After finishing an exciting second year of college at Penn State, I had an even more exciting opportunity waiting for me this summer. For 5 weeks in May and June 2017, I spent my time as an Atlantis Project fellow in Hospital General of Almansa, Spain. Through the Atlantis Project, I spent 20 hours per week shadowing in various specialties, including General Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Gynecology, Urology, Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Rehabilitation, and Pharmacy. I was able to learn about a possible future career while picking up more and more Spanish each day. My summer internship with the Atlantis project was an incredible experience that I will never forget, for multiple reasons.
First of all, I was able to get firsthand experience in a hospital setting with amazing doctors of all ages. I stood in an operating room watching a cancerous tumor get removed from a colon. I watched multiple children be brought to the world through both natural births and C-sections. I watched various colonoscopies and kidney stone removals, and much more. I was able to see doctors consult with their patients and prescribe medicine and advice. In addition, one of the coolest parts of my time in the hospital was shadowing under a socialized healthcare system. Every surgery and procedure I saw was completely free. What an amazing concept.
The hospital in Almansa was where I learned that I really could see myself working in a hospital. Although I spent 5 weeks shadowing physicians, I also learned that I don’t want to become a physician. I love healthcare and understanding how the human body works, but I learned that I would like to further my career in healthcare as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. As an Atlantis Project fellow, I gained the experience necessary to decide that becoming a physician was not my dream job. However, I also learned that medicine is something that greatly interests me.
Medicine aside, I spent the summer in Spain!! Along with being a Biobehavioral Health major, I am also minoring in Spanish. I spent 5 weeks immersed in the Spanish language and culture, and it was unforgettable. While scary at first, I became more and more comfortable with talking to doctors and friends in Spanish. I was also able to travel to major cities, such as Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona on the weekends. I believe that understanding cultures different from my own is extremely important to my intellectual and social growth. I am so happy that I had the chance to become a foreigner for 5 exhilarating weeks.
This experience has really made me reflect on my time in college so far. Over the past two years, I have grown immensely and learned a lot about myself. I have talked with a lot of older peers about their college experience and listened to their "one piece of advice for incoming college students". After these five weeks, I think that I have figured out my piece of advice: put yourself into situations that make you uncomfortable.
Believe me, I am not one who is the biggest fan of awkward situations. I pretty much hate confrontation and asking people to do things for me. However, this experience in the hospital in Almansa has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. Not only did I need to follow around doctors everyday and at times feel like a burden to them, but I also needed to ask a million questions due to the language barrier. In the end though, I have much more knowledge than I did five weeks ago.
Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing about my summer in Spain with the Atlantis Project. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend taking the leap and steeping outside of your comfort zone! I am forever grateful to the Schreyer Honors College and Penn State for making this experience possible.