My Speech Pathology Externship in Puerto Rico

By Arielle Mayer
With the support of the graduate Communication Sciences and Disorders department, I was fortunate enough to recently complete a five-week externship in Puerto Rico. The opportunity was appealing to me because my ultimate professional goal is to be able to work as a bilingual speech pathologist. My Spanish experience has been primarily academic — I obtained a second major in Spanish Language Literature and Culture at Molloy — so I wanted to gain more experience speaking the language in the clinical setting. During this externship, I worked with adults in several settings including acute care, inpatient rehab, and a private practice.

My experience in Puerto Rico exposed me firsthand to the cultural differences as well the differences between the healthcare systems there and in the United States. Puerto Rico is considered a commonwealth and therefore part of the U.S.; however, many Puerto Ricans identify more with the Latin culture than with that of the mainland. The majority of doctors in Puerto Rico receive their education and training in the United States. Additionally, all of the medical facilities in Puerto Rico are required to meet the same healthcare standards as U.S. facilities. However, due to lack of resources, many healthcare professionals are unable to perform procedures utilizing the newer techniques in which they have been trained. Thus, they rely on older methods in order to treat their patients.

As a speech language pathologist, I was affected by the lack of medical resources as well. At Molloy’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Center, we have access to some of the most cutting edge instrumentation available. Not many clinicians in the U.S. have access to technology such as an ultrasound; however, I was fortunate enough to have spent an entire semester utilizing this instrument while treating clients. In Puerto Rico, I ultimately ended up learning how to diagnose and treat clients without being able to rely on these materials. Many of the standardized tests used to diagnose speech and language disorders are not normed in Spanish. Norm referenced tests are designed so that you can compare your current patient to the performance of other test takers in order to determine the severity/presence of their deficits. The fact that these tests aren’t normed in Spanish presents a problem because it won’t give you an entirely accurate diagnosis of your client. Therefore, I was required to become much more resourceful. My supervisor created all of his treatment materials by himself, often on the spot in front of a patient. As a result, I was required to do the same. While this was extremely daunting at first, I realized that it eventually helped me hone my clinical judgment and become a more adaptable clinician.

I feel that this experience completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. In addition to this being my first experience working with adults in the hospital setting, I was required to practice in a nonnative language. I learned so much about myself and about my profession in the process. I am so thankful to the Communications Sciences and Disorders department for supporting me throughout the entire externship process, and to the Modern Languages department for helping me develop enough proficiency in Spanish so that I could experience such an amazing professional opportunity.

Image courtesy of Arielle Mayer

Fanjeaux: Faith, Fun, and Forever Friendships

By Elizabeth Meittinis

elizabeth meittinis

For the first time in my life, I was leaving the United States. I was headed to Fanjeaux, France, as part of a Molloy-sponsored trip to learn more about our Dominican roots. Not only was I traveling outside of U.S. borders, but I was also traveling to a place of faith and holiness. I had been looking forward to this trip since my freshman year. There’s nothing I love more about Molloy than the faith and feeling of community on campus, and I couldn’t wait to be able to see where the Dominican order was started so I could fully understand the Dominican Charism. When I started at Molloy, I was drawn to the concept of the four pillars of Dominican life: Study, Community, Spirituality and Service, but it wasn’t until I immersed myself in Campus Ministries and Dominican Young Adults that I truly began to learn how to live my daily life according to those pillars.

Traveling to Fanjeaux was a life-changing experience to say the least. At first, I was very anxious and nervous because it would be the longest I’ve ever been away from home, as well as my first international flight, but it was comforting to know I was travelling alongside five other people from Molloy. When we landed in Toulouse, we met some people from other Dominican schools that we would be staying with for the next two-and-a-half weeks. Although we were exhausted beyond belief, we were able to start conversations and already began to build friendships in that airport, as we waited for our bus to take us to Fanjeaux.

Those friendships and bonds continued to develop throughout the entire trip. We lived the four pillars of Dominican life every day, but the most profound pillar was definitely community. The sense of community I felt while in France was overwhelming. I’ve been on my fair share of trips where I have gotten close to many people, but this trip was definitely much more than I expected. We ate together, went on all excursions together, took a class together, drank wine together, prayed and reflected together; pretty much were together all day every day. The sense of companionship, trust and friendship was evident and it’s something I’ll never forget. From the “good mornings” to the “I bought you this at the market,” everyone looked out for each other and it was so touching. The relationships I was able to create during my time in France will be carried forever in my heart.

fanjeaux group

We traveled throughout southern France, visiting many churches, castles and historical places. We went to visit the house where St. Dominic lived during his time spent in Fanjeaux. It was such a powerful and awe-inspiring experience walking into that home; there really aren’t words to describe the feeling I had. One of my favorite excursions was the day we traveled to Montségur and hiked up to the top of the mountain. It was there that I definitely felt the presence of God among us as we were conquering the mountain. Not only did I feel His presence, I was able to witness God in so many people during that experience, people who lent a helping hand to others while climbing up rocks and cheered others on as they struggled to make it to the top. I felt as though God was with us in these individuals and He truly wanted us all to conquer that mountain and experience that breathtaking view together.

Another profound memory was the day we went to visit the Abbey of LaGrasse. I felt like I was in The Sound of Music! We entered one of the churches located on the grounds and the acoustics in that church were fantastic. While on a tour, I was able to sing with one of the adults on the trip and it was such a powerful experience. As we sang “Amazing Grace,” the echo and wholeness of both our voices together was overwhelming. That day will always have an impact on my life.

Although every day I wish I was able to go back and relive those experiences all over again, I am so blessed to be able carry all those memories and friendships with my throughout my life. I am so appreciative of all the opportunities I have been afforded through Molloy.

fanjeaux trip

Images courtesy of Elizabeth Meittinis.