Alanna Mnich - 2014 Program Participant

Medical interns with local officials and doctors in Spain

Group Photo with Government Officials and Hospital Directors

What inspired you to intern abroad?

I wanted a chance to travel and see other parts of the world, but knew I had to be responsible and use my summer to participate in something that I could add to my resume. Finding an international program was the ideal situation because I was able to travel as well as partake in a fantastic internship.

Why did you choose Atlantis Project?

I chose the Atlantis Project because it gave me the opportunity to shadow physicians in specialities of my choosing. I got to see a variety of medical fields, such as plastic surgery, thoracic surgery, dermatology, as well as how things operate in the ICU. Additionally, the Atlantis Project had a great program called Base 5 that arranged for us interns to teach the doctors at the hospital English, which was a fun way to get to know the doctors outside of the hospital setting. Lastly, I had taken Spanish through high school and a semester in college, and really wanted to solidify my speaking ability. Spending over a month in Spain definitely helped me to achieve the level of fluency I wanted.

What did you like most about interning in Spain?

I was based in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands in Spain. I loved being totally immersed in the Spanish culture, and being in a small city meant that I met a lot of people and made a lot of friends. Not only was the city center of La Laguna only a few streets away from the residence, but Santa Cruz was just a short metro rail ride down to the coast. Tenerife is a beautiful place and anyone would find something, as the island is known for its microclimates and different biomes.

While it was great to live somewhere so unique in the physical and aesthetic sense, the people there were really the factor that made me fall in love with Tenerife. The locals were incredibly friendly and seemed genuinely happy to share their city with us, something that we all appreciated very much.

View of Teide, Spain

View of Teide

What about your program sets it apart from other internship programs?

There are so many unique aspects to the Atlantis Project. First of all, I have never learned so much as I did observing surgeries and going to consultations with doctors in the hospital. While shadowing a doctor is unique in its own right, doing so outside of the U.S. in an entirely different healthcare system is something not most people are able to experience. I learned a lot about the European approach to healthcare, and now feel I can form my own educated opinion about public versus private systems. Participating in Base 5 and teaching English is also something I will never forget, but often brag about.

What did you think of the local staff in Tenerife?

The local staff in Tenerife were awesome, dealing with everything from dinner plans, to making sure wifi and cell phones were working, going on excursions and making the most of our time in Spain, and introducing us to our doctors each week. There was nothing that our local staff did not do. Aside from the job aspect, they were also fun people to talk to and spend time with, and a lot of us grew very close with them.

What would you change about your internship?

If I could change anything about my time with the Atlantis Project it would be that I wish I would have stayed longer. The five weeks just flew by, and while I am so thankful for all I learned and accomplished during those five weeks, I still feel there was so much more to see and do.

What was a normal day like for you as an intern in Spain?

During the weekdays, breakfast began at 7 a.m. We had a quick breakfast, then took a very short ride on the metro rail from our residence to the hospital in order to arrive there for 8 a.m. We would meet with the doctors, and follow our respective physicians for the day. Depending on which day it was, there would either be consults and minor surgeries, or there would be one or two major surgeries to see. Technically the shadowing was finished at 1 p.m., but I know there were occasions where I stayed a few extra hours.

At this time we generally went to eat, which could be done at the hospital, the residence, or anywhere along the metro rail. At 3 p.m., Base 5 started and we would teach English until 5 p.m. At 5 p.m. we would go back to the residence and arrange to all meet at around 6 p.m. for a group activity, followed by dinner around 8 p.m. Certain days, there was Spanish class after Base 5 that we could go to if we wanted to improve our Spanish skills, which was great because it was certainly a culture shock getting used to Spanish as the primary language. On the weekends, breakfast and either lunch or dinner were provided, and there would be an excursion or group activity each day.

What did you enjoy doing outside of your internship duties?

I think we all really enjoyed going to Las Teresitas, a beach in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the weekend. It was a relaxing activity that was welcomed after an intensive week of hospital shadowing and teaching English. Also, the residence we were in had a pool table as well as a television, which resulted in many movie nights.

Beach near Los Gigantes, Spain

Beach near Los Gigantes

What was your housing situation like? 

We stayed in a dorm of the Universitaria de Las Canarias that had been converted into a dorm from a seminary. We all affectionately called it "la residencia." Everyone got their own single room with an individual bathroom. The rooms were pretty simple, but it was all we needed and they were clean. There was a laundry room in the residence. There was a breakfast cafe here as well as a lunch room.

As mentioned, the residence also had a pool table and television lounge area, as well as wifi and a couple computers. The best aspect of the housing was that because of the timing of the program, many students were still living in the dorm, so we had local college students to hang out with who we all ultimately became great friends with.

Now that you're home, how has interning in Spain impacted your life?

Honestly I wish I could do it all again! Aside from missing Spain, the program, and the friends I made, I am so happy to have this experience to discuss with med schools and future employers. I really feel that the Atlantis Project affirmed my belief that I want to go into the healthcare field, and gave me the right experiences that medical schools want in applicants.