Inspirational Quote

Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.

Robin Sharma

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Thoughts on… Travel

I have always had that itch to travel. Now that I got to experience a few new countries (check out my travel posts from Slovenia, later on also Croatia) I yet again realized how important all that is to me. Balance is important with most things and I don’t think it is any different with traveling. You might need a break sometimes (thinking of those long, long trips I have sadly not had lately). But to give it up entirely is unfathomable. It is just a fact that working limits the possibilities to go on longer trips. Oh those days when I was a student and seemed like there was time for all sorts of crazy adventures… Any students reading this, take full advantage of your freedom! My latest trip (even though it was a short one) gave me back my sanity. Well, if not to be so drastic I’ll say it made me forget work related stress and worries as well as returned my ability to sleep. All kind of positive things, not even getting into the new experiences I have now.

As so many quotes tell us… When old, you don’t regret the things you have done but the things you didn’t do. So travel and explore to your hearts content!

Travel: Chinese New Year, Singapore

Before Christmas Singapore had a little set back when decorating for the holiday. A big Christmas tree caught fire due to some electrical malfunction. It wasn’t replaced. According to the taxi driver who told us this, the occurrence made the city officials more cautious. He said they are taking extra precaution now that they are preparing for Chinese New Year. Understandably so. We got to see the Christmas decorations but also the Chinese New Year decorations. It was over night that some were changed. These pictures are from Chinatown, I think they will be lit later on. Hopefully with electrical lights, not fire…

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The New Year will be the year of the Monkey. There are quite a number of monkeys loose around town in Singapore. In the little picture (yep the bad quality one) there is a monkey hanging from the tree.

Travel: Turka, Russia

They say that your life extends with a year if you dip your hands into Lake Baikal and if you dive in your life extends with 25 years. We were there in June/July and as the lake is really deep and huge, the water was COLD, summer or not. We started with hands but when we found ourselves staying with a couple who had a slide into the lake we didn’t hesitate and just slid in! There was really no choice if you would get your hair wet or not.. So we did manage to score that 25 years!

It was such a different sort of an experience being at Lake Baikal and Turka. It was a different world over there. Just walking in the little town it was like we went back in time.

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Turka Russia

Interviewing Yvonne

Writing this blog and reaching out to the people I was fortunate to meet while they were in Finland, is an amazing way of realizing that being international for me hasn’t always meant necessarily traveling abroad. I bet there is an international community in most places these days. The questions is just how to reach it. Nowadays social media is helpful as there are groups you can easily join and start “emeeting” (a term I first learned in the blogging world and found it quite an accurate one for meeting others only via internet) people.  Also there are so many organizations that are international, for example the previously mentioned CISV that operates world wide.

When I was messaging with Yvonne about the interview she said seems we are all grown ups now. Time does fly and here we can see how some of us end up saving lives! Read my interview with doctor Yvonne. She also taps into the similarities/differences between TV hospitals and the real ones.. 😉

What is your job title?

I am a doctor. Or more specifically: an Anesthesiologist.

Where do you work?

In one of the university hospitals in Germany.

How did you get in to the line of work?

I remember wanting to be a doctor since I was about 15 years old. It was a mixture between being interested in biology (the human body is a quite fascinating thing) and thinking it would be a “cool“ job, influenced by personal medical experiences and maybe some TV series.

Did you feel lucky landing your job?

I found the department I wanted to work in during my last year of studies. It was my only real job application ever, which was actually prewritten on a beer mat late at night in my favorite pub. After receiving the phone call saying they wanted me to work for them, I did multiple, quite embarrassing, dances of joy for the rest of the day telling everyone I got THE JOB.

What qualifications are needed?

To be a doctor in general, you need to somehow get into med school and make your way through a minimum of 5-6 years of quite hard studies. After graduation, you are free to choose your specialty. What it takes to become an anesthesiologist? Well, prejudices say a high caffeine tolerance… In the moments between drinking coffee, sitting around and being the most laid-back person in the whole hospital, you need a profound understanding of the human physiology, pharmacology, some manual skills and the ability to stay calm and focus on your work in critical situations.

Are you striven by the work you do or your paycheck?

Definitely by the work itself. I won’t lie – the money is nice, I like to spend it and financial security feels great after years of multiple side jobs. But as my paycheck is not as big as everyone thinks and it is hard-earned in many stressful late night hours with a lot of responsibility, I would suggest another job if you’re only interested in the money.

Does your work match your expectations?

It exceeds my expectations in many ways. I have learned more – about medicine, other people and myself. I have seen more fascinating and horrible things. I have had more fun and more fear. All in all, I still think I made the right choice.

Describe a basic day at work. Does it vary day by day?

It varies a lot, which is one of the things I like most about my job. You never know what the day, or the next patient, will bring. I work in the ICU, the OR and in emergency medicine. My shift starts at 7am, 2pm or 10pm. There’s some routine work for every shift, but the patients are always different, so it rarely gets boring.

What is the most exciting thing about your work and why?

Performing a manual anesthesiological skill for the first time, being part of a big or challenging surgery, finding out what the cause of a patients bad condition is, successfully dealing with critical situations… A lot of excitement can be found!

What do you get asked about your job by friends and family?

When is your next free evening/weekend? Is there ever any?- Well, there is a free Wednesday this week and also Sunday morning before work…
Is there as much kissing colleagues in the supply closet and/or the on call room as shown on TV? – Sadly, no. How does it feel to be awake for 24 hours on call/ to work several night shifts in a row? – It feels like shit. You fall asleep in your garage because you are too tired to get out of the car. You misspell your own name after paying for your breakfast with credit card. You forget your mother’s birthday because you have no clue what day it is at the moment. Could you have a quick look on this super disgusting rash/ingrown toenail/… – No!

What is the best part of your job?

Saving lives for a living 😉
Or, a little less heroically spoken, helping people get better, being part of a patient’s recovery or managing to get them safely through their surgery. An honest “thank you” feels like the best reward ever.

Do you have bad days or moments? Why?

People spit/shit/bleed/puke/piss on us. We are beaten, bitten and screamed at. There is a lot of suffering, tragedy and pain to be seen. And sometimes we can’t help, even if we do our best.

Do you have any advice for people considering your line of work?

In my opinion, your best chance to stay happy and mentally sane in this job is to find some kind of passion for a certain specialty. Your job will be a big part of your life, it’s best you enjoy doing it. (That might be my advice for any line of work, actually…) Sometimes even at 3 am or for 24 hours straight.

Thank you Yvonne!

Interviewing Nina

One thing I was certain about when I started university was that I wanted to go on exchange. After some twists and turns I ended up for a semester in Barcelona. First of all, what an amazing city! Secondly, quite an interesting university experience. As when travelling, people you meet are what makes it special, so was the case while on exchange. Time doesn’t always determine anything when it comes to making friends. Towards the end of my stay in Barcelona I met Nina, also on exchange. We got to experience a lot in a short while and have been lucky to meet up after our exchange ended. An admirable feature about Nina is that she is incredible in learning languages! She is German and lives in Barcelona. Read about her work in the interview that follows.

What is your job title?

I always say that I am a psychologist by day and a PhD student (Criminology) by night. Since my heart definitely lies with the first profession, I will go into more detail about that!

Where do you work?

I work at a Center of Psychology that has become a reference in the city of Barcelona, Spain, due to its innovative and international character. The best possible services are offered in accordance to the specific needs of each client, specifically by attending in different languages and offering different psychological approaches.

How did you get in to the line of work?

I have always felt a strong need to work with people and to ‘help out’, so it came as no surprise that I ended up studying psychology. I have to admit that it was never a particular dream of mine since I have always had so many different interests and never really knew where I would like to end up in 5, 10 or 20 years. To be perfectly honest, I still have no idea. All I know right now is that I enjoy what I’m doing and that I am good at it, so I will continue as long as those two factors stay the same.

Did you feel lucky landing your job?

Absolutely! During a particularly stressful PhD phase, I started looking for a job in the clinical field. I found the Center I currently work at and decided to send in my CV. A couple of days later I received an invitation for an interview. They seldom take on new people, as the director´s aim is to maintain a tight, harmonious and well-functioning team. She told me that I had been invited due to all of the languages I speak and that they make exceptions when they find someone who fits the profile. Half an hour later I had the job and seeing that it is not particularly easy to get in, I feel extremely lucky!

What qualifications are needed?

First of all, and understandably, you need to be a psychologist to be able to work at the Center. Since it is an International Center, you also need to be able to speak at least two languages fluently. The more you speak the better. Thankfully, I had that part covered as I speak four languages fluently (German, which is my native language, English, Dutch, and Spanish) and know how to defend myself in three other languages (Italian, Catalan, and French). The other big plus is if you are trained in more than one approach. Some of my colleagues dominate different types of psychological approaches, which I find very impressive.

Are you striven by the work you do or your paycheck?

Very much by the work I do. Of course also by my paycheck (who are we kidding here), but I´m always happy to go to work.
I honestly feel very grateful for my work. Working this closely and intimately with people, knowing that they trust you with their feelings and struggles in life is very humbling. And then, being able to help is an indescribably rewarding and beautiful thing.

Does your work match your expectations?

It does and more! But that is also due to the amazing team I get to work with! Maybe it’s because all of us are psychologists or maybe because our team was very well put together, but there is this amazing sense of understanding and respect between all of us. You always have someone to turn to. I feel very at home at the Center.

Describe a basic day at work. Does it vary day by day?

It is a bit difficult to describe a basic day at work – there are none. I currently don´t have any clients in the mornings, so I use that time to work on my thesis or to prepare sessions. I’m usually at my desk by 8 am and don´t finish until 9 or 10 pm, which can be tough sometimes.

A session usually lasts 60 minutes, but I see some of my clients for 1 ½ hours as well. It simply depends on the client’s demand. Generally, 50 minutes are spent with the client and the other 10 minutes are used to write down what has been talked about during the session and what is foreseen for the next one. I will then work on my notes in more detail at a less hectic moment or after hours.

It is a very flexible job and I get to manage my time myself. On the one hand, I find that amazing as I get to use my time rather efficiently. On the other hand, creating my own work hours can wear on me sometimes, as I definitely tend to overdo it. That said I look forward to finishing my thesis so that I can fully concentrate on my work with clients and have more reasonable workdays.

What is the most exciting thing about your work and why?

Oh, many things! Here are a few:
Helping other people help themselves.
Knowing that you had a part (even if only a tiny one in some cases) in helping someone be a better version of themselves.
The interaction with people and the immediate feedback that you get.. even if it isn´t always positive.
Knowing that you may have made a difference.

What do you get asked about your job by friends and family?

“Can you actually understand and help someone who is expressing their emotions, fears and preoccupations in a language that is not your own?”

My answer is always the same: YES! In general, I understand and speak the four languages I mentioned above fluently, so there is never really a problem in understanding what my client is telling me. Also, you can always ask if you don’t understand a certain word or expression.

It is often much more about being able to read between the lines and understanding someone’s body language and facial expressions. A lot of it is about intuition, being empathetic, kind and having a feeling for the client´s needs. Last time I checked there was no language barrier for that ;).

What is the best part of your job?

Two things: that I get to help people on a daily basis and that I get to manage my own time.

Do you have bad days or moments? Why?

Of course I do, everybody does. Sometimes the long days wear on me and I don´t get to sleep enough (so important)! Other times I feel down because a session didn´t go very well or because I feel stuck with a client and don´t know how to continue. Also, there simply are those cases that you ‘take home with you’ and can’t stop brooding about.

Do you have any advice for people considering your line of work?

Firstly, prepare yourself to work in a field that is very rewarding and gives back a lot, but also prepare for what I mentioned above: the bad cases that you take home with you. You will encounter them and you will need to come up with a way to deal with them. One way is supervision where you talk a case over with your colleagues. This helps put things into perspective and allows you to advance with a client’s treatment.

Another thing I have learned over the years is to take good care of yourself. I firmly believe in the saying that your body is your temple. The right nutrition, exercise and sleep are key aspects in my life. How do we expect to function well if we don’t treat our bodies and minds accordingly? I sit in a chair all day and listen to other people´s problems (on top op my own). Even though it is a very rewarding kind of work, you simply have to deal with a lot of negative emotions: anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. This can be exhausting and leave you sluggish and unmotivated for things like exercise and eating well. The thing is that really only your mind is exhausted, whereas your body hasn’t done much all day. Working out/moving my body on a daily basis has made a huge difference for me and I feel a lot more balanced since doing so. By tiring my mind and my body I get to disconnect, sleep a lot better and feel ready to roll again the next day!

Thank you Nina!