(home)sickness in Valpo

Rachael Wetzel is a student at Westminster College and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the study abroad office at Westminster. Rachael is currently studying in Valpariso, Chile on an ISA Fall 1 program.

So you think you have a grasp on the Spanish language until you suddenly wake up and find yourself with an IV stuck in your arm, laying on the cold plastic bedding at la clinica. The two doctors above me could have been speaking in Icelandic or English and I still would not have been able to make out anything that was being said. A few things I knew were my symptoms, why I went to la clinica in the first place and what tests they were probably going to do to check for bacteria and infection. I ended up slowly deciphering what the doctor was talking to me about through the use of FSL (Foreigner Sign Language) and felt better when I got to read the sloppy doctor’s notes telling me what was wrong with me… not. One comforting similarity between doctors, their handwriting always looks the same.

Blindly I stumbled up to the Cruz Verde and handed them my prescription sheet, PRAYING they didn’t ask me any questions.  I think they saw the look on my face and just said, “más líquidos”. A few days later I was able to look up what medicine I was taking and found out that I had some strand of severe stomach bacteria, that caused my not-so-dramatic pass out when the doctor in la clinica said, “dígame si esto duele” and I yelped and passed out. Guess that was a good enough answer. Luckily, I was sick during one of the national Catholic holidays, so I ended up missing only three classes rather than six.

Homesickness has strange and obvious ways of creeping up while studying abroad. Little things remind me of home during regular days but flashing red lights go off when you find yourself sick in another country. I thought I was ready to be independent and learn to deal with everything by myself, but if you asked me a few days ago, the only things I wanted were, my own bed, pretzels, my mom and a PSYCH marathon. But mainly, my mom. I would love to be able to offer words of wisdom about homesickness when dealing with an actual sickness, but I am at a loss. All I know is that I really appreciate all that I have, that I have medicine that will cure me, slowly but surely, that I have friends who bring me sick people snacks and make me laugh for the first time in days, that I am able to Skype my mom and tell her that I am alive, and hey, that I AM alive.

Studying abroad is full of ups and down, and though it is hard to remember at the time, you are blessed to be studying abroad, even if unfortunate things are happening, to quote my cousin, “the worst the experience the better the story,” or in this case, the better the blog post.

3 thoughts

  1. Hi Rachael, Loved reading your blog that is so well written and informative. Sorry to hear of your illness and pray that you will soon be back to good health. Can imagine how touched your mother would be to read it as there is nothing like a great mother-daughter bond!!

    We will miss you next Sunday at Uncle Merle’s birthday picnic and will be thinking of you. Our love and prayers are with you.

    Aunt Janet

  2. You can make it through! It takes a few weeks to adjust can I can totally relate :) Things will get better and you will have the experience of a life time there! I miss it already and Ive only been home for a few days.

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