Choosing to complete my clinical elective placement in Mexico initially caused me concern because of the language barrier. It was something I never thought about when I was deciding where to go on my elective.
Prior to travelling to Mexico I had never had any formal teaching of Spanish and knew the bare minimum of hello and thank you. I decided I was going to complete Work the World’s week long Intensive Spanish Course while in Mexico which proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made!
The Spanish school is located in downtown Merida in a traditional Mexican building which was easily accessible. On my first day I was put into a group with people of a similar ability to me. Every morning I had fun interactive group lessons, learning general Spanish and how to have basic conversations.
In the afternoons I would have a 1:1 session which was tailored specifically to clinical terms relevant to my chosen placement area. Every professor at the school was enthusiastic, patient and friendly making learning Spanish an enjoyable process. The Spanish school even has a pool to relax by on your lunch break (and a chef who cooks really good food)!
Spanish school would finish at 4:30pm each day which gave me plenty of time to explore downtown Merida, socialise with people in the house and attend salsa classes.
By the end of the Intensive Spanish Course I was able to hold a basic conversation with staff in the hospital. This meant I was able to build a relationship with my mentor and carry out more skills than other students who spoke limited Spanish. Having completed the course I was a lot more aware of what was happening during ward rounds and in emergency situations which I feel maximised my learning.
If you're considering taking a placement in Merida, I recommend the Intensive Spanish Course. At the time you won’t think you have learnt much but as soon as you are on placement you will realise how much you know!
Do not be afraid to speak in Spanish even if you make mistakes (I made lots of mistakes and mispronunciations) but I learnt so much!