Staying healthy while living at university is hard. Staying healthy while traveling is hard. Staying healthy while studying abroad can feel like an impossible task! It’s a combination of really close living conditions, environmental stress, situational stress, lack of sleep, less nutritious food, and new people. Same thing with traveling, but even more so because of the international context which brings in very different germs from all over the globe.
Yet, as college students, we often do not take good care of our health. Instead, we attempt to power through until we’re healthy again. That’s a terrible choice. It only lengthens the amount of time we get sick and makes it worse. That’s not great at your home institution, but while traveling abroad, it can be disastrous. At best, your experience will be diminished while you are sick, and your time studying abroad is already so limited. Losing some of that to being sick can make you really miss out.
Now, the best cure is preventative. All of this is common sense that we learn growing up. But, in the context of a new university and new school, it can be really easy to forget these.
- Hydrate! Drink lots of water to ensure you’re staying hydrated. Prevents headaches, tiredness, and the very irritating chapped lips.
- Sleep! Okay, seriously. University students are terrible. I know that. I used to be like that, but it continuously degrades your mental clarity and performance. Plus, it weakens your body’s ability to repair itself and fight off early infections. Let’s not forget it makes it harder to learn, which is a significant aspect of studying abroad.
- Eat healthily! Also very difficult, I acknowledge, and sometimes we have to re-learn how to do this when in a different culture. But it’s a fantastic learning experience as well. Talk to your roommates from the culture you’re studying in. What do they normally eat? How do they prepare their food? Eat lots of vegetables and fruit. These are full of the vitamins and nutrients that you need to function at the top of your game and get the best out of your travels. Plus, other cultures have different fruits and vegetables that you can try!
- Supplements! Nobody likes taking vitamins and supplements, but they can give you that extra boost. Vitamin C can usually be found in other countries, at least in my experience, but if you don’t speak the language, that can be a challenge, so bring a friend or a handy translation app. If worse come to worst, citrus fruits can always be a boost.
- Clean your dorm! For real. A healthy living space is clear of germs, bacteria, and other things that might cause illness to spread. Dust can cause congestion which can get infected. At LCC, there are room inspections once a month, but definitely keep it cleaner during the in-between times as well. You’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Like I said, these are all common sense things that are too easy to forget when experiencing a new culture, especially for a brief period of time when we want to get as much out of an experience as possible.
But trust me, being sick while studying abroad is terrible. It leads to missing out on experiences and even if you do involve yourself with them, they won’t be as meaningful if you spend the entire time with a headache and congestion that makes you feel miserable.
Next week! What happens when (not if) you do get sick while studying abroad? How do you treat that?