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Old Gold & Black


Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

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Diseased by Dublin

The survival kit of a student who is sick abroad, varying from the good and healthy to the good and hearty.


The faculty of any study abroad program always emphasizes that a student abroad should fully immerse themselves into the culture of the country they will be living in for the entire semester. Taking this to heart, I found that there is such a thing as having too much immersion of a culture, and that line is crossed when you start to catch their sicknesses.

As always, the following examples in no way reflect my personal experiences because as a professional traveler-extraordinaire, I know how to take better care of myself. Please take note as you read the thought process of a sick student abroad:

Day 1: I feel sick but I am going to pretend that I am actually okay because I can’t waste time being sick: I have to go touch the Eiffel Tower and climb the Guinness factory and take a selfie with Michelangelo’s David. If I pretend my sickness does not exist, then it will go away and then I will be free to lick the Leaning Tower of Pisa or roll around in the snow of Denmark. I do not think this plan will backfire at all. I am confident in my abilities to not be sick, similar to my abilities to successfully find the right gate at the airport. Except for that one time. But I digress.

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Day 3: My refusal to accept my condition continues on. Sure, I am falling asleep in my classes only to wake myself up with my own coughing. If I were to describe how I felt on a scale between shattered glass and fluffy puppies, I would probably fall under “used gum found on the ground.” However, I still push onward. I make sure to post a charming photo of Dublin onto my Instagram so everyone knows I am having an awesome time. I sneeze so hard though that I drop my phone and almost step on it. I must be more careful next time.

Day 4: I have been offered to go on a trip this weekend. Since I am NOT sick, I accept. Whatever my sniffles are, they will be cleared up by next weekend. I am not worried.

Day 6: I am now moderately worried. The others are starting to suspect something is wrong with me. The word “doctor” has been flung around carelessly. I will not see a doctor in a foreign country.

They could shove things up my nose. That may be their custom. I said I would integrate myself into their culture, not my nostrils. My stubbornness has won out for now. I attempt to go through an entire day of classes but have to leave halfway through my second class. I have now moved on from “used gum found on the ground” to “moldy Peeps left in microwave for too long.”

Despite the joy one may receive from Peeps, this is actually a downgrade. My throat is so sore that I feel like there is a sword constantly attacking it. But again, I am completely fine. No worries here. I am always full of energy, especially after I take unexpected four hour naps each day. Yes, I am as healthy as can be.

Day 8: My denial has at last reached its breaking point. I am on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. Every inch of me aches. My head feels like it might explode. Could I truly be sick? My roommate gazes down on me from her chair.

Go to bed, she says. I tell her I will be fine in five minutes and then I can go to class. She rolls her eyes. I think she knows now officially. I have been found out. I cough, which makes my throat hurt, which makes me groan in pain, which makes me cough, which then makes my throat hurt. It is a vicious cycle I live in.

Day 9: Everyone has left for the weekend except for me. Since I feel so much better today—I successfully walked from my bed to the kitchen without feeling like I was going to pass out—I have decided to stay home in Dublin to speed up my recovery. It will be fun, I’m sure of it.

Day 9, later: I miss seeing people. What do human voices sound like? I go on YouTube to remind myself of what civilization looks like.

Day 10: I am out of food. But I have no energy to get food. I stare sadly at a jar of Irish peanut butter, mediocre in comparison to my home country’s recipe. In fact, I start to think more about my home country. What is it called again? I laugh at myself because I am my only friend this weekend.

The laughter makes me cough. The cough hurts my throat. I groan. I cough. I wince. I can’t even recall what was so funny. All I want is my bed in America that doesn’t have three springs stabbing me in the back constantly throughout the night.

Day 11: The others have returned. I calmly beg everyone to let me see them. I believe no one suspects that I missed them greatly, for that would be quite embarrassing. Sure, I squeal and jump up and down as well as I can with my sickness when I am reunited with my humans, but again, I am sure no one suspects a thing.

Day 12: I go to the doctor. The abroad staff members were worried about me and kindly forced me to go. The doctor is nice and laughs with me, or perhaps at me, as she tells me I have tonsillitis. I hold my throat. Fear strikes me—do I have to lose my organs now? The doctor continues to laugh at me as she prescribes me some fun drugs to calm down my apparently party animal tonsils. After having medication,

I realize how much pain I was in. Perhaps I was a bit stubborn about being sick. Maybe even a little bit stupid. Or a lot a bit stupid. I now see a light at the end of the tunnel, a world where I can eat solid food and stand up for more than five minutes at a time. I journey onward.

Being sick abroad is not the most fun experience, but it is still an interesting experience to have. Who knew doctors in Ireland thought tonsillitis was so funny? Certainly not me. I mean, I would have gone immediately to the doctor as a responsible adult would do because this story in no way reflects my experiences in Dublin.

Even so, the moral of the story is that while opportunities may be waiting for you at Wofford or out in the world, you should not pretend that your tonsillitis is just a passing cold so that you do not miss out. It is not worth it in the end, not even for the sad meal of Irish peanut butter you slowly eat by the spoonful.

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