An oasis for the people in the neighborhood

BySara Paolazzo

An oasis for the people in the neighborhood

During 2018-2019 we sent, together with SEPIE, 71 students of Professional Development to carry on their internships in different European countries with Erasmus+ scholarships. Vicenza, Maribor, Belfast and Lisbon are some of the cities where our young fellows lived a personal and professional developing experience. Our activity wasn’t limited to this: Fundación Montemadrid not only sends students in Europe, but also receives them. Indeed, our socio-cultural center Casa San Cristóbal welcomed with open arms a young Italian girl, who selected our institution to perform her internship. Her name is Palma, she was born in Naples and graduated in Scienze e Tecniche Psicologiche (Psychological Sciences and Techniques) at University of Naples Federico II. For 3 months, she integrated with the team of professionals managing and supervising Casa San Cristóbal and now, as her internship is about to end, we interviewed her to know share her views on the experience.

1. Erasmus+ scholarships are different from the traditional Erasmus project. What pushed you to choose this way and why did you choose to carry on your internship in Europe?

After my graduation, I knew I had to wait some months before starting my master’s degree. I never liked not having plans and not knowing what to do, so I started thinking about internships and job opportunities to extend my competencies. So, one day, someone from my university sent me an e-mail and I came to know for the first time of a really interesting project that would have allowed me to perform an internship in Europe through the Erasmus+ program.

The project in case was called ‘SEND. Be part of social innovation’ and I realized that the subject perfectly matched my studies and my lifestyle. Therefore, with great hope, I started looking for companies and associations appropriate to my profile. I found Fundación Montemadrid in a database and sent them my resume right away, because the works they were into really interested me.

2. Were you concerned about the foreign language being a problem when communicating with others during your internship? Have you improved your knowledge of Spanish?

Last year, from September to February I studied Psychology at Universidad de Sevilla, thanks to another Erasmus+ scholarship. I learned Spanish pretty well, since I was attending language courses in the morning and lectures in Spanish in the afternoon. However, during my stay in Madrid I really improved my Spanish and also my general knowledge on the country.

I live with a girl and a boy from here, I read Spanish books and watch movies in their original language; more than else, I spend much time with my colleagues and children, and they are always ready to help when I can’t find the words. I think that living with foreigners lets you learn new languages faster, and therefore I wasn’t much scared about language hardships.

3. Is this your first time in Madrid? Did you know about San Cristóbal neighborhood before moving? (Maybe by searching on Google before coming to Spain…)

No, it’s not my first time. I spent three weeks in Madrid when I was 18, but I didn’t know of San Cristóbal de Los Ángeles neighborhood. Before coming, I looked for information and news on Google, and I remember reading pretty negative facts about it. Today, I can say that for sure this neighborhood is complicated under some aspects but has also important strengths. The most important one, in my opinion, is his interculturality. I see unity, respect and collaboration between the children and teens of different cultures and religions I came to know in Casa San Cristóbal. All of this is just amazing to me.

4. You are carrying on your internship in Casa San Cristóbal… How would you define the center to someone who doesn’t know it?

I always talk about Casa San Cristóbal with sweet words. I consider this center like an oasis for the people of the neighborhood. Everyday there’s a new stimulating activity, for children and seniors, it’s very well organized and the team is awesome. I really like it and I’m really proud of it.

5. Of all the projects you’ve been involved into in Casa San Cristóbal… which one is the one you liked the most? Why?

I spend most of my time with little boys and girls, therefore my internship is focused on activities and projects built for them. Throughout the months I have spent much time with the Grupo de Apoyo of the library, helping children with difficulties at school. I also joined a professional in her workshop of first childhood, planning experiences with parents and children between 1 months and 6 years old. I was also part of a project for teenagers, thought for development and externalization of emotions through arts and manual work. Moreover, I took part to the meetings of the QuedaT youngster group and I drew, told stories and exercised creativity with the children and the professionals of Parque Diversión.

Moreover, in the last weeks I’ve been part of the summer camp. Spending much time with people of different ages allows me to know my strengths, understand what I like the most, apply my theoretical knowledge and, overall, widen my ideas and points of view. Being part of various events and planning activities improved my adaptability and improvisation skill.

Of all the projects, I particularly liked «Mitoart» and the Taller de Primera Infancia (Workshop of First Childhood). In the months spent with these groups, I have really grown up from a professional point of view and also from a personal one, since I had the opportunity to organize activities, give feedbacks, express my opinions and discover concrete ways to create the right group dynamics to promote social intervention. I was also really happy to use innovative equipment, like VR (Virtual Reality) to tackle fears and phobias and participate in interactive reunions on first childhood with parents and children.

6. Can you tell us a good tale happened during these months in the center?

With the children I always have a great time and, regarding to this, I remember a funny thing happening. An afternoon I was helping some girls in the Grupo de Apoyo when, suddenly, one of them started talking with a typical Argentinian accent… All of us burst into laughter! It was super funny, because it is not common to hear a Moroccan little girl try to use that accent!

7. After work hours for you internship… How did you spend your free time? Did you explore the hidden corners of Madrid?

I really like traveling and I used my free time to discover places and cities. Moreover, I went to concerts, museums and events. I met new people and hosted my friends and family. Madrid has always been one of my favorite cities and spending my life here has been a great joy to me.

8. How did it feel to be independent? What did you miss the most? And what, instead, did you adapt to the fastest?

I think that, first or then, we face a moment in our life when we must leave home and our comfort zone. It’s important for the knowledge of ourselves, our limits and our strengths. I really like living with others and sharing an apartment with people from different countries is an interesting experience. Being independent comes with many positive aspects, because you have your spaces, your privacy and, above all, helps you to be more responsible. This means paying attention to your things, to the house, respecting housemates and concerning about bills and the cost of life. It’s not always easy, but it is worth it. Every change seems difficult at the beginning, but it’s often just a matter of time, habits and adaptability.

9. They say that the Erasmus experience transforms you academically/professionally, but also from a life general perspective. Do you agree on this? How do you feel different from when you arrived?

Well, I totally agree with that. It’s difficult to get over or forget about an experience as intense as the one I’m living here in Madrid. In my case, it’s not just about freedom and independence, but especially about being part of an institution so important for the community. I could say without doubts that I feel really attached to the Casa San Cristóbal team. The little boys and girls I see every day have a special place in my heart. Every person I met in these months meant very much to me. It’s difficult to think about going back home and depart from all the relations built here, but, as I always say: it all comes back!

I treasure what I learned, lived, accomplished, and every hug and smile. I promised to myself that I’ll never forget anyone. Of course, living with such joy and high spirits changed my way to face challenges and problems. Now I feel stronger and more positive, both professionally and in general. I feel full of energy and thankfulness.

Palma Scarano, student at the University of Napoli_FedericoII

About the author

Sara Paolazzo editor