Psychology in Action. My Residence at the University of Seville
My process started around May 2019, one of the most important years for me as it meant an intense workload, but it also allowed me to see the results of the constant effort of my parents, teachers, and, of course, mine. I applied for a research residence in the program of UNAM’s Office for International Cooperation (DGECI, Spanish initials), which would become one of the most moving experiences of my life. I have focused on applied research and have grown tremendously as a professional and even more as a person.
I started the process like any other student, a bit fearful and nervous because of the amount of paperwork (luckily, I was always accompanied and advised by my school). I was excited: besides the fact that I felt a strange sensation to try (regardless of the result), I felt that it was the only chance I had to make it and I ventured on it with the support of my family, friends, and teachers.
One of the things I always remember was requesting a recommendation letter from a researcher because it meant for me the possibility of consolidating my learning desires, interests, and long-term goals. With this, I could better define my current skills and aptitudes.
The following weeks were a strange mixture of nerves, excitement, fear, surprise, and a lot of paperwork to complete promptly.
I still remember when I saw the results: I was so nervous that my hands were trembling. I looked for my registration number among the rest of the numbers and had to read it several times because I could not believe it when I found my data on the results sheet, followed by the assigned destination: Spain. I cried a lot, but they were not tears of sadness but of emotion, of triumph. I celebrated with my family and teachers the beginning of this new stage.
I finally arrived in Spain. I had a stopover in Madrid and then arrived in Seville. The researcher with whom I would work, María Dolores Lanzarote Fernández Ph.D., and Merche Barbancho Morant Ph.D., welcomed me with open arms at the School of Psychology. We made an appointment with the work team, in which they explained to me what my participation at the Department of Psychological Personality, Evaluation, and Therapy would consist of—I learned to use many tools related to quantitative and qualitative research, statistics and research methodology—besides giving me pertinent indications to also participate in the hospital area. They assigned me work and readings, but also cared about my well-being during my stay, giving me their support and advising me to enjoy the cultural exchange experience that Seville could offer me. They assured me that I was going to fall in love with the city. And they were quite right!
As part of my experience at the Virgen del Rocío Hospital, I could observe and accompany the evaluation process of one to three years old children with a premature birth condition, through the Bayley scale of infant development. In addition to getting to know more about the structure of instruments, specifications, and scales, I had more training with the selection, adaptation, application, and scoring of scales corresponding to age and condition. The Bayley scale is an instrument that allows us to evaluate motor development, language, and cognitive processes, detecting if there is any abnormality in infant development, to generate a timely intervention, accompanied by a multidisciplinary team capable of efficiently solving the situation and generating an accompaniment for patients and their parents.
As for quantitative research, the use of tools such as statistical packages and data analysis allowed me to participate more actively in the construction of the working database, in which we collected the corresponding information from evaluations carried out. Within qualitative research area, I was allowed to work with the interviews conducted with the families. All this led me to consolidate the criterion of psychology as a science to support young researchers and also helped me to write basic research articles concerning the construction of knowledge focused on the clinical and work areas.
Something that also greatly enriched my experience (and with which I finally reaffirmed my scientific and service vocation) was my participation in the European Researcher’s Night, in which activities related to research and the dissemination of science take place simultaneously in several cities. It is a night full of color and lights, with talks, demonstrations, tours, and presentations attended by many people. I was lucky to join tours and conferences related to neuroscience and other activities.
The University of Seville has a lot of activities for all ages, hobbies, and topics, and seeks to generate spaces for respectful dialogue, cordiality, and above all joy and satisfaction. Beyond an opportunity for professional growth, living Seville was for me a healing experience in which I found myself, where I reaffirmed beliefs and got rid of others to make way for the new knowledge I received. Seville became my home and my family. This city and other places in Spain healed me with its magic, its people, its music, its exquisite culture, art, and stories. Seville made me strong, made me mature, made me more human, and empathetic, and I have no way to thank for all that.
Research residences have a great impact on those of us who aspire one day to become researchers and combat the misinformation that today has permeated many digital media. Research leads us to understand that learning is a social, dynamic, and fluctuating interweaving so that knowledge is a constant process of change. Specialists have to participate in this process, not only producing knowledge but also disseminating it in a simple way to all people, which makes of us a group working for a change to generate safe spaces for dialogue with a high level of impact in our professions, among our colleagues and friends. Science should not be only for a small sector; it should always seek the benefit of others, and the benefit of society, and achieve improvements in all areas.
Today more than ever I know that the experience of internationalization at the University of Seville helped me to reaffirm my vocation and desire to become a researcher and scientist, positioning psychology as a science in which I find myself participating in activities of creation and dissemination of knowledge related to my interests: neurosciences, clinical neuropsychology, and mental health.
I also want to invite all those people who have the dream of becoming researchers not to give up and keep trying, and learning from everything, because those dreams do come true with effort, dedication, and solid work to keeps them going. If research seems like a complex and boring field, I can assure you that this is a mistaken prejudice; doing science is anything but boring: it is fascinating, it is hopeful, it is fun, and very satisfying.
Finally, I want to thank all those people that always supported me, and UNAM for giving me an opportunity as a student, as a learner, and as a person. Thank you for opening the doors of research, but most of all, thank you for opening the doors of knowledge. I hope that time will allow me to reward all the effort and dedication they have put into my professional and human formation.
Sharab Vázquez Pérez is a student at UNAM’s School of Psychology.