For months, you plan your journey. You think about what you´ll need while away from home. You think about what you want to do while you are there and what you hope to accomplish. You think about the people you'll meet and about the people you are leaving behind. But it never seems real until you actually arrive at your destination. I'm really here, in Murcia, Spain.
The story begins in the third week of January. My tia in Austin sends me an email about a fellowship called the Mount Sinai School of Medicine International Exchange Program for Minority Students. The fellowship presented an opportunity to travel abroad and do community-based public health research. As a nursing student with the desire to do research in public health in the future and a love of travel, this was perfect for me. The application was due in a week. I spent hours on my essays, asked for recommendation letters, and collected my transcripts. Thanks to the US post office, my application gets lost tan lejos from its destination. I had to go in person to the Mount Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine (where the program is based) and go on a treasure hunt to find the office (the location was not public information). Thankfully, I found the office after visiting a few building with kind security guards who were willing to help. All my documents made it in on the day of the deadline. Menos mal!
Fast forward to the end of March and I receive a phone call from Dr. Claudio. I was selected to participate in the program! I was one out of 10 selected from over 200 applicants! I felt very fortunate especially since the fellowship pays my travel, room and board, and a monthly stipend! So, here I am in Murcia. This will be my home for the next 11 weeks. Murcia is located in south east Spain. And I am actually not even in Murcia. I am in a small pueblo next to Murcia called El Palmar where the hospital I work at is, Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Arrixaca (Arrixaca for short).
My first time in Spain. I pictured Spain to be a little different, more like the scenes from the movies I suppose. The buildings are similar to those in Mexico or Ecuador (places I have been before), rather than appearing "European". The people are overall pretty friendly, but not always. Every other city I have stayed in, pretty much everyone who finds out you're a foreigner is friendly and willing to help. Here, that has only been true for about 50% of the people I have come across. Makes it a little more diffiicult to adjust to a new place when not everyone is so welcoming. But it just makes me more grateful for those that are! My coworkers have all been so wonderful, helpful and wecloming. Upon arrival, it has been a process in brushing up on my Spanish speaking abilities. It's been difficult I must say, between a different accent and me being very much out of practice. My coworkers have been so patient with me! It will be a continual process all summer in improving my Spanish. After work, I study my spanish practice textbooks for at least 2 hours and speak Spanish all day. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to communicate much better.
The unit where I work at is called the Unidad de Salud Medioambiental Pediatrica (Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit). I work with three other nurses, a doctor, a technician and two office assistants. We're doing a study on environmental factors that effect breastfeeding and in turn, infant health and growth.
Next blog entry I'll describe the work I'm doing, my neighborhood and some of the people I've meet!