This is my third study abroad trip in college and, once again, it has not ceased to amaze me! My past two experiences studying abroad consisted of several weeks abroad, and I returned back to the United States with a different outlook on life. That is how it should be right? I have now officially been in Cusco, Peru for one full month. I could easily write about all of the chichés: how much of a life-changing, amazing, eye-opening, and once in a lifetime experience this has been thus far. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely has been. However, I wanted to dedicate this post to a time that I encountered on my study abroad in Peru that was not easy.
People usually describe all of the amazing adventures and experiences they discover while studying abroad and interacting with different cultures. Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan, and that’s okay! These moments serve as opportunities to learn so much about yourself during a not so great experience.
Imagine: it is the third week of study abroad, you are finally getting settled in, homesickness has gone away (for the most part), you are beginning to truly understand another language, and, overall, things FINALLY seem to be coming together. Until . . . BAM! You wake up at 2:30 in the morning feeling like death has come over you.
The night before I was jolted awake from my illness, I felt a little uneasy with some flu like symptoms so I called my mom and got some “mom advice”. She advised me to take some of the Nite Time cold medicine she sent with me. I went to bed, only to wake up with excruciating stomach pains, shivering chills, and profusely sweating. I tossed and turned and tried to brush it off. After all, what could I do? I did not want to wake up my host family, as it could potentially only be a stomach ache. I waited about 30 minutes to an hour and realized this was not normal. I called my mom back in the States, and she knew that something was not right. Thank goodness for modern technology! With ‘What’sApp’, I was able to video chat with my mom. After waiting some time, she knew that something needed to be done. She called the emergency number for ISA in the States, who then got in contact with the staff here in Cusco. They immediately called my host mom and she came running in my room to check on me.
Hours passed, and my host mom told me that the doctor is coming at 9 a.m. Hold on – a doctor is coming? Coming where? Where are we going? Did I misinterpret what she said (considering we were speaking in Spanish)? Nope. Turns out, in Peru they have house calls for doctors.
9:00 am, 9:30 am, 10:00 am, and the doctor is still not here. I then truly reached an understanding of what “Peruvian time” means. 10:30 am rolled around and finally the doctor arrived to the house. I was so weak that I could barely get out of bed. The doctor was very nice and spoke English, which made it more comfortable for me as I went through this process. He was very thorough and professional in asking a series of questions before examining me. Within several minutes, I had a diagnosis of Gastroenteritis based on the symptoms I was experiencing: severe nausea, high fever, chills, diarrhea and abdominal pains. He determined I got this from something I had eaten. He pulled out his notepad and began prescribing: five prescriptions, three bottles of delicious sugary electrolytes a day, and a ‘Soft Diet’ and I should be good as new.
For the following three days I confined myself to the bed and the bathroom. Due to the nausea and stomach pains I was only able to eat small amounts of soup and bread. Yet, with the help of my host mom, I felt myself improving each day. She always made sure that I was taking my ‘pastillas’ (Spanish for pills), cooked me a soft diet that consisted of flavorless foods and no fruits or veggies. Having my host mom look after me meant a lot, as it was difficult being away from my mom in the United States.
On day four, I attempted to go to my classes. I made it to two out of the four of my classes before I began to feel increasingly nauseous and iffy again. I immediately went to the clinic with an ISA staff member and awaited the doctor once again. Visiting the clinic was an eye opening experience as I was able to see the differences in medical care and technology between Peru and the United States. In a way, it was kind of old school. The clinic rooms consisted of sectioned off areas, separated by a curtain. The doctor examined me once again and noticed that I was definitely better than the first time he saw me (I think I pretty much looked like death on our first meeting). He encouraged me to continue with the prescribed diet, and added an additional nausea medication. He assured me that I was on my way to a full recovery.
Although it took a lot of energy out of me, within a couple of days I was back to normal. I had to catch up on a few assignments, but overall I was okay because the ISA staff, professors and fellow students were all there to support me along the way. Along with my wonderful, caring host mom! (And, of course, my mom back in the States.)
Studying abroad is a great experience and, in my opinion, one that everyone should take on if given the opportunity. Sometimes, less than ideal situations arise while abroad, but that is part of the experience too. There will be days during your study abroad when you may feel homesick and want to go home because that is what you are used to and comfortable with, and that’s okay. However, I feel it is important to step out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to all experiences. You can take anything and turn it into a learning experience, even the not so fun times!
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