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!