There’s a known fact at my college that everyone gets sick the third week of classes. I’m not exactly sure why three weeks exactly, but either way, being in a new environment with all sorts of new germs—especially for freshmen moving into their dorms for the first time—your immune system is bound to struggle to fight them off. Put 35 students who have had minimal contact with germs in two years in a foreign country, and you have the same issue. The surprising part to me is that—again—people started coming down with colds around the third week of us being here. As for me, I got a mild cold towards the 4th week after several people got sick.
The important thing about being sick in a different country at a time like this is that there is always a fear of COVID-19. Although we are all vaccinated and several went to get tested to make sure, there is always the fear despite it being perfectly normal to just be fighting another medical condition like an upper respiratory infection. Along with the fear, I think there’s also guilt even though you can only try your best to minimize your chances of getting a normal medical condition.
When my cold started, it was a weekend, so I quickly bought medication to help: a nasal spray, vitamin C (to fortify my immune system), general cold medicine, cough drops, and headache medicine. In France, there are pharmacies EVERYWHERE, indicated by a green plus sign. Also, the pharmacists are much more qualified to even tell you what medicine you need if you tell them just your symptoms. For me, as it was a rainy day and I was still determined to go to the movies with other students, I hopped on the bus with ease, went to a nearby stop that I knew had a pharmacy right near the bus stop. Prepared with my symptom list and preferred medicines that I wanted to buy because my nerves were on edge, I quickly got my medicine and hopped on the next bus back home before I went to get lunch and see the movie. With it being a Saturday, there are always protests which can impact the bus lines, but lucky the movie was during the entire duration of the demonstration. In the gloomy weather, I felt oddly free and as if I was moving through water; it was a surreal feeling to have in the beginnings of a cold.
After the movie and for the next three days, I didn’t leave my bedroom. I took medicine around the clock and tried to rest. I worried about schoolwork, but I was told to focus on getting better first and foremost and to make sure to see a doctor at some point. I already had a follow-up appointment that Thursday with a doctor, so I found out that it could apply as it was a general doctor with whom I could bring up my cold. Also, another piece of advice with the French healthcare system, there are medicines that cannot be prescribed that are normal in the US as there are different medical advice and different treatments that they use for different conditions. In my first ever doctor’s appointment in France, the doctor, who was nice and spoke English as well as French, and I learned a lot about how the US and France deal with two separate conditions that I was there to see her about.
Being shut up in my room for several days in a foreign country—I learned—is not good for your mental health, no matter how much you stay in contact with others virtually. Since I’ve been so busy, I haven’t really had much time to completely miss home. In checking in with my mom and boyfriend regularly as I was sick, I found myself depressed and homesick. At some point, I was tired of the misery and contacted the other IES Abroad students about it, and I ended up having a long video call with another student who was going through the same thing. It was helpful, especially as I was able to go to classes the next day. It was so exciting being back with the group and being able to focus and work.
With being sick in France, I’ve discovered not only how being sick is handled but also the utmost importance of staying connected and not being afraid to ask others about anything. It took a lot to ask about homesickness as part of me felt embarrassed, yet the truth is that most of us are going through the same issues. Like actually being sick, the other students can relate to mental health issues like culture shock, homesickness, and feelings of depression and isolation. As the weather gets colder and we face more challenges, I’m grateful for the warmth and understanding of our group as a whole, which I think is the best remedy.
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<p>Hello, everyone! My name is Daisy Humphries. I am a senior double majoring in Psychology and French at Wofford College. I am a first-generation college student from a small town in South Carolina, and I am beyond excited to share these once-in-a-lifetime experiences with you all from my humble perspective. I love to read, write, travel, eat food, and spend time with my family. I'm also quite determined and ambitious even if it scares me, but hey, what's bravery without some fear and nervousness? As I've learned, you have to be uncomfortable to change for the better, so let's do that!</p>