Everything has moved so quickly since last month’s post. I’m a fully-fledged intern now. Not any old intern though, I work in the odontología (dentistry) faculty of a private university. So how did this happen, a languages intern working in a building full of mouthy students and professors? Well, I have no idea. There is no ‘long story short’, only a short story. I arrived on my first day, to the office I thought I was going to be working in, the office I signed a contract to pledge my allegiance to a year ago, and they turned me away. Or pointed me to a different building, phrase it how you will. I’m still not sure why I’m not the ‘Digital Communications Intern’ in the International Relations Office that I signed up to be, or why they thought me the most suitable candidate to help out the teeth people. All I can tell you about teeth is that I probably should have kept wearing my retainer (I thought ‘wear it every night for the rest of your life’ was a joke).
As in turns out though, I am beyond happy with the sudden and unexpected turn of events. I work mainly with Chirag, a lecturer and Erasmus coordinator for the faculty, and Vicenta, the wonderful secretary. I get on with both of them so well – a big relief! I spend most of my day translating lecture slides into English, as the faculty recently introduced a bilingual degree option which runs parallel to the existing Spanish one, and there are lots of documents which still need transfering over.
As of last week I also work 3 mornings a week in the clinic. The university has a full blown dental clinic, as all of the students studying for Masters degrees have already studied for 5 years and are fully qualified dentists, meaning they can treat (and charge) real members of the public. I work on the front desk, at the moment only asking for the patients’ names when they arrive, and observing the other women, but I think it will start to increase in complexity. I’m going to be here for 4 more months after all. There is a confusingly intricate computer system which I’m still getting to grips with, and it’s frustrating not always being able to understand the patients – more often than not there is a busy clinic, ringing telephones and other background noise to contend with. Not to mention the inevitable mumblinenss of the ones who’ve just had their mouths prodded and whatnot. Some of them speak to me in Valencian too, which is often hard to recognise… it takes a while to register that they are even speaking a different language, as my first reaction is to blame my brain/ears when I don’t understand someone.
I get a strange buzz working in the clinic. I think it is mostly fear based, as it is so far out of my comfort zone. I’m a pretty quiet person but being in that environment forces the self-confidence out of me little by little. I’m slowly adapting to being an active fixture in such a busy, vibrant atmosphere, and answering questions I don’t actually know the answer to.
Outside of work I have had further language practice, going to a house party with tons of different nationalities (French, Colombian, Slovenian, you name it) and also deciding to speak Spanish at home with my English flatmate. I feel like I am getting even more out of my year abroad than I bargained for. There’s still so much I want to do too! Even with a 37 hour working week I just want to push through the tiredness and see and do more. Next week the university is closed for the last and most important week of Las Fallas, a very peculiar and noisy Valencian festival I will have to tell you about another day.
So that’s working life. More soon, vale?