Travelling involves experiencing the unexpected. Don’t take me wrong, my go abroad experience wasn’t an ongoing chain questionable events, but my carefully planned trip underwent some changes once everything was rolling on. The idea was to use the first three weeks of June to complete a lab assistant internship at a Spanish university, and by the end of the month travel to an international environmental film festival in Morocco. However, I decided to trade-off the latter, as I was offered a further week as an intern and the chance of being included as a co-author in the research I undertook.
The grant and internship have allowed me (further from the pleasing surprise of being published twice in the near future) to gain work experience abroad, the main purpose of my trip. Of course, I have learnt many technical and scientific skills. My duties included taking, preparing and measuring soil samples; then analysing their carbon content via NIRS (Near Infra-Red Spectrum). Thus, we could outline the carbon dynamics within the two plantations of Holm Oaks and apply it to the open Mediterranean forest system (Dehesa) they replicated. I’d say using sophisticated equipment, focusing in detail at just one component of the environment and looking at a landscape different from the one in Edinburgh, meant it was a totally new way to look at ecology.
But what I was more unsure about was fitting in within the department’s team. They are a group of people who are older, more experienced and have worked together for some time. Furthermore, they work using a different language I normally work with and have gone through a different academic system. As my first work experience I was pretty anxious. Yes, it was a bit cringy sometimes and it took some time, but it all developed smoothly. My colleagues were very helpful, welcoming and understanding and by the end I was part of the department. It was really stimulating to research within the Hispanic Culture (my colleagues were mostly Spanish but also Peruvian, Argentinian and Ecuadorian). It is interesting to see there is a parallel academic network of countries, bound by the Spanish language, which is normally not so apparent as the western/English-speaking one.
During my free time, I got to explore different places in Córdoba. Strolling around the narrow streets of the two-thousand-year-old city, I visited famous monuments, especially highlighting the Great Mosque-Cathedral. It is surprising for a country so famously catholic to have such a rich Muslim history. Throughout my weekend trips around the region I saw the typical idea tourists have of South Spain doesn’t really apply to the rural towns of the inside. I got to see castles, churches, palaces and museums at the white-clad villages. Although my plans changed when I understood visits, activities and life in general, are postponed to the evenings due to the heat, I really enjoyed the relaxed Spaniard lifestyle. Unexpected situations like these are what make Going Abroad such a unique experience.