Time is precious, and it comes and goes. Sometimes we pay attention to it, but often time passes us by and we reflect on how short life really is. I have now lived in another country for 7 weeks. I’m sure more has changed in my life and back home during this trip than I will ever realize. What a blessing and an amazing life experience it was to study in a different country. Here are some of my take-aways from this trip.
From a pharmacy perspective, I learned there’s different ways to practice pharmacy, especially in countries that have socialized healthcare. It is important to keep this in mind when serving patients in the U.S. who are from a different culture than my own. I will have more patience with people who have a hard time understanding how our healthcare system works since it is much more complicated than universal healthcare. Also, after experiencing the difficulties in communicating in a second language, I will have more empathy with the people I serve who are not native English speakers. I desire to increasingly value the differences of other cultures.
One major difference I noticed during my time there is how America wants everything done fast. We rush to get things done quickly, and get upset when services or products are not provided to us as fast as possible. This is not the case in Spain; things are slower paced, especially when eating out in a restaurant. This slower pace allows for more conversation and patience resulting in what feels like a more relaxed culture that is not always stressed out. I enjoyed this style of life and hope to slow down some aspects of my life in the U.S.
During my time there, my diet improved significantly. Part of this was due to my health behavior change of cutting soda out of my diet, but also because of the foods I was eating. They eat many more fruits and vegetables than I am used to here in the U.S. I think this is in part due to the availability of them. I want to try to maintain a better diet here in the U.S. as I’ve found that’s hard to do in pharmacy school.
My time with my host family was fantastic. I was by myself with an older couple, Coronada and Miguel. We enjoyed being together and it stretched my Spanish skills since they did not speak any English. I tried all different kinds of homemade food from Paella to squid to rabbit to snails and everything in between. They made me feel at home and I was sad to leave them at the end of the trip. When I was not in class or out with friends I usually spent my time at the house, making the most of my experience of living with a host family.
Through this trip, I now realize the difficulties in gaining cultural sensitivity and competency. It’s something that is hard to obtain but necessary to strive toward in one way or another. I think of it as similar to our war against sin as Christians. Though we will never be perfect, by the grace of God we are able to continually take small steps toward the end goal, growing little by little during our short time here on this earth.
My study abroad experience in Valencia, Spain has truly been a life-changing experience. Studying abroad is something I have always wanted to do in college. When the opportunity came in pharmacy school, I jumped right on board. My intention on going was to experience life in a different part of the world. I also hoped to learn some Spanish while I was there. Even with these intentions, I did not realize how much I would gain from this experience as well as its impact on my future career as a pharmacist.
My host family experience was definitely a crucial part of my study abroad experience. My host mom’s name was Lucia. Lucia was in her early fifties and taught English to elementary school children and to adults at a company. She worked about 8 to 9 hours a day Monday through Friday. She had a pretty busy work schedule with hosting two students at her home on top of that. A few days before I arrived, she was diagnosed with diabetes. I think living with someone who recently got diagnosed with diabetes was a good learning experience for me. I was there for all her frustrations, questions, and doubts. I realized there are so many more emotions and thoughts that bombard you with a diagnosis like diabetes. Therefore, it is very helpful to have supportive people around you. I am glad that Lucia had a great support group. She had a neighbor who would bake her healthy and nutritious food once in a while, and it also helped that Christy, my roommate, went to the gym with Lucia every morning. She also started attending our diabetes elective class most days of the week. Living with Lucia for a couple of weeks has helped me better understand what many patients may go through when they are first diagnosed with diabetes. It is a lot on their plate on top of their normal schedule and routine, and I must learn to be empathetic and willing to help in any way I can.
Another way studying abroad has impacted my future career as a pharmacist is through my experience with the language barrier. The only Spanish I had going into this study abroad program was one year in high school. It was not easy and a bit frustrating at times trying to communicate in Spain. Although, I will say that it was nice that my host mom spoke English very well. Nonetheless, this experience helped me to better understand what my parents may have gone through when they emigrated to the States as well as others like them. As a future pharmacist, I hope to remember this experience and be patient and understanding with my future patients whose first language may not be English. Also, I hope to be a pharmacist that patients can trust and comfortably approach with any questions they may have about anything in life and not just medicine.
Last but not least, my study abroad experience in Spain has given me a new perspective on life. I realized there is so much more to life than my own little world I have been living in. I also realized that I have been ignorant about a lot of things around the world. I am thankful that I was able to come abroad to expand my knowledge and to be able to better relate to and understand people from around the world. Studying abroad has also encouraged me to explore and appreciate diverse cultures outside of my own. I always thought that I had a very diverse mindset; however, coming to Spain has given me a new perspective on diversity. Studying abroad truly makes a difference!