This summer I decided to embark on a study abroad experience in Spain-- one sponsored by the University of Dayton. And actually I'm in Spain right now, writing this article. Currently, I am staying in Granada-- a southern city of Spain, the last Muslim city to be conquered by the Christians in 1492. I live in a residence hall with nine other UD students, all taking the same classes with three professors from UD, referring to Spain as our living text.
I was so excited to arrive last week in Madrid-- the city we spent our first week of Spain in. The first few days were a whirlwind, mostly due to the intense jet-lag, but also just the culture-shock of being immersed in a different country. But quickly, after getting barely settled in Madrid, I began to notice that my tonsils were swelling, I was occasionally feverish, and after exerting myself for too long, I became completely unable to move my neck-- otherwise I would face excruciating pain.
Incredibly bummed, I tried to ignore it-- attributing the neck pain to sleeping on a plane, and the swollen tonsils to the dry air of Spain. I was in Madrid, how could I take that precious time to fight an illness? Unfortunately, the symptoms became so invasive to my experience abroad that I reluctantly reached out to my professors, divulging my sad state. Immediately, a consensus materialized: Anna needs to visit a doctor ASAP.
The quickest results, we learned, would come from visiting a hospital in Madrid-- rather than trying to book an appointment with a doctor. So, two of my professors picked me up in a taxi and we went to the hospital-- one of the more unnerving experiences of my life.
First, I really do not like going to any health care institution, period. Gleaming needles, the aroma of sterilization, and half-open patient gowns really just are not my cup of tea. More than that, the uncertainty of what they will do to me has always filled me with overwhelming trepidation. However, the more glaring concern was the fact that I was going to a hospital in another country-- putting my health and well-being in the hands of people who are not familiar with American culture. I would clearly be a minority.
Upon arrival, though, my anxieties and fears were expelled. I was immediately directed to and greeted by a woman working for an international office-- an office that solely works with international patients. Her only job was to make sure my symptoms were conveyed and that my paper work was adequately filled out. She was my translator and communicator-- I felt completely heard and safe with her by my side in that hospital.
But it wasn't just the international office that subdued my anxieties, it was the aesthetic of the entire hospital. The staff, nurses, and doctors were so patient, focused, and earnest-- clearly very intent on making sure I received the best care. In contrast, in the US, I have felt like a herded cow or a product on a conveyor belt. I'm just another person who needs to jump through all of these hoops, wait for all this time before I see someone who can provide me with adequate health care. And that's how I felt as an American citizen.
Not only did I feel well-cared for by the people, I barely had to wait to receive that care. I have never been in and out of any hospital or doctor's office so fast-- and received such a thorough treatment. For instance, not only did my doctor check me for the typical ailments-- strep, tonsillitis-- but he also checked me for meningitis. With a quick diagnosis and assignment of prescription, I was out the door.
My first week in Spain, I developed an awful case of tonsillitis-- which is the last thing I wanted to be dealing with on my study abroad trip. However, because of my attentive professors and the conscientious staff, nurses, and doctors of the hospital in Madrid, I was able to glide through the health care process with relative ease. And I had antibiotics in hand within three hours of deciding to visit the hospital.
I was a college student with swollen tonsils, a fever, and a stiff neck. I was a foreigner and I did not speak Spanish. Regardless, that hospital visit was the least stressful and least taxing one I have had in my entire life-- and the only one that was not in the United States.