Balancing schoolwork that is quickly piling up towards midterms, traveling around and outside of Rome, and a less than ideal amount of sleep all adds up to one unfortunate side effect that is bound to affect everyone at some point during the semester: sickness. I got hit with the flu last week, and quickly realized how frustrating getting sick is while studying abroad. Not only is everything just a little more difficult when you’re sick (studying, doing homework, grocery shopping, commuting, etc.), but you’re also left feeling limited in your capabilities and that you’re wasting a part of the precious time we have here. As I found myself stuck in bed, staring at the window at the beautiful weather and Roman skyline, I felt guilty for not being able to go about my daily life as usual, and explore more of Rome between classes.
I quickly became frustrated with my inability to commit to things I had been planning throughout the week, and coupled with that was frustration over the language barrier and cultural divide that has been constantly present, but suddenly became more apparent while being sick. The inability to find the correct medicine at the pharmacy, for example, was a relatively small problem, but it highlighted the everyday struggles that can come from living in a foreign country and not knowing the language or all the customs.
I knew, however, that studying abroad was equally about the positive and the negative experiences. I knew that I would learn the most from the all the small obstacles I would face, in travelling and in daily life in another culture. It is easy to sometimes feel that you are not taking full advantage of every day while studying abroad, but sometimes mental and physical health have to take precedent, and I think it is important to appreciate the lessons that can come from these situations as well. While I couldn’t explore Rome and do all the high energy activities I wanted to do, I took the opportunity to do what I had felt like I didn’t have time for prior. There are always a thousand opportunities and activities to do in Rome, and so I rarely feel that I have time to fully relax and get organized in my schoolwork, planning, and “home” life. Therefore, while I was stuck sick in my apartment, I came up with a shortlist of what to do when sick that would make me feel both productive and ready to take full advantage of my time once I felt better.
- Get caught up on/ahead on homework
During the weeks, it is easy to fall a bit behind on reading, or suddenly find yourself with an assignment due that you haven’t had ample time to prepare for. Getting ahead on this work while sick means that you won’t feel guilty exploring the city later on, when those papers or readings are due.
- Take time to cook
I always imagine that I’ll have plenty of time to go to the open air markets and try out different Italian recipes in my kitchen, but with so many other outings and schoolwork, it can be hard to actually execute these plans. Staying in is the perfect excuse to finally do so.
- Organize & Make plans for when you feel better
Instead of being frustrated about all the things I couldn’t do, I decided to get organized in my planning for Fall Break, and make a list of things I want to see and do around Rome as well.
While everyone will deal with these situations differently, all of this is to say that learning to turn frustrating situations into positive and productive opportunities is one of the best and most valuable lessons that can come from studying abroad.