Immersing in Spain

This time, Kim Strait wanted to do something a little different, even if it meant being on her own.

Strait, a third-year student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, traveled back to Spain, a country she had visited twice previously as an undergraduate at Iowa State University. This time instead of taking classes to learn Spanish, she was able to apply what she had learned and experience what is like to live and work in Spain as a bovine veterinarian.

Strait spent a month in Madrid interning at two different veterinary clinics. She not only enhanced her language skills, but she went to gain additional experience with cattle and veterinary medicine in Spain.

The Preston, Iowa, native would catch a train early every morning from Madrid to the surrounding countryside. The internship consisted of a combination of job shadowing and hands-on experiences. She performed repro checks, gave vaccinations and conducted milking parlor assessments during her internship.

Her experiences also included working with different breeds of cattle than she was used to seeing in the U.S., including a bull fighting breed. Strait noticed differences right away.

“These were very high-spirited, alert cattle,” she said. “They have a chute system that is more like a zoo would have than a beef or dairy operation would in this country.

“The challenges the veterinarians in Spain faced with the breeds they were working with was very interesting.”

Additionally, the moderate temperatures of Spain allow a much wider range of parasites to affect the animals.

“My whole time there I felt like I was back taking parasitology,” Strait said.

Other differences Strait noticed was the timing of the farm calls. The veterinarians she worked with would visit area farms from 8 a.m. to around 2 p.m. after which they would take a two-hour lunch break. Then it was back to work for another three or so hours.

Those long hours and her immersion into the Spanish language has already paid dividends for Strait. After returning to the United States, she spent a couple of weeks in Texas working with a dairy veterinarian.

“I spoke Spanish on a daily basis on some of the dairy farms,” she said. “It was very helpful to just have concluded my stay in Spain because I was able to have valuable conversations with our clients.”