This semester, I’ve had the pleasure of working as an intern for the Education USA branch of the Fulbright Commission Spain. The Fulbright Commission is housed within the State Department, but the actual goal of Education USA as its own entity is equipping Spanish undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in pursuing studies in the States with the resources to see that come to fruition. Whether it be providing information on grants and financial resources, or else facilitating communication between students and schools, Education USA is meant to be a tool for students to realize their academic aspirations.
While there is the stigma interning anywhere can be equated to being glorified office rat, for fetching coffee and making copies at the snap of the fingers, my time at Education USA was really rewarding and no coffee-fetching was involved.
Over the course of the semester, my modeling career blossomed thanks the Education USA (the embassy posted a photo on their website to advertise the services the commission offers, and I was playing the role of ‘student seeking grant’). I also had the chance to speak with myriad speakers of Catalan based in schools in Barcelona (fairly one-sided conversations, until they switched to English). But through all the tiny tasks I performed, I was left with the sense that all my actions were going toward the greater function of the fine-tuned machine: I stamped, organized, and sent out the letters that reconfirmed peoples’ statuses as grantees. I researched different professors in the United States who could qualify for grants, so they can have the chance to bring their expertise to Spain. I helped reach out to guidance counselors about sending their students to a college expo, and I worked to set up all the materials for the college fair too. At the end of the day, I had the sense that my little actions were a piece of something much more important.
For me, working in an office setting in Spain was also such a unique experience. I have my Spanish CV all ready now, albiet likely riddled with errors on my end. And like any place–school or work–the people around me really were integral to forming my great experience at Fulbright. I worked directly under Elo and Natalia, two amazing women who would patiently put up with my slow and steady struggle to navigate the Fulbright website and work on Excel. They also made sure to keep me hip during my time in Madrid, a la extensive lists of places to find good deals on clothes, and the street with the best Chinese food. Michelle from the office next to us joined in with fervor too, sending me names of different hikes on El Camino de Santiago that I can do, encouraging me to stay in Spain after my program to travel sola, and appropriately shaming me for knowing more about connecting metro stops than how neighborhoods mix into the fold of the city. Kathy, who heads the program, was also a gem, who helped me study for my vocabulary tests before I headed out for the day. The work they do is so important, but the people behind EducationUSA and Fulbright Spain are wonderful. I’m so fortunate to have had the chance to see these powerful, intelligent women in action, running the office!
So in conclusion, I want to thank the Fulbright Commission Spain for having me in their office this semester! I gained a new perspective on the process of seeking grants and pursuing studies overseas, and I met some incredible people in the process. I’ll definitely be back soon in some capacity—as Michelle and Kathy can attest to, Spain has a way of turning your trip from America into something much longer than you planned!