Madrid have felt more like two weeks. Looking back on this trip, trying to process everything that happened so quickly, I am realizing how lucky I am to have had this incredible opportunity. To be able to not only spend two months abroad, but also work for an inspiring organization and receive a valuable professional experience is something I will forever be grateful for. When I received my position a week before departing for Madrid, I was slightly concerned about it. The workplace used minimal Spanish on a daily basis, and the biggest reason I chose the IIP in Madrid was to be immersed in a Spanish speaking environment. I expressed my concern to the people in Madrid who helped place us in a job, and luckily they were able to find a new job even before I ever started with the first one. Switching jobs was the best decision I could have made. I was placed into an incredible nonprofit organization with amazing coworkers who really valued their work and interpersonal relationships. This fully Spanish workplace provided me with a chance to expose myself to the language for several straight hours each day, something that would not have been possible in my first placement. I was also extremely lucky to have a caring host family who enjoyed teaching me about Spanish culture. Living with another student and three brothers was nice as it offered a low pressure situation where I could practice my Spanish. Daily conversations with my family grew my confidence when I communicated in a more professional sense at work.
The professional growth I see most from this trip falls in my increased verbal communication skills. Whether it was just day-to-day communication or specific clarification on tasks, I practiced talking my way through various work aspects. The ambiguity in the workplace was a big challenge for me, so having the chance to practice thorough and detailed communication on a daily basis will be very beneficial to me in future experiences. There are very few work aspects that are more important than communication, so I’m thankful that I gained confidence in this crucial skill.
This trip has taught me several valuable lessons that I will use for the rest of my life, whether I am in Spain, the United States, or anywhere else around the world.
I first realized that you must put effort into something to see results; they will never just come on their own. I mentioned how much I enjoyed working for my organization, which is true, but the very relaxed work environment of Spain was difficult adjusting to. Many times I found myself asking what more I could be doing or what more I could learn. I feel that if I hadn’t been as proactive during my work, I would not have gotten as much out of the program. This is something that will translate to the United States in any work area. Success is a result of the effort you choose to put in.
I gained confidence each day during my trip. As this trip was extremely new to me, being my first professional internship experience, my first time in Europe, and it being in a language that I wasn’t extremely confident in at the start, I knew that there would undoubtedly be mistakes along the way. Anytime I found myself confused or unsure, I just slowed down and thought it out. I worked out any little problem that came up because there was no other option. Forcing myself to adapt to the new culture gives me confidence in dealing with whatever little issues may arise in my future.
Last but not least, I learned the value of relationships, inside and outside of the workplace. Having a good relationship with my supervisor and coworkers made work so much more enjoyable. Seeing the genuine relationships in my work environment inspired me to want to give my best effort to the company. The importance of teamwork really should not be undervalued. And I couldn’t have done this program without the friends I made over the weeks. Knowing that we were all in the same boat added a level of comfort, especially in times of uncertainty. Outside the workplace, these friendships allowed me to take my mind off of work and enjoy other parts of the trip.
In conclusion, I truly could not have asked for a better two months. I am so thankful for everyone at Pitt and in Madrid that made this trip possible – I will never forget it.