Life Abroad: Illness Abroad

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Hi, all! My name is Oliver McLellan, and I am a third-year Geology concentrator studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland this semester (Fall 2014). Not interested in reading about Irish rocks or paleontological studies? Too bad! Not a problem! Through Life Abroad, I plan to share all types of experiences— academic to recreational— with you. 

There is never a convenient time to get sick. During college, you can get sick at the beginning of the semester and miss out on a big chunk of the free time you will have for the next few months. Fall ill in the middle of the semester, and you will be forced to bring a box of emergency tissues to each of your midterms. Catch something at the end of the semester, and you have to cough and sneeze your way through finals. By the time you are halfway through your college career, it is more than likely that you will experience all of the above. As someone who suffers from frequent sinus infections, I am used to being too sick to get out of bed at least once a semester. As such, I thought I was prepared to take on whatever inconvenient sickness my semester abroad had to throw at me. I was wrong.

My plans for reading week—Trinity College’s version of “fall break”—were to spend four days in Rome, Italy and three days in Nice, France. After being dazzled by the beauty of Rome for two days, I suddenly lost my appetite and began shivering uncontrollably every time I stepped outside. I spent the better part of my last two days in Rome wrapped in sheets on my hotel bed with a cold towel over my forehead, assuring my friends that I was fine and would get better in no time. By the time I had to leave Rome to fly to Nice, I was still sick, but confident in my ability to travel alone. As such, I left my friends in Italy to meet up with others in France, and I felt that my trip had gone relatively smoothly.

When I arrived at the door of the AirBNB apartment my friends had rented, three horrified faces greeted me; apparently I looked much worse than I felt. My friends showed me to my bed, and my condition began to worsen again. Suddenly, my fever spiked, and I began to shiver uncontrollably once again. A French doctor came over to the apartment, and after looking in my mouth, his immediate reaction was, “It is, how you say… affreux—awful.” He also mentioned nonchalantly that I was extremely contagious and promptly scribbled a prescription for antibiotics on a piece of paper.

After a night spent quarantined in my room, I bought a plane ticket back to Dublin and flew home after seeing very little of Nice. This plane ride was much worse than the last, and I spent the entire two-hour flight curled up against the window and shivering, much to the dismay of the man sitting next to me. I somehow made it back to campus, stumbling with dehydration and exhaustion. Never before had I been happier to see my own bed.

A week later, I have completely recovered, though I still do not know what made me so sick.

The takeaway (everything I did not do, but wish I had done):

-Listen to your friends the first time they tell you that you need to go to a pharmacy.

-Listen to your friends the first time they tell you that you need to see a doctor.

-Never fly alone when you are sick.

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I would be happy to answer any and all questions! Contact me at oliver_mclellan@brown.edu and I will respond ASAP.

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