Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

30 Days

Thirty whole days have gone by since I’ve been home and I’ve found out that a lot can happen in thirty days…

We spent our first night in a hotel where we met our roommates. From that moment on, the memories, challenges and excitement began! Over the past four weekends, I’ve traveled around Italy and have even been out of the county to experience one of Germany’s largest festivals.

The start of my adventure: 
During the first week, the Umbra Institute provided us with four days of Intensive Italian so that we would become comfortable and more familiar with the language. They also provided us with a delicious night of pizza at a local restaurant. The rest of the week was full of exploring the beautiful city of Perugia, and attempting to remember the names of the other 90 students at Umbra!

First Italian Pizza

First Italian Pizza

Monday morning rolled around and all of our traditional classes started for the semester. It was exciting to get back into the swing of school, but I wouldn’t mind being in Italy to study Italian and spend the rest of my time exploring the culture. At the end of  the week, I went on my first excursion and visited the beautiful Firenze. Sights like this are unimaginable, and no picture could ever do the view justice.

View from the Duomo in Florence

View from the Duomo in Florence

“Family” dinners, school, traveling and memory book club are what occupy most of my time during the week. Surprisingly enough, every time my friends and I get together for dinner, we always end up cooking some type of traditional American food. Stove top burgers has been our favorite meal so far! At the end of the week, my favorite person and I decided to take a weekend trip to see the beautiful Italian Coast. On our way to Cinque Terre, we stopped in Pisa to take the cliché leaning tower picture of course. While at the beaches in Cinque Terre, we were able to visit four out of the five towns and it was amazing. The sights were beautiful, and it was so easily to float in the water!

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Hanging out, holding up the leaning tower!

Hanging out, holding up the leaning tower!

The next week consisted of the usual: Breathtaking views of Perugia, attempting to understand Italian and eating a whole lot of food. The weekend on the other hand may be my favorite part of my entire study abroad trip so far! Colin and I traveled with the company Bus2Alps to Munich, Germany where we spent our weekend camping and attending the opening days of Oktoberfest! On Friday, we spent our day on a bike tour through Munich learning about the history and current customs of Germans. The bike tour wrapped up with a nice downpour and soaking wet clothing! On Saturday, we traveling to the festival (still raining mind you) in our lederhosen and dirndls! The best part was that we were in the Shottenhamel tent where the opening ceremonies were held. At noon, the kegs were tapped and we were served the Oktoberfest beer of the Shottenhamel beer tent! On Sunday, we stopped at the Dachau concentration camp to visit an important piece of history. The weekend in whole was amazing and although it consisted of long bus rides and cold, rainy weather, I wouldn’t have wanted the experience to be any different.

Celebrating at Oktoberfest!

Celebrating at Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest Camping!

Oktoberfest Camping!

While I will have so much to share about my time abroad, that’s all for now. Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending more time traveling and taking advantage of every exciting opportunity that is offered to me.

– Theresa Messenger

Temple

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Being here for three weeks now, I am beginning to know the ins and outs of the city. The towering buildings can be daunting, but a few blocks up a side street or into a quiet neighborhood park one can find moments of peace and quiet. Such stillness also comes late in the evening several residents from the buildings surrounding the campus come to the canals to fish, with poles longer than 10 feet dangling bait over the murky waters. It is very dark, but you can see the glimmer of the metallic lures and the waving of the rods. They sit in silence, and do not seem to catch much when I am watching. Maybe I am bad luck.

We went up the Great Wall last week, the only man made landmark that can be seen from outer space. The west side of Juyongguan Pass had a staggering concentration of Australian and Turkish tourists, and I had to make this climb according to our program leader, but my eyes were set on the seldom tread upon east wall. There I could only make out one other person scaling the heights. I rushed up the popular wall, and the descent was much like skiing. I should have saved myself for the latter half of the short time we were allowed on the wall, my quads burned and ankles crumpled at times. There was a temple on the east wall where one German sat, drinking a beer and musing at a large steel bell. He motioned for me to take a stone and ring the bell, so I did so, but the sound was drowned out in the traffic below. I moved further down the wall to the east, toward Beijing. Crossing one fortress outcropping I could see down into the valley on the other side. Suddenly the sound of traffic disappeared, replaced by the clucking of chickens and the slow roll of a freight train.

Today I went to a Buddhist temple in the heart of old-town Shanghai, near the popular Yu Gardens, yet removed from the tired tourist shops with haggling sales people who would try to convince you that a simple beaded bracelet was a priceless relic of ancient China. But the entrance to the temple was unassuming, just as I have found many of the treasures in this place are. At the door we were given bundles of incense, and then proceeded to walk out into a courtyard. We were the only ones there it seemed. Still unable to get a good glimpse of the temple, we climbed some stairs to a terrace, where we saw the actual opening to the temple and several people standing inside. Monks in pale orange clothing stood, bowing three times in each direction, holding their incense over their head. Sitting to observe this custom, I tried to understand what they were doing. Seeing this compelled me to bow as well, standing outside the structure with the sun behind me.

The buildings that swept the sky around me at this time reminded me that the temple is where you make it. An oasis of calm in the middle of traffic, where you can deliberately concentrate the mind on the life that you are living. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the loud places to reconnect with the quiet ones instead of always running to them for solace. The ebb and flow of the city is teaching me things, and this is hopefully one of many lessons.

 

My First Ten Days “Studying Away” in Washington, D.C.

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Greetings from The Washington Center (TWC)!  This is Michael Butcher on move-in day at TWC.  I am spending the semester completing a 12-credit internship in the office of Congressman Charlie Dent of the 15th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.  I am also taking a 3-credit class, Rising China: U.S.-China Relations in the 20th and 21st Centuries.  After just 10 days in the program, I am finding life in D.C. and the internship fast-paced and exciting!

The building pictured is where I live, attend class, work out in the gym, and enjoy the excitement of meeting people from around the world.  This semester the program serves over 400 students from 13 different countries including China, Japan, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

Capitol

After a walking tour to the Capitol and a practice run on the Metro, I began my internship this past Monday in the Rayburn Building of the U.S. House of Representatives.  On Thursday I shadowed a tour guide, as I will be leading tours of the Capitol for constituents from Congressman Dent’s district.  I have a lot to learn!

What an opportunity to live in D.C. during an election year!  Stay tuned for more information about this adventure made possible through the LVC Study Abroad Office.

 

Global Harbor

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The first three days in Shanghai have been nothing short of spectacular. Having never been to Asia I knew little about the east and what it had to offer. As of now it has surprised at every corner. From the first night in town as a jet-lagged traveler, having drinks with a myriad of international and Chinese students, to the second day getting adjusted to campus life, then the bus system and subway, it is clear to see that this is truly a global city. I feel like a rock in a stream surrounded by running water, and now I am only an observer. I think that soon when classes start and the internship gets underway I will be an active participant in one of the fastest paced cities on the plant. Dr. Bian, a professor and coordinator of the international students programs urged us to go off the beaten path to truly understand Chinese culture, and that is what I intend to do. I am here for a reason, and am excited to call this place home for the next few months.

Hot Springs (Take 2) and Santiago de Compostela

June 11th:  Today we had a free day to ourselves, so my friends and I decided to go to the hot springs because we loved it so much the first time.  But this time we went to a public hot spring, which personally I enjoyed better.

Public Hot Springs!

Public Hot Springs!

We got to lay right by the river and we could listen to the rushing water of Rio Mino.

Hot Springs Pool

Hot Springs Pool

This hot spring had five pools: three of which were steaming and occasionally bubbling, one was also that temperature, but it had river water flowing into it to make it bearable and the last one was filled with river water to cool down.  And the great view was a plus!

June 12th: Today we had a group tripped planned for Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia.  We had a tour through the city, led by a tour guide, and none of us were dressed for the weather of Santiago; there it is chilly and had a misty rain, and the majority of us were in shorts and t-shirts.  The tour guide took us throughout the city and talked about important things and various local legends traditions, and religious history which heavily surrounds this city.  How students of the University of Compostela "chose their major"Santiago translates to “Saint James” and Compostela translates to “field/sky of stars”.  The massive cathedral there is actually the place where Saint James the Apostle’s tomb resides.

St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral

 

 

 

 

While the tour guide was talking to us about the cathedral, a group of people cheering, clapping, and singing entered the plaza; they were pilgrims who had just finished “the way of Saint James”.  These people had walked quite a distance (we didn’t ask specifically, but people usually walk a minimum of 100 kilometers).  The way is a spiritual experience where anyone can walk (or bike) along certain paths to get to Santiago de Compostela, one of the paths goes through Ourense.  There are many reasons why people choose to walk the way, and if they don’t have a reason when they start, they have one by the end, according to my tour guide.  After the tour, we had about 45 minutes of free time to wander the city before dinner.  During this time, I walked through a holy door (a door that is usually closed unless it is a holy year, but this year the Pope declared that all holy doors be opened).

Walking through Holy Door (featuring cathedral security guide)

Walking through Holy Door (featuring cathedral security guide)

I also got to walk around the inside of the very large cathedral there; however, we were not allowed to take pictures on the inside of the cathedral, but trust me, it was very large and very beautiful.  We all then reconvened for a group dinner and a bus ride back to Ourense.  First time trying flan!

 

 

 

 

 

After we got back to Ourense, everyone went to bed to prepare for another week of shadowing – I’ll be in pediatrics this week!

A Day At the Hot Springs and Shadowing Isn’t All Fancy Surgeries

June 8th: Today we got a day off from the hospital to have a tour around Oursense and go to a private spa with hot springs!  The tour was given by a tour guide and we were shown many main points in the city both today and historically.  We walked around town and were shown different popular shopping areas, one of which was the marketplace.  The marketplace consisted of one larger central building surrounded by many smaller, individual stands selling various items.  One thing I thought was weird is that the fish was stored on ice and was out in the open as opposed to being behind clear glass or plastic case.  After that, we went to Las Burgas, hot springs that are in the city of Ourense – they are VERY hot.  Displaying IMG_3539.JPGLas Burgas!They also have mineral properties that can resolve certain skin conditions.  While we were there and the tour guide was talking, people would come and fill up containers of water to take home and quickly run their hand through the water and rub it on their skin.  After that we went to the main cathedral in Ourense (Catedral de Ourense).  I’ve never seen a more beautiful church ever!  catedral de ourenseThe tour guide said it was also used as a fortress because Ourense is so close to the border of Portugal.  catedral de ourense 3After a group lunch, we took the “spa” train to a private spa with hot springs!  Train to the Hot Springs!As a rule, we could not take pictures of the spa because it was private, but the surrounding area was beautiful!  View Next To Private SpringsThe hot springs also contained the same mineral properties that the tour guide talked about in Ourense (the surrounding area of Ourense also has a very large number of natural hot springs).  We were allotted two relaxing hours in the spa; after which we reluctantly left the spa, but we all had very smooth skin!

Atlantis Project crew on Train to the Hot Springs!

Atlantis Project crew on Train to the Hot Springs!

After returning from the spa, one of the things I had for dinner is what I would consider the Spanish equivalent to mozzarella sticks; they were called “triangulos quesos” and were served with a very sweet tomato and pesto sauce.  Yum!Triangulos de Queso

 

 

June 9th: Today at the hospital was the first day that I did not follow the doctor I’m shadowing this week into the OR; instead, she was seeing patients today – and she had approximately 56 on her list!  The way this was set up was very different from the U.S.; all the patients (a lot of them) waited in a large waiting area and waited to be “buzzed” into the doctor’s office based on their number (it reminded me somewhat of being called at the deli line).  The patient enter the doctor’s office, a room with a desk, computer, chair for the doctor, chairs for the patient and guest, and an examination table.  The doctor sat on one side of the desk typing notes while talking to the patient who sat on the other side of the desk.  More often than not, the patient would then be examined for whichever urological ailment they were in the office for.  The major thing that was very different from the United States is the time that the doctor spent with each patient: sometimes it was as little as about five minutes with almost none lasting longer than about twenty minutes!  This goes back to the differences between Spanish and American health care systems; health care is “free” because it’s included in people’s taxes.  Which leads me to the feeling that more people go to the doctor more often which leads to many patients to be seen.  I believe there may have been one other doctor tackling the list of the 56 patients for the day, but I’m not exactly sure.  All I know is that I saw a lot of different patients in the span of time I was there.  The number of patients I saw today was much larger than the number of patients the internal medicine doctors I shadow back home see in a day.  My doctor was extremely busy today and therefore couldn’t translate what was going on after she saw each patient, but from what I got out of the conversations (which were very fast – too fast and complicated for my years of high school and one year of college Spanish to comprehend everything), the majority of the patients did not have an issue, it was either more of a check-in or because an issue they thought they had.  Of course, there were a few that I saw that did have a problem.  During an endoscopic check for bladder cancer in one man, the doctor did find cancer and it was actually that patient’s second time having bladder cancer.

While I did not get the “thrill” of being in the OR today, I learned many valuable things today, most importantly the differences between Spain and America’s health care systems and what that translates to for everyday patient care.  It also put some things in prospective: I tend to get annoyed when the doctor is late for my appointment or I have to wait, but the people in Spain wait a long time to see the doctor for just a short amount of time, nothing compared to some of my very long and thorough doctor visits when I’m sick.  Also, today was important because it highlighted that medicine isn’t all exciting surgery; sometimes you need to meet with nonsurgical patients, even if the length of the list is intimidating and you’d rather be in a surgery.

Later that evening, we had a group dinner with all the fellows and the site coordinator to talk about our day.  Also, it was one of the student’s birthday!  So of course, we all had a celebratory glass of sangria!

June 10th: Back to the OR!  Today I got to see three procedures!  The first was an endoscopic procedure to get a sample from the kidney (through the urethra, bladder, ureter, to the kidney) to check for kidney cancer.  The second was to break up a kidney stone; it was really amazing to watch the laser break up the kidney stone so it could be pulled out of the patient, I actually got to see the kidney stone – strange to think that such a little thing can cause so much pain!  The next patient also had a kidney stone; however, the ureter was very narrow in this patient and the doctors had to put in a catheter-like tube to enlarge the ureter so they could go back in and remove the stone at a later date.  This was my last day in Urology, even though my doctor said I could come back anytime I want; while I did enjoy urology and all the surgeries I got to see, I should give the other specialties I’ve been assigned to a chance too!  After leaving the hospital late in the afternoon, I treated myself to churros and chocolate (probably my favorite thing that I’ve eaten so far) and a late siesta which was much needed after this busy week.

Churros and Chocolate!

Churros and Chocolate!

Homesick

       
  Now I know what you’re thinking; she’s homesick?! It has only been 4 weeks! The answer is no, I am not homesick for home but rather for places I’ve never been and that I desire to see. This past month has changed my outlook on the world and has sparked a new kind of desire in me; the desire to experience as many different cultures and meet as many people as possibly. Perhaps Michael Palin’s quote will better explain my thoughts..
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know I will be happily infected until the end of my life”
This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Rome, visit a beach in Italy, and see some amazing historic sights. Rome was an experience that I truly am unable to put into words; from the Colosseum, to the Trevi Foutain, to St. Peters Basilica, the food, the gelato, and the quaint restaurant, Rome has so much to offer. What an incredible city! If it wasn’t a busy week filled with finals I would definitely post a blog about the experience but feel free to ask me about it; i’ll probably talk your ear off!
Although cliche; I am not returning to the states the same person I left. I have left my heart in so many places. Often when I talked to people at home they say “nothing has changed here, same old same old, you’re the one across the world.” I have thought about that for awhile now and I counter it by saying you don’t have to travel across the world to try new things. You can do something new everyday no matter where you are at. For instance, I can’t have the same experiences my sister is having in PA, every place offers a new challenge or opportunity to grow that can’t be offered anywhere else. BUT if you have the chance to experience a new place, DO IT. It is amazing to go to a place where no one knows your name and you get to start completely new and build new roots. But don’t listen to what I say, go see and experience it for yourself! Even if you don’t have the chance such as studying abroad available in your school like I did, find a way, make an opportunity! Often people I talk to say they don’t have money, but by the time they have money you wont have time, and when you have time and money you’ll be “too old” (although you are never too old to travel). Just make it happen, I promise the money and time you spend traveling will make your life richer. Jobs may fill your pockets, but adventure fills your soul. As my grandfather always says “you can’t take your money to the grave with you”.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; its lethal.”
I often referred to this website during my study abroad experience. If you need advice or want to be inspired to travel this blog offers tips on everything on how to save, where to start and what to do! Check it out, and if you click away because you don’t have time to check it out, ask yourself if not now when will you?      http://www.nomadicmatt.com/getting-started-new/
Although I must come back, I realize that its not the same thing as never leaving. I may be done with school, but this exit is an entry to traveling the next week with two of my friends. Finally, I would like to thank LVC for the opportunity to go abroad and Jill Russel for helping me find a way.
I asked each of the 10 students if they had something to say about the trip and here is what they said..
Studying abroad was something I knew I wanted to do when I started college, but I could’ve never imagined the experience being as incredible as it was. I learned so much inside the classroom and out, met so many people, and visited more countries in four weeks that I previously had my entire life. I won’t be the same returning to LVC–I have so much more perspective on the world, and I have 9 great new friends who I share so many incredible memories with.- Devon Malloy

Wow! Hard to find words for what just happened.. was a once of a life time experience that was surreal. I visited five different countries in just four weeks and had the time of my life. One thing that that is compelling to me is how unique everyone’s story is. It just goes to show that everyone truly had the ability to make this study abroad experience whatever they wanted it to be! Till next time Europe.. budapest… mic drop.–Blake Lutz

I transferred into LVC this spring semester and never in a million years would I have seen myself traveling the world with an amazing group of people from Lebanon Valley and Xavier. These memories and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and I wouldn’t change it for the world. To people that are questioning if they ever want to study abroad- DO IT. You’ll never regret it. Even though you go outside your comfort zone, its a truly amazing experience. I traveled to Budapest Hungary, Brussels Belgium, Amsterdam Netherlands, Munich Germany, London England, and Dublin Ireland. I truly wish I could stay here a whole semester, because a month isn’t enough. I wasn’t really friends with the people from LVC before the trip but I guarantee that I will be as close returning as I am now. I didn’t know what to expect meeting the Xavier kids but after spending a month with them I felt like I have known them my whole life. Booking flights, hotels, hostels, trains, buses, taxes, made me a lot more confident not only traveling but in myself as young man. Lastly, to our Professor Will Delavan and Jill Russel, thank you for the opportunity. I guarantee that you have sparked a journey of traveling that I will carry on the rest of my life. Sincerely, Nicholas A. Tucker.
Even though you have the amazing opportunity to visit lots of countries while studying abroad, don’t forget to take in the many wonders that Maastricht has to offer. It is truly an incredible city that I’ve been lucky enough to call my home for the past month, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
–Jillian McCue
Make your dreams happen. I have been privileged enough to go on this journey and I have made amazing friends along the way. I was was able to accomplish and go after my dreams. I have finally made a trip to Italy and now I will never be the same. Explore the world, try new things, and get involved in new cultures. Take new leaps and bounds because I know I will never forget it. Explore the world and be open to new things.–Marla Scacchitti
This trip has been an amazing experience and has taught me so many things about myself. Being able to navigate foreign places and immersing myself in other cultures has allowed me to grow as an individual. It has improved my confidence more than I could ever imagine. Having the opportunity to take in all the beauty that this wonderful part of the world has to offer has been amazing. I am so happy that I decided to come on this trip, it has been such a great experience. To the LVC and Xavier students, thank you for making this trip a wonderful one filled with memories I’ll never forget. The friendships that I’ve made here will be for a lifetime as we have grown so close over a short time. To Will and Jill, thank you so much for this opportunity. It was more rewarding than I ever thought it would be. To all future MU students. Enjoy the time you have here, it is a beautiful part of the world and your time here will be gone sooner than you think.— Brandon McMinn
After hearing stories of my friends and their study abroad adventures, I decided to look into a European vacation myself. I was lucky enough to have family that were more than willing to help me accomplish my dream of studying abroad. During my time here I have gained knowledge than I can explain. I have also gained friends that I know I will continue to hang out with and make memories with. I am forever thankful for LVC giving me this amazing opportunity. Thanks to the students, LVC and Xavier, that make this trip more than I could hope for.–Gianna Rossillo

Get a bike and most certainly travel every weekend but don’t forget to appreciate the town of Maastricht and walk through the streets if you have time, yes walk don’t bike. My problem which I just realized now after selling my bike and having to walk was that I viewed Maastricht as more of a place where I had my bed and had to take classes rather than yet another beautiful and special city of its own to explore and you can’t take this in as well rushing around on the back of a bike. So my greatest advice would be to purchase a bike as soon as possible, as this will help you be able to wake up for class 15 minutes before and be on time as well as make it super easy to get to the train station but for a leisurely stroll around the city, walk. It won’t hurt you being that you won’t eat the healthiest and it lets you take in the culture a lot more. Don’t be afraid to get lost, that’s what a gps and data plans are for. Also if you end up finding your way with a little help from others and mostly on your own, it is pretty damn satisfying. Branch out and make friends with not only LVC kids you didn’t know but all of the people you encounter here. Do new things and travel to crazy places because at the end of the day you will not regret anything except maybe dropping too much money on a late Friday or Saturday night. All in all this will rank at the top of experiences you’ve had up to this point in your life so appreciate every second of it. You will build life long relationships with people you never thought you would. A month may seem long but it truly flies by. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way and gave me this amazing opportunity. Jill, professor Delavan, fellow LVC students, and Xavier students you have made this something I will never forget.— Evan Lysczek

I would tell every student to step out of their comfort zone and study abroad if they are given the chance. I’ve had the opportunity to make many new friends, lifelong memories, and explore the world. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget. -Aaron Alexander

 

11 Seasons of Shonda Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy Didn’t Prepare Me for My First Two Days of Shadowing

June 6th: After a quick breakfast at the café next to the hotel (which was provided by the Atlantis Project Program), our Site Coordinators took us to the bus stop that we took to the hospital.  We were given bus passes to take us to and from the hospital, and we were shown which bus to take and where to get off.  The bus ride was short, and after a group photo of the group in our lab coats in from of the hospital, we entered and met the chief of education of the hospital in Ourense who made it possible for us to shadow doctors.  After a quick orientation, we were off for our first day of shadowing.  Another fellow and myself were the first to be dropped off in Urology, and we were quickly taken to get changed into scrubs because we were about to see a surgery!  I was beyond excited because I’ve never had the opportunity to see a real surgery before, and I even got to stand right there in the operating room, only a couple feet from the patient!

Excited to be in scrubs and about to witness my first surgery!

Excited to be in scrubs and about to witness my first surgery!

This patient had an advanced type of bladder cancer, so the surgery was to remove the bladder and prostate, reroute the ureter (carries urine from kidney to bladder) to the ileum (portion of small intestine), and attach an ostomy bag (external bag that collects urine-basically acts as a new bladder).  It was amazing to see how the two surgeons worked together so well as a team, at times with their heads resting against each other’s during the surgery.  I will admit at one point the surgery did freak me out a little; about an hour in while the surgeons were going through the connective tissue to get to the bladder, I all of a sudden realized that the body on the table was a real, live person and I’m a real, live person and that could be happening to me.  That idea did not sit well for me, and I excused myself for a couple minutes to sit down and have some water (it was not uncommon for people to walk in and out of the OR), but then I returned, eager as ever to see what the surgeons were doing.

The surgeons were very nice and at times let us take a closer look and pointed out specific anatomical structures.  This surgery took about three and a half hours, after which the surgeons got about a forty-five minute break while the OR was being cleaned and prepped for the next surgery.  Unfortunately, I could not stay to watch the second surgery because all the fellows needed to meet at the front of the hospital by two o’clock so the Site Coordinators could show us the bus stop to get back to the hotel.  That evening we had a group dinner at a restaurant where I tried croquetas (which is kinda like a fried mushroom and potato appetizer) and all the fellows talked about their day in the hospital.  All in all, great first day of shadowing.  It really amazes me everything that goes into a surgery and what the surgeons can do to physically take out something that would have killed that patient in the near future.  Also, I really enjoyed wearing the scrubs and it’s something I hope to be doing a lot more in the future!

June 7th: As if I didn’t get lucky enough seeing a surgery yesterday, I got to see two today!  The first one was a prostatectomy which started out laparoscopically; however, after about an hour and a half the surgeons switched to an open surgery due to the specific situation with this patient.  One thing I thought was beyond amazing is how the surgeons used these tools as extensions of their hand to try to correct a problem while only making several small incisions.  I also really enjoyed watching what they were doing right on the screen because it was much easier to see than having to stand a couple feet away from the patient.  The reason that the surgeons had to switch to an open surgery was because this patient had an abnormal anatomy which made the prostate difficult to distinguish, and there was not a lot of space in that area, and the surgeons did not want to risk cutting the rectum which would have caused a larger issue.  I really admired how the doctors adapted and dealt with a situation of anatomy that really isn’t “textbook”.  While the OR was being cleaned and prepped, I got to talk to the doctor I was shadowing for a few minutes.  I found out that she had just finished her five year residency about a year ago.  In Spain, medical school is different; that is, students enter a six year medical school after high school, and then continue on to residencies that differ based on specialty.  So, the third year medical student who was also with the doctor I was shadowing was actually about the same age I was which I thought was strange.  I found out that the doctor I shadow also meets with non-surgical urology patients, but she prefers days filled with surgeries.  After that, I got to witness an endoscopic procedure to remove bladder cancer.  I had never really read about this procedure, but my goodness props to the patient (who was awake, but given an epidural, for the procedure).  An endoscope was inserted through the patient’s urethra and the surgeon removes the tumor and it is flushed out with a large amount of fluid which drains from the urethra into a bag that is suctioned into containers.  I’ve never seen anything like it before and was very happy that I stuck around later than I needed to so I could see this surgery.  After I left the hospital and got back to the square where my hotel was, it was already about 3:30 in the afternoon, so most shops were closed (siesta time), but luckily I found a small pizza place so I could have something to eat and not have to wait for dinner.  For dinner I went to this restaurant that sold pinchos which are like small sandwiches and had the most delicious little sandwich- “pincho de lobo con azúra” (is what I think it was called) the lomo part was a type of meat which a girl from Mexico in my group said is from a certain part of the cow (of which I do not remember) and azúra is a type of cheese (which I very much enjoyed).  Would definitely recommend!  After dinner I enjoyed a post-dinner sangria with some of the girls at a nice little place.  One thing I like about ordering drinks here is that the servers keep bringing you little snacks like chips, gummies, olives, etc. and it’s for free!  After that my friend and I took a walk around Ourense and over a bride to another the other side of the city.bridge and river

From a Big Fish in a Pond to a Small Fish in an Ocean

Friday June 3rd:  I arrived at the Madrid airport in the morning with two other Atlantis Project fellows that I (thankfully) met before getting on the plane in Philadelphia.  After grabbing my luggage and getting through customs, which went so much smoother than I thought it would, I was greeted by an Atlantis Project Coordinator who was gathering students that were arriving at the Madrid airport around that time.

Walking through Madrid Airport!

Walking through Madrid Airport!

From there, we were taken by bus to the hotel that we’d be staying in for orientation weekend.  We had the afternoon to walk around the nearby mall and get food.  Surprisingly, the mall was very similar to an American mall and even had a large number of American stores.  Today reminded me a little of the first day of college; fellows were from all over the United States and Puerto Rico, so very few people knew each other before coming to Madrid and everyone was trying to make friends for the weekend and the rest of their fellowship.  However, one thing very different from making friends during orientation weekend at school is there was a much wider variety of people from a variety of places, as opposed the large central Pennsylvania and surround area population of LVC students.  Most of the fellows come from very large schools that they don’t consider to be “that big” (I couldn’t believe someone thought a student body of 20,000 was average). Luckily, my new friends and I weren’t so horribly jet lagged that we made it through the whole day without sleeping, but going to bed later that night did feel amazing.

Quick picture with some fellows during a walk in the park near our hotel!

Quick picture with some fellows during a walk in the park near our hotel!

Saturday June 4th: Today was orientation day and all the students (approximately 75, I’m not sure of the exact number) sat in a meeting room in the hotel in which we listened to speakers reiterate the purpose of the Atlantis Project (which is to allow students to have shadowing opportunities they might not get in the U.S. – for those of you who don’t know, getting a doctor to shadow can be like pulling teeth if you don’t have a connection with one – and to allow students to see how a different country’s health care system operates), go over important cultural differences to be aware of, talk about some economical differences between the United States’ health care system and Spain’s health care system, and a current medical student gave advice for getting in to medical school.  One thing I found interesting was the difference in health care systems.  Spain’s health care system is a largely public system which is paid for by taxes.  The amount people pay for taxes varies based on income and other related things, and health care is regulated by the central government, sets policies for all areas, and regional government, sets policies for that specific area.  There was then discussion on which health care system is better? United States or Spain?  While the United States has a more expensive health care system, Americans have a lower life expectancy but they do have a higher health condition than Spaniards.  We ended the day with a bus trip to Madrid which we were allowed to go off on our own.  One of my favorite places I went to was Plaza Mayor where a group of us got tapas of tortillas and shrimp with sangria, all very delicious!

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Sangria (to share)!

Sangria (to share)!

Tortilla

Tortilla

From taking Spanish before, I did forget that tortillas aren’t chips like we call them in English, but a combination of eggs, potatoes, and cheese.  After exploring the city for a while, my friends and I got a taxi ride back to the hotel to go to bed.

Sunday June 5th: Early in the morning, I got on a bus with fourteen other fellows to head to Ourense, Spain, a city above and close to the boarder of Portugal.  The bus ride took about 6 hours, but I did get to see the beautiful landscape of Spain.  Compared to Pennsylvania, it’s much hillier, and as you’re driving you see a lot of hills, grass, and open land and every now and again clusters of buildings.  When we finally arrived, we talked about what things would be like in the hospital and how our orientation would go tomorrow.

Ourense, Spain!

Ourense, Spain!

The day before we got our assignments for which specialties we’d be shadowing.  The first week I’m with urology, the second I’m in pediatrics, and the third I’m with hematology.  I’m very excited to meet the new doctors and see different specialties.  After meeting with our Site Coordinators, we were free to walk the city of Ourense, which is smaller and much less crowded and busy than Madrid.  I had a delicious (and cheap) meal of breaded chicken, rice, and salad, and I’m finally starting to get used to the Spanish eating times of a lunch around 2 and dinner around 8.  One thing I’m not used to is going to bed at the same time, because of eating dinner later and it being light out so much later here.  But, tomorrow is an early day at the hospital with much to learn so a good night sleep is more than necessary!