First-Generation College Student Lands Internship as a Medical Interpreter

Spanish major Jennifer Lopez interned as a medical interpreter while studying at Lebanon Valley College

A Spanish and speech-language pathology double major, Jennifer Lopez ’20, M’22, is extending her learning beyond the classroom through internships and studying abroad.

Lopez spent the spring semester of her junior year interning at the Lebanon Free Clinic, which provides primary and behavioral health care to uninsured and under-insured residents of Lebanon County. As an intern, Lopez served as a medical interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients and worked directly with the doctors and specialists at the clinic.

“I loved being able to work with medical professionals who have many years of experience,” said Lopez. “I enjoyed using what I learned in my anatomy classes and my Spanish and English medical terminology classes in a real-world setting.

“The most rewarding part is knowing that I made a difference in these people’s lives. I speak to them in their native language and I help them ensure that all their medical needs are correct,” she added.

Both of Lopez’s parents were born in Ecuador. Their first language is Spanish, so she has seen the impact of the language barrier on them. She felt proud to help patients bridge two languages. 

Lopez recalled one encounter with a male patient who brought his wife along to help translate. “He saw me walk in, and when I introduced myself as the translator, he was so happy because his wife barely knew any English. He was very grateful that I was there and even said that he wanted to return only if I was there,” she said. 

Along with the internship, Lopez gained additional practice and immersed herself in Spanish during a semester studying aboard in Valladolid, Spain. During her time abroad, she improved her Spanish speaking and writing. Her favorite memories include time spent with her host mom and traveling across Spain and Europe. 

Lopez volunteers as a study abroad ambassador for the College, which includes encouraging students to build their career prospects by studying abroad. She also shares her story with prospective students she meets as a Valley Ambassador.

“If you are interested in studying abroad, take the plunge,” Lopez said. “It’s an experience that is unlike any I have had before. Studying abroad opened my eyes to the world and helped me to realize my love for traveling and learning about different cultures.” 

Lopez’s interest in the Spanish language stems in part from her role as the only speaker of English as a first language in her family. She’s also a first-generation college student.

“I never really saw much of a difference being a first-generation college student in regard to other students because everyone at LVC made me feel so welcome,” said Lopez. “Some challenges I had, in the beginning, included adjusting to the workload and learning the ins and outs of college. It’s great that LVC now has the Dutchmen First program for first generation students because it’s important to surround yourself with people who may be going through the same thing as you.”

Lopez will graduate with her bachelor’s degrees in Spanish in May 2020 and communication sciences and disorders in May 2021. She will then continue on for her master’s degree in speech-language pathology as part of LVC’s five-year program. After graduation she would like to return to Spain through a Fulbright Program scholarship or another organization. 

 

By Faith Ishler, LVC Marketing & Communications Intern