Getting Sick Abroad: My Crash Course in British Healthcare

September 25, 2012
Getting Sick Abroad: My Crash Course in British Healthcare

That has been my life for the past, oh, week and a half. It started when I stepped off a barely noticeable curb the wrong way, heard a pop, and looked down to see a rapidly swelling left ankle. I spent the weekend in bed, but come Monday morning, I was stuffy and coughing. What started as a typical cold though evolved into a trip to an NHS treatment center and eventually a frantically scheduled doctor’s appointment in a nearby town. As these events were happening, I’ll be honest: They all sucked. But, in retrospect, as I’m finally weaning myself off tissues and cough syrup, I’m really glad to have gotten sick abroad.

Ok granted, being sick is the pits. I know. And being sick my first two weeks in a new country was really hard. But it also forced me to learn about a new place in a way that a lot of people probably don’t get the chance to do. A country’s health care system is an integral part of how it functions, and for many college students studying abroad, it’s probably not something they ever really get around to experiencing.

But I did! And while I don’t think I can count my time in an urgent care center or doctor’s office towards a cultural enrichment certificate, I had really positive experiences in both situations. All the nurses, receptionists, pharmacists (or in England, chemists), and doctors were ridiculously helpful in explaining paperwork and billing to me. They answered all of my silly questions and the receptionist at the doctor’s clinic even called me a cab because she said I was in no health to walk so far home. Come on, how sweet is that?!

So being sick may have forced me to miss going out a few nights, and I definitely had to skim a few chapters in that book I needed to read for class, but I’m oddly glad I had the experience. It forced me to accept a sense of independence that while I wasn’t totally prepared for, I’m diggin’ now.


Photo by Laura Alexander.

About Laura Alexander

Since graduating from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Laura has traveled and learned and occasionally even taught. She’s a feminist who is passionate about education, survivor-centered justice, and coffee. After a year living in Malaysia, Laura is back stateside teaching sexual assault prevention to college students.

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