In our society, the word fail carries a negative connotation, but learning how to fail is the only way you can really succeed. In an attempt to fit 5 weeks into 500 words, I want to tell anyone reading this everything I learned from my failures.
My expectations going into the trip were that I would become more fluent in my Spanish and be able to compare the medical care in the hospitals of Argentina to the hospitals in the States, but I had no idea what all those expectations entailed. My first day in the hospital I was put with a team of doctors and residents working in Internal Medicine. These doctors did not pay much attention to me and spoke very rapidly and in low, hushed voices. For the first week, all I did was listen and try to pick up a few words here and there in their conversations. Everyday that week I came home feeling a little defeated because I understood so little of what went on in the hospital, but everyday I understood a little more than I did the day before.
Throughout my five weeks in the hospital I was paired with some doctors who would help me practice my Spanish and teach me new medical terms while others ignored me and asked me what the point of my program was. It was in those moments that I felt as if I had failed because I couldn’t make the doctors think I was worth teaching. But, the doctors who gave me the time of day are who I will remember for the rest of my life. The doctors in the Pediatrics ward wanted to learn English as much as I wanted to learn Spanish and medicine. They would speak in English to me, and I would speak back to them in Spanish. We were sympathetic to each other because we both understood the difficulty of learning a new language.
By the end of my study abroad experience, I was able to have full conversations with my host mom and the doctors in the hospital, I learned the differences between medical practices and healthcare in the United States and Argentina, and most importantly I learned what it means to fail until I succeeded. Now I know how Spanish speakers feel to live in the US far away from their home. I get how intimidating it is to talk to people in a language you’re not totally comfortable speaking. These experiences will one day help me be a better physician and use the things I have learned to help others who feel like they are constantly failing.
Summer Smith is majoring in Biology (pre-professional) with a minor in Spanish. She spent the summer doing a medical Spanish immersion program in Buenos Aires, Argentina through AIFS. Summer had the following to say about her study abroad experience, “Take a chance and study abroad because you may never have the same opportunity again. Things will be tough and sometimes you will feel like you have failed, but pick yourself back up because eventually you’ll get it right. Failing, succeeding, enduring, laughing, crying, and learning are all part of the experience.”
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