Class of 2012"Not only did studying abroad fulfill a dream, but also it helped me to foster a unique skill that I strongly believe will allow me to provide better care to my patients. My understanding of the culture as well as the ability to converse with my patients in their native tongue will help develop a stronger provider-patient relationship. "
I can remember arriving at freshman orientation. With registration paperwork in hand, I perused the list of seminars that were being offered throughout the day. As I had already been recruited to join the soccer team, attending the athletics seminar was a given. Required to partake in two other seminars, I continued looking through the options. One in particular sparked my interest, international affairs. Studying abroad seemed to me as the quintessential part of a college experience. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think it would become my reality. Between the course load and demands of dual majoring in Spanish and Pre-Physician Assistant studies as well as the time commitment involved with playing a collegiate sport, I could not see myself being able to take advantage of such an opportunity.
Flash-forward five semesters: I had been accepted to the professional phase of the Physician Assistant program. Just one week following the spring semester, I would no longer be part of traditional undergraduate curriculum and would begin completing coursework year round for the next 27 months. Consequently, I was in the middle of my last season with the women's soccer team. And that's when it happened. I found myself sitting in the foreign language department at Dr. Reyes' request. He explained that a new organization was running a study abroad program for the spring semester in Salamanca, Spain that unlike others, allowed me to be back in time to start the Physician Assistant program. There it was, my chance. As I was coming to the end of my Spanish graduation requirements, it was perfect timing. With the encouragement and support of the foreign language department, I was able to navigate through a few roadblocks and ultimately make studying abroad my reality.
January will mark three years since I embarked on my study abroad journey in Salamanca, Spain. By choosing to stay with a host family and opting to take classes only taught in Spanish, I was continuously immersed in the Spanish culture and was provided an incredible opportunity to improve my fluency in the language. For close to four months, I took in the character-filled architecture, tried a variety of new foods, met people from all over the world and adjusted to a different way of life. Most importantly however, with each passing week I came closer and closer to my real objective, a more profound understanding and command of the Spanish language. This goal forged in part by my love of the language, but also because I knew that being proficient in Spanish would greatly benefit me in my future career as a Physician Assistant.
Although I tried my best to enjoy every moment, my time in Spain went by far too quickly. As I became engrossed in my Physician Assistant studies, I never let my beloved second language stray too far from me. I would watch the occasional Spanish movie in my free time or put on my Spanish play list in the car on my commute. And of course, I was always excited when I had the chance to use the language to better communicate with patients while on clinical rotations. My two passions truly became one however, when I decided to complete my final senior project in Spanish.
In the three years since I returned from Spain, I have completed the Physician Assistant program, passed the National Certifying Exam and in just a few short weeks I will start my first job in a busy Family Practice office. I look back on my time fondly. Not only did studying abroad fulfill a dream, but also it helped me to foster a unique skill that I strongly believe will allow me to provide better care to my patients. My understanding of the culture as well as the ability to converse with my patients in their native tongue will help develop a stronger provider-patient relationship.