Every day was a day to look forward to while I was in Spain. While almost every day had the same basic structure, there was always something new to try or see or experience in general. On a good day, I would wake up at seven on the dot in my Spanish apartment. I would get dressed, have breakfast that my host family prepared for me, and commute via two metros to go to the center. The first few weeks, I would sit next to my supervisor, taking notes on everything he did and why he did it. For example, if checks are being made to cover medical expenses, I would take notes on how to write it and how much can actually be covered according to the procedures of the center. I would also accompany my supervisor on any appointments that the residents of the center had, especially since many of them did not speak Spanish. In a few circumstances, I got the opportunity to translate from English to Spanish, which I enjoyed since I got to speak to the residents quite a bit.
As I grew accustomed to the procedures of the center, I got to take on more important responsibilities. I got to accompany residents by themselves, greet them and get them used to the center, as well as carry out multiple entry interviews. These interviews cover questions such as the migratory route, situation of their homeland, familial relationships and more. I also got to handle several specific cases, in which families would request to leave the center, need a specific economic help, or any other issue. My responsibilities mainly focused on following up with the cases of the refugees who lived in the center. Through my time working at this center, I came to understand how overwhelming the work is, as well as gain some critical insight on the work, especially in terms of my role as a potential savior (which is something I wanted to avoid). Besides gaining much needed experience in the field, I also got to experience Spanish work culture, which was especially prevalent in the midday break and with lunch, which was often Spanish food such as paella or huevos rotos.
After the work day was over, I would either go to the gym or take a nap, honestly largely depending on whether or not it was too hot out. Afterwards, I would be ready to explore the city again. Throughout the trip, I had developed a list of places I wanted to see, foods to try, cities to visit, parks to roam, museums to ponder, and more. So, every day, I would try to visit a new place or go somewhere I felt I hadn’t really taken my time to enjoy. I managed to accomplish this, which honestly made the trip so much more worth it. I feel like I got to truly get to know the city I was living in. I had gotten used to where to find places and how to get to them, to the point where I didn’t even need a map in the last few weeks of the program.
I am so grateful for the time I have spent in Madrid and all the lessons that came with this amazing program. On a professional and academic standpoint, I have noticed the growth I have had in terms of the passion that comes with what I want to do. Although I am not sure what I specifically want to go into, the experience of working at a refugee center was one that I enjoyed more than I expected, so it made me realize I want to do something related to social work. Being able to apply and improve my skills in this field have allowed me to grow more confident when it comes to doing work. I think I have definitely grown in the sense that I have become more sure of myself, in which I realize that I am on the team for a reason, I have a different perspective that is unique to me, just like everyone does, and my contributions are valuable. Going forward, I am excited to be able to apply my professional and academic growth in any setting as my career advances.
On a personal level however, and as cheesy as it sounds, I think I learned a lot about self -love on this trip. Although I had great friends to spend my time with, I also spent quite a bit of time alone, in which I got to know myself better. I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with myself which was a feeling that was somewhat foreign to me or one that once provoked a lot of anxiety. There have been many takeaways from this program, including how to navigate the world in a professional and personal standpoint. I have learned a lot about confidence which I hope to keep practicing as I continue my career and life. Now that I am back in the United States, I have noticed that to keep what I have learned in practice, I have to consciously think about it, in which I often listen to music that reminds me of this wonderful time I spent in Madrid. I can’t wait to go back, and I am so grateful to have been a part of such an amazing opportunity.