An Unexpected Internship

Before coming to Madrid I did not plan on applying for an internship. In my mind, I wanted to have time to explore Madrid and not be committed to anything more than classes. But, a few days after arriving, we were all told that internships are great opportunities that we shouldn’t pass on.

I was still not convinced.

In a mandatory meeting with Luis, he asked me if I had considered any internships. I randomly replied that I would like to work in a hospital (because I strangely love hospitals and would like to work in one in the future). He suggested applying for a competitive internship with the AECC (Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer). I said yes and next thing I knew I was sending in an English and Spanish version of my resume to the AECC and going to their office for an interview.

The interview was in a group and after learning about the organization we were told that we got in. I told them I wanted to work in a hospital versus their residence and a week later I was contacted by Patricia who works at the Infanta Sofía Hospital.

Now I take the metro to the hospital every Monday and volunteer for three hours. The commute is an hour and a half one way, but it is worth it. Every morning I get a list of patients to go visit and general details about how long they have been in the hospital, our unit, etc. After making coffee and tea to bring to a room on the main floor where most of the patients are, we head to the rooms on our list. Sometimes patients are very talkative and appreciate the visits and other times we just stop by and offer information and support to their families.

Volunteering with the AECC is rewarding and I could not imagine wanting to be anywhere else on Monday mornings. Everyday, I have loved being in the hospital, meeting new people, and talking to patients and their families. But also, everyday has been hard. Hard to see people suffering, patients worrying about their partners and children, and both young and old children trying to hold back tears in their parents hospital room only to break down outside in the hallway when talking to us. Today, I had to stop myself from crying twice.

Every Monday I step into peoples lives in the most intimate way and yet it does not seem intrusive. As a volunteer it is my job to listen and offer help, information, and support when it is wanted and I am able to. It is also my responsibility to know when to leave a room and give a person and their family some space. As a volunteer with the AECC I want to provide people who I visit with what they need, whether it be a new face, the comfort of company and conversation, or simply a pamphlet and some sugar free caramelos.

Recommendations:
1. Practice saying yes! Amazing experiences will result while you are in Madrid!
2. Try to use your time abroad to do things that you would not be able to or would be more challenging at other times in your life.
3. If you have to work during the school year and summers like I do, use your time abroad to do something that you are passionate about.

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