I experienced my first exchange during this summer. I chose Spain, because I had learnt Spanish in high school and I really wanted to improve it. So, 1st of July I arrived to Santander, the capital of Cantabria.
I had an intership at the department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. It was my first choice and I´m so glad they didn´t change it. The Hospital Universitario ʺ Marqués de Valdecillaʺ is totally new. Our department had only 3 months in July. It was new, modern, clean and huge. First day, I and one Polish girl found our tutor. He was very nice, friendly and helpful. He made special weekly schedule for both of us. I spent every week in different part of departure – part of deliveries and C- sections, postpartum and emergency, in surgery room, where I could assist during some operations and on ultrasonography. I was every week with different doctor or resident. Everybody here was very friendly and pleasant. They said to me about every patient, every case, they described everything what they did. BUT I must warn they didn´t speak English. There were maybe 4 or 5 people who did. So, the students who didn´t speak Spanish, had a big problem with understanding.
There were another 18 students from different countries. We lived in flats. I lived with a Slovak girl and three Polish students – two girls and a boy. Our flat was the most beautiful and biggest of all flats. There was a kitchen with a balcony, a big living room, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We didn´t have wifi, so we bought a spanish sim card (3 GB for 15 € and it was enough). The flat was located 15 minutes to the hospital by walk, 30 – 40 minutes to the centre by walk and 10 – 15 minutes to the beach by bus (it´s cheaper to buy a bus card and rechange money on it like buying tickets in the bus).
We had lunch in the hospital. We could take salad like starter, two main meals (choice was from 6 meals), bread (we took it to home for breakfest on the next day) and yogurt, puding or fruits like dessert. They offered us mineral water, juices or non – alcoholic beer for drinking. And after eating we usually drank coffee. We prepared breakfast and dinners at home, but we ate in the town a few times, too. Food was delicious, but quite expensive for us. Of course, we had to try their typical meals like paella, tapas, empanadas, churros with chocolate or coffee and drink sangría.
The only thing I didn´t like, was our social programme. Because we didn´t have it. We should have 3 contact persons, but there was only one. The rest of them were somewhere on holiday. This girl picked us on the station, showed us our flats, gave us the keys and took us to our department first day. And she called us to the trip once. We travelled by bus and she with her friends by car., they walked in front and told us only „hi“ at the beginning and at the end. It was everything. And the best, she didn´t speak English, only some basic words. It was bad luck, because we met a girl who should be the contact person in August and she prepared a lot of trips and activities for students. But we were good group, so we created our own programme – visiting Bilbao, San Sebastian, Santillana del Mar and Altamira (it isn´t a real cave!), the lighthouse in Santoňa, Liencres, sightseeing boat cruise. The American students even borowed a car to going to Pamplona for running of the bulls one weekend and to Portugal during another one. We organized international evening, celebrated American and French Indepedance Day. Everyday we got to know new places in Santander, were on the beach (water was quite cold) and enjoyed parties with spanish reggaeton till 5 am (the parties started around 2 – 2:30 am). And of course, their famous siesta in the afternoon and not hurry up because they always have time – it´s true.
And one more advise about the weather in Santander. Don´t expect typical hot spanish weather. Typical temperature is 22 – 23 °C, hot in Santander means 26 – 27 °C and there rains a lot. So, take less summer dresses and tops, rather some cardigan or sweater extra and don´t forget an umbrella.
At the end, I can say this exchange is unique opportunity to improve your language, visit new places, find new friends from different countries of the world and obtain new medical knowledge. So, I really recommend you to go and experience the clicinal exchange abroad. And if you are in Santander, you will love it. For sure.