Written by Ana Expósito
After having travelled Spain, Holland and half of the European landscape, I can say that this year at DPA has been great. I started with a training on the Dutch regulation for foreign professionals and, little by little, I have been learning from each and every one of the dentists with whom I have spoken this year. For a Spanish woman who studied Psychology, Dentistry was not exactly my area of expertise. Not even close…
But as the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, not everything in our head is what we already know but the capacity to learn the unknown, and this was called the Theory of the Zone of Proximal Development*:
This happens with anyone who decides to go and live abroad.
⦁ The Zone of Current Understanding is everything we already know, what we can do for ourselves and without help. So in other words our comfort zone.
⦁ The Zone of Proximal Development is everything that we do not know yet, but that we can learn quickly thanks to the skills we already have and the help of others. That is a doable challenge.
⦁ The Zone of Potential Development is everything that we cannot yet do and that requires a great effort to achieve. It is outside of our directly reachable goals.
For example: I spoke Spanish and intermediate English when I moved to Holland; that was in my comfort zone and with that, the help of others and my effort I could quickly learn Dutch. It was a challenge that I could achieve.
However, using the Dutch language as my reference language is still far away from my abilities (it is out of reach). However, I surprised myself when I started dreaming in English automatically and this is a very important step to make Dutch a part of my future automatic system or comfort zone
For you, if you are reading this, it is because you are thinking of working as a dentist in the Netherlands, and I understand that you see the Dutch language currently as an unbeatable challenge that is out of reach. Perhaps also the protocols in the Dutch clinics or building a professional relationship with patients from another culture? I’m sure you’ll have millions of doubts. However, do not fear these challenges. In your comfort zone you bring English, your Degree in Dentistry Science, internships or work experience, maybe some volunteering or practices during the summers, etc.
All this allows you to adapt to protocols, language, etc in Holland. Right now, this is your doable challenge.
Do you remember a few years ago when you started the degree? Everything was new.
And when you had your first patient in the trainee box? You probably were very nervous! Surely even the saliva aspirator dropped down a couple of times due to the chives you had.
But you surpassed it, and all this is already in your comfort zone.
What stops you from learning a new language?
From working with other techniques?
From meeting new people?
… and from living the best experience of your life.
The vertigo sensation of achieving these goals can be even addictive … I still remember my first interview with a dentist working at DPA. I thought, “oh! please, but I am not a dentist, what kind of conversation can I have with her?” And I soon realized that the training I had in the beginning had paid off.
I relaxed, I told the candidate honestly that I did not know too much about Dentistry, that I had a background in Psychology and that I was there to learn as much as possible about her profession and that in exchange, I could give her all the information she needed about Holland, the profession as a dentist in the Netherlands, my personal experience as a resident abroad, and truth as a temple (like for example that the path is not always made of roses). But all this has allowed me to enjoy my successes to the max. Because everything that cost an effort, it’s doubly enjoyed.
And so it is!
Every day that I speak with a candidate I enjoy the conversation to the fullest, I let myself be taught, and I allow myself to tell my own experience in the most open way I can. The candidates that finally join this adventure, these brave ones, enjoy their experience every day, they learn from everything the world offers them because, how boring would life be without challenges, don´t you think?