Preparing for Eight Weeks in Valencia, Spain
Hey, my name is Madeline!
I’m an upcoming junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Social Work with a minor in Spanish. I’m originally from Daphne, Alabama, but I love being able to call Tuscaloosa my home for these few years!
In the upcoming years, I hope to graduate with my BSW, then continue on with graduate school at UA to earn my MSW. After that, I’m really open to a variety of career paths within social work. Primarily, my interests include child welfare, human trafficking prevention and rehabilitation, and immigration.
This summer, I will be doing an 8-week internship (June 12-August 10) with Jarit Asociación Civil in Valencia, Spain. Here’s a little background information on the internship:
“It is a non-profit organization located in Ruzafa, a neighborhood with a mix of cultures, and with a lot of immigrants. This organization works a lot to help this part of the population, and they work also to help them with all the problems and necessities they may have, like their rights (law, human rights), education, bureaucracy and paperwork as residents in the city and in the country, and more services for people with no resources, like the projects and activities they have for the children.”
Why did I choose to study abroad?
Honestly, my first thought was just, “Why not?” I have the time and funds to go abroad now that I might not have in the future. Because I’m minoring in Spanish, I was looking at programs in Spanish speaking countries, such as Colombia and Spain, in which to study and earn Spanish credits. However, while looking at the Education Abroad website, my plans changed a little. I found the International Studies Abroad (ISA) website that offered a social work internship in Spain! For me, this was the best of both worlds. Not only would I get to study abroad like I wanted to, but I would also be gaining real, professional experience in the field of social work.
Initially, I wasn’t planning on receiving credit for this internship, but my academic and study abroad advisors showed me a way I would be able to receive SIX credits toward my BSW degree! What?!
So, if you’re thinking about studying abroad, here are a few of my recommendations:
- Really explore the Education Abroad website and see all the different options you have. Don’t limit yourself to one country or program just because that was your original plan.
- Talk to your advisors!! They want to help, and it’s their job to be knowledgeable about the processes and requirements that students are usually not knowledgeable about. (Shoutout to my study abroad advisor, Sarah Kidwell, for gracefully responding to my approx. 15 emails a week, and doing absolutely everything she could to make sure my study abroad experience goes smoothly!)
- Stay on top of everything, and pay attention to deadlines! There are applications, scholarships, forms to turn in, etc. that are essential to studying abroad.
P.S. I would highly recommend looking on the ISA website (www.studiesabroad.com) if you’re interested in more than just taking a class or two abroad.
How am I preparing?
For starters (and much to my bank account’s dismay), I’ve been doing a lot of shopping in “preparation.” But really, the appropriate and usual attire in your host country might not be the same as what you’re used to wearing. Do a little research, and just assume that the college uniform of baggy t-shirts and athletic shorts might not fly overseas. Also, if you’re staying with a host family, it’s always a good idea to bring them a little thank you gift, especially if it has significance to where you’re from.
Secondly, I’ve been doing some homework. To receive academic credit for this internship, I have to do a few assignments to submit to ISA, and some of them are due before I even leave for Spain. I know summer is a time of relaxation, but it’s important to not let these deadlines sneak up on you!
Next, ISA hosts informational webinars and gives an abundance of orientation-type information to go through before jetting off to your host country. I’ve been going through all this information, and making notes of things that I think are especially important for me to remember (such as destination spots within Valencia, which option is best for getting phone service abroad, and the number for la policia in Spain!).
Lastly, I’ve been spending lots of time with my family. For me, two months is a long time to be away from friends or family (and my pups). Since coming to college, I’ve grown really close to my parents and siblings, and I think it’ll be hard not to see them or talk to them as much as I’m used to. So this month at home is all about taking advantage of the time I have with them!
What are my expectations?
I’m fully expecting to get a little homesick, nervous, or go into culture shock just because this is so far outside of my comfort zone. But more than that, I’m expecting to have an amazing time. I’m expecting to try new foods, and learn to cook with my host family. I’m expecting to be amazed by the beauty of parts of the world I’ve never seen before. I’m expecting to improve my Spanish fluency and come back speaking like a native (or something like that). I’m expecting to develop new skills that are truly applicable to my major, become a more culturally-competent global-citizen, and get a taste of what a real social work career is like.