Pre-Departure Reflection: AIFS Medical Spanish Immersion Program

My name is Morgan Mittlestadt, and I am a rising junior studying chemistry and Spanish on the Pre-Med track. I chose to study abroad because I found a program that aligned with my academic passions while providing me with both new experiences and an opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture. I knew before going to college that I wanted to challenge my comfort zone and travel abroad. I met last summer with the Education Abroad faculty and was introduced to the Medical Spanish Immersion program through AIFS. I was immediately sold on Buenos Aires, Argentina, and this specific program. The Medical Spanish Immersion program provides a medical Spanish grammar class at the University of Belgrano and shadowing opportunities three days a week at a local hospital. Because of this program, I will be able to complete my Spanish minor while observing a different medical system than the one I know. 

To prepare for this specific program, a key thing I did was apply ahead of time. I kept a very close eye on when the registration opened, and I completed my application almost immediately. With my primary application out of the way, I was able to focus on my scholarship applications, which I completed over Winter Break. Then, I attended the pre-departure orientations that both the University of Alabama and AIFS provided. Excitingly, I have my site-specific orientation through AIFS in a few days. However, what has been most helpful for me in preparing to study abroad is the firsthand advice I have received from one of my friends and sorority sister: Lena. Lena participated in this program last summer and had nothing but raving reviews about her experience, Argentina itself, and the people she met along the way. She found community in the other AIFS students in Argentina at the same time. While easing my nerves, she gave me the inside scoop on everything she wishes someone told her before she left.

I have been preparing to go abroad by keeping in close contact with Lena, slowly packing up my suitcase, and reading website articles on studying abroad in Argentina. Lena advised me to bring warmer clothes than she did and extra cash because of the exchange rate. She also advised me to watch Argentinian movies so that I could become familiar with the Argentinian accent. It will be winter in Argentina when I arrive at the end of June; therefore, packed in my suitcase are mostly sweaters and jeans. 

As for my thoughts and feelings, I cannot believe that I already leave in 18 days. This experience has been something I have been working on for over a year now, so it is very exciting to be in the final days before my departure. I am very nervous about traveling, as I hope that connecting flights and luggage transfers both run smoothly. I have talked out most of the process with Lena, so I am excited to immerse myself in a new culture and routine. 

It is truly amazing to be on the cusp of something that I know will ignite so much personal growth, and in turn, make me a better version of myself. Overall, what I hope to gain from my study abroad experience is more confidence in my Spanish-speaking ability, independence, and my capability to live by myself while abroad. I hope this cements my passion for immersing myself in new experiences and cultures. Finally, I hope that this is the first experience abroad of many.