Esteban C. is currently a healthcare intern in Madrid for a local LGBT organization. The work he is doing for the LGBT community in Spain is impacting the locals.
Adjusting to Spain
It has been two months since I landed in sunny Madrid, and I can’t believe my time in this city is coming to an end. The insight into the Spanish culture, language, and lifestyle are unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The people I have worked with, the places I’ve seen, the food I’ve eaten have left lasting impacts on me. I came into the program a little anxious, and to be honest, the first few weeks were difficult. It was difficult adjusting to the time difference, the transportation system, a new internship, and being alone in a new place.
Spanish is my first language so I did not take the Spanish classes offered. It left me lonely and prevented me from meeting any fellow travelers. I had trouble with figuring out how to get around, and since I did not know anyone I was nervous to go out. This fear was unlike me, as I am an incredibly social person, but for some reason, I felt uncomfortable. This led to an almost debilitating anxiety that kept me in my apartment most days after work. Once I became a little more confident with the Spanish, the metro, and living on my own I was able to get out and take advantage of all Madrid has to offer.
Healthcare in the LGBT Community
I came to Spain to work with a Health internship with an LGBT organization called Fundación Triangulo. I worked different hours depending on the needs of the organization, from scheduling rapid HIV tests to tabling with the Spanish Red Cross on the street. Spain takes its summer vacation in August, so when my internship location closed for 2 weeks, I worked with another organization called COLEGAS, another LGBT group, and helped educate the local community about LGBT rights as well as volunteered at a food stand to help during the Fiestas de Lavapies, one of three religious festivals celebrated for the first 2 weeks in Madrid.
Through this work, I was able to work closely with members of the LGBT community as well as local citizens and develop my interpersonal, educational, and organizational skills. Being able to observe how HIV tests are done and the struggles that Spanish members of the LGBT community still face was eye-opening and something that would have been difficult to do in the United States. I was given a glimpse into how a local NGO works and the intricacies that come from the day-to-day job. Since one of my majors is Global Health, I was able to apply what I learned in my classes and experience working in the public health sector, albeit in another country.
While I worked hard from Monday to Friday, I still took the time to enjoy myself. I tried tons of new food, visited tons of museums, met many new people, and even traveled a little around Spain! Through weekend trips through Barcelona, Toledo, Seville, and Granada, I learned more about the rich culture this country has to offer. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about myself and did things I never had before. Like staying in a hostel and going to a music festival alone. The travelers I met and the great times I had will stay with me forever.
Madrid is a bustling city, combining old architecture with the hustle and commerce of a modern city; however, it’s this juxtaposition which creates its unique flair. Overall, my summer has been a wild ride, but certainly a welcome one. If you are looking to travel abroad, Spain is the place to do it!