Who? Maartje Meijers, MSc Health and Society
What? Four months MSc internship at the International Health promoting Hospitals Network at the University of Girona
Where? Girona, Spain
‘I did my internship at the International Health Promoting Hospitals Network, which stimulates health promotion in hospitals. I was glad I had been taking Spanish lessons for two weeks before my internship started. Everyone speaks Spanish, or – even harder – Catalan. No one speaks English; even the doctors only speak a little. My internship consisted of evaluating a hospital’s health-promoting activities by conducting a survey among patients. I started right away at the emergency department. There I stood between the beds that were being wheeled in, with my questionnaire and my limited Spanish. It was lucky the average waiting time at A&E was 10 hours, so they had plenty of time to fill in the questionnaire. I had to help the patients who couldn’t do it by themselves.
Sometimes I got long stories in Spanish which I had to translate – which was really difficult at first. The way some things were organized was really Spanish. Like the office I had, sharing with a fellow student from Wageningen: it was more like a garden summer house – a wooden shed with two computers on a car park. At first we found it hilarious but actually it wasn’t so funny. Just like when we had to analyse the data using SPSS, which the Spanish didn’t know anything about. In the end we taught ourselves using youtube tutorials. The Spanish work culture is a bit more relaxed that in Holland and that required some flexibility at times. I was very happy that I had a Dutch mate who I could look to for support.
I learned a lot from Spain. There is a quote: ‘travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer’. That is really true. And I learned that good is good enough, whereas I always used to be very perfectionist and ambitious. That was the only way I knew. If you just enjoy what you are doing and do it with full conviction, it is all much more enjoyable.’