While I was preparing to study abroad, I was excited about getting to know a new culture, meeting other students, and traveling. I was glad that I had health insurance and travel insurance, but I did not think too much about what would happen if something actually went wrong. Then I got sick during my first week in Spain. I was already dealing with culture shock, taking a two-week intensive Spanish grammar course, and adjusting to life with a host family. That was a lot to handle during the first week abroad. This isn’t a sob story, though. Instead, it’s a reflection on what turned into a learning opportunity.
My fellow ISA students and I met our host families in Seville on a Saturday and started a two-week intensive Spanish grammar course at the ISA Study Center the following Monday. After the first full day of class, our ISA directors took us out for an official Welcome Dinner. However, I left the restaurant early because my stomach did not feel quite right. When I returned to my host family’s home, I felt even worse. It was frustrating to try to use broken Spanish to explain to my host mom how I felt. She was patient with me, and I now know the words for “nausea,” “stomach,” and “not hungry.” That taught me an important lesson in being patient with myself while adjusting to life in a new country. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while not knowing how to explain something that seems basic.
The next morning, I was worse off than I had been the previous night. I went to the ISA Study Center, and the ISA staff arranged a visit to the doctor for me. Everyone who helped me navigate the Spanish healthcare system was patient and kind. ISA has an agreement with a doctor’s office in Seville that provides English translators and a free taxi to pick up and drop off ISA students anywhere in the city. The doctor concluded that I had some kind of stomach flu and wrote me an official note so that I could explain my absence from class. For the next few days, my host mom prepared smaller portions of plain food for me. She was happy to do anything she needed to so that I could feel better. It’s important to remember that the people who work with study abroad students know what we are going through and want to help us. Getting sick reminded me that everything won’t always be perfect, but learning how to deal with that is part of the adventure of studying abroad.
The world awaits…discover it.