Being Sick Helps Gain New Perspectives

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This past week was the first week of school. First week fall semester of university usually is filled with exciting energy in meeting new professors, classmates, and joining clubs or other extracurriculars that define the tone for the next few months. Whether this means a hectic timetable with many difficult classes or easy-to-adjust schedule that allows extra time for entering a part time job, there is no doubt that the first week extends its impact.

Unfortunately, my first week was filled with sickness. I had been sick physically with chesty cough, fever, stuffy and runny nose, fatigue, drowsiness, ear ache, and voice loss. The symptoms were the most severe the day prior to school starts. Other than the constant sleep, cook, and attempts to learn (then immediate bed rest), I couldn’t speak, so everyday anyone tried to introduce themselves or speak to me, I can only respond with gestures indicating my inability to talk. The experience of sickness made me very homesick, missing the familiar people, activities, and surroundings.

When I am physically sick, I miss the food I make myself. Wet rice, formed to an almost porridge-like consistency, with a jar of fried-gluten and peanuts, has always been my sick day stables. Occasionally my friends will bring me chicken noodle soup, maybe from a can, something easy to make, yet filled with love and care of people to my physical health. However, being alone in a new country makes it very difficult. Places are of different names, and often in a different language. People seem to stick with their own agenda even after I tried to reach out for help. My New Zealand friend often asks me “Is anyone taking care of you?” but my answer is always no. None of the homegrown comfort of having friends and being with people who I have established a deep connection over the past few years.

WiDS Conference Wellington.

I tried to reach out to my friends who had studied abroad before to hear about their experiences with homesickness. Many of whom did not end up experiencing homesickness as they were having a lot of fun and instantly bonded with people from their programs. They suggested to keep busy – keeping the schedule occupied with activities. However, since I had been sick, it had been a difficult trial to actively be involved in events outside of my thoughts. Instead, I had been using this time of sickness to reflect on my personal relationships, my goals and values.

I offered my email to sign-up for several on campus clubs that interested me. Particularly I really love the empowerment of women in Victoria Women in Tech for STEM women to have a place of gathering. When I was feeling better on Saturday, I attended the full day seminar for the Women in Data Science (WiDS) event that is a global conference filled with data science conversations and focuses. Although I have not fully overcome my struggles, maybe I never will, I focus on moments one step at a time and learn the independence while abroad.