I just got out of what was not the best week of my study abroad so far; not because of any lack of opportunities for me to engage in the topics I’ve brought up thus far- the cultural and countryside living activities- but because I was wholly unprepared for it.
Japan is often- from my understandings, at least- considered to be a fairly healthy place. The people here live long lives, eat healthy food, drink green tea all the time, etc.; but, that doesn’t mean that people don’t get sick, and that, as a traveler, you are less likely to feel unwell.
Travelling in itself opens you up to many risks as far as health goes. When I filled out my health applications, I mostly rushed through it thinking, “I’m healthy, this probably won’t affect me too much.” I was wrong.
Since coming here, I’ve had to adjust to numerous changes that have affected my health, and have felt unwell much more frequently than at home. I didn’t expect such a pronounced effect from switching to Japanese food, or the effect of long bus rides through the countryside landscape, full of twists and hills and even mountains. Coming from Florida, the height variation of which is about +/- 2 feet across the whole state, this took riding in buses from being a totally normal experience to feeling like riding in roller coasters. Being that many of the destinations near here are 40+ minutes away by bus, motion-sickness is not conducive to exploring.
The food, which I expected to be mostly similar to food at home, came with nightmare stories from many students whose bodies didn’t take the- albeit seemingly small- change well. While your body is trying to do that, and fight off motion sickness, and get used to the whole range of differences in a different country, it’s easy for your immune system to be compromised, and for you to get sick. Within a few weeks of arriving, a cold was being passed around between many (mostly international) students, making this last week less than fun for many.
The moral of this story is to be prepared. When you’re sick and tired with quizzes and early tests coming up, the last thing you want to worry about is all the stuff you have to do to get rid of a cold. Don’t wait until you’re sick to get medicine, if you use it or think you need it, for any of these things. If you know you have a history with any sort of common malady you don’t usually consider, like motion sickness, know what the norms are in that country for treating it, and be ready to counteract it before it becomes a problem, so you don’t find yourself trying to navigate isles of boxes covered in foreign medical terminology, while coughing all over. Make sure you’ve got sick-food and water for when you need it. Even know how sick people act in the country your in; do they wear masks? Do they stay home? Both, depending on severity of the sickness? And if you do get sick；頑張って。