Life happens even while you're abroad—including sometimes getting sick (with something other than COVID). Chris shares his recovery experience while studying abroad and talks about how accessible the pharmacies are in Florence if you need medical assistance. Learn more about CAPA's comprehensive health assistance while abroad for all students, including assistance with prescriptions and medical appointments here.
This past week a terrible and unexpected, though not unlikely event occurred to me. After a tremendous 10 days of traveling during my spring break, I returned to Florence only to face some of the worst three days of illness I have ever experienced. I could feel what I thought was only a minor cold beginning to building on my way back from Vienna on Sunday and didn’t think much of it. Part of being abroad, and in college in general, is being a little bit sick more often than the average person. A stuffy nose for a few days, having a small cough for a little bit, often some minor inconvenience at least once every few weeks, but emphasis on minor. By Monday night those small trembles had grown into a serious illness, and I was bedridden for three days.
Caption: A look into CAPA student housing: my side of the bedroom where I was stuck for three days.
Getting sick is a normal part of life and especially while at school, so it was never something I thought about much when forecasting my experience abroad. And even while abroad, it’s still not that big of a deal, just taking three to four days out of your experience if you’re lucky and don’t have anything worse. However, when abroad, even just a few days of your experience are extremely precious, and it sucks to see them fade away as you go in and out of consciousness while in bed. I’ve heard of quite a few other students in the program also getting sick since spring break, and especially since we’re abroad during COVID times, there have been plenty of kids who have spent time in isolation*, including one of my roommates.
Caption: The Florentine Hospital, a five-minute walk down the street. Luckily, I have not seen the inside.
The time missed out on is annoying, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just a minuscule fraction of your experience. Among the hustle and bustle of living in a new country, taking care of your body should always be a priority. The medical experience here is actually pretty refreshing compared to in the US, even though I can easily navigate a CVS or text my mom for advice out of routine whenever I’m sick in the states. Pharmacies are practically on every street corner, and the pharmacists inside usually speak English and can offer basic medical advice and medicine recommendations. Having gone to the doctor for my specific experience, it was an extremely quick and easy appointment booked on the same day, costing just a shocking 40 euros.
Caption: The local Farmacia around the corner from my student apartment.
Even though it can be annoying, while lying in bed, there was nothing I wish I did more than take a little better care of myself over break. The late nights with your friends are awesome, but like all things, they should come with limitations. If I had prioritized my sleep on a few nights or spent some time taking care of an initial cough or sneeze earlier in the week, it probably would’ve saved me from missing four days of Florence. That, along with smaller things like making sure to wash my hands often, staying hydrated, and eating a well-rounded diet are things that may have begun to slip a few weeks into the semester that I’ll make sure to keep up with going forward. It might sound tedious or unnecessary, and some people just have indestructible immune systems, but when traveling internationally city to city, I’ve learned now it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Caption: Catching some Vitamin D on the Arno after a week inside.
*Please note that isolation and quarantine restrictions vary depending on location and are updated regularly. For more information read our FAQs. CAPA offers comprehensive student services and offers assistance to students in navigating health needs throughout their time abroad.
Chris Reidy is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2022, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An economics major from University of Miami, he is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Chris' journey continues all semester so stay tuned.