In Case of Emergency

It would be just my luck to end up in the hospital in a foreign country! Although I came out of it feeling infinitely better than when I went in, I must admit that I was ill prepared. That being said, I am posting this entry to make sure the same thing does not happen to you. Learn from my mistakes, amigos! You will be much better off if you do.

First, I shall share my story to give you a bit of context.

Prior to leaving the United States we were all told to make sure that we had our medications in order. We were instructed to speak with our doctors and sort out any prescription needs. We were told to make sure that we pack any over-the-counter medications (e.g. Benadryl, Excedrin, etc.) that we typically use in the U.S. and may not be able to find in Costa Rica. Since I was not on any prescription medications and had not had a serious migraine in over a month I figured that I could scratch “medication organization” off of my “to do” list. I now realizing that was not the smartest move.

A few days before I left for Costa Rica, a friend of mine shared her own immersion program experience with me. When she explained that she had a number of headaches due to exhaustion and foreign language overload, I surrendered to the possibility that I might suffer from the same ailments. My (naive) strategy of dealing with these potential headaches was to drink a lot of water and get enough sleep. Well, obviously that was not an effect strategy. Being in Costa Rica for 2 days with no sign of a headache or exhaustion made me think that I had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, the third day was the charm. Finally, the change in altitude, constant bombardment of a foreign language, less water intake than I am used to, stark weather differences, and not having enough sleep finally caught up to me. I made it through the morning and afternoon with a dull headache and was relieved to go home and lay down at the end of the day.

[Enter “gory” details of my little headache turning into the most horrific migraine I have ever had in my life.]

My host family was kind enough to call a Taxi to take me to a nearby hospital. My wonderful host mother comforted me the entire way. Once we arrived I was immediately whisked away to a hospital bed. Not able to speak for myself and without my passport, the situation could have gotten so much worse if it had not been for the organization and quick thinking of Dr. Nilda Clark. (I appreciate you, Nilda! I cannot thank you enough for all of your help.) Thankfully, for me, she was readily accessible and prepared. I certainly was not.

This is where my message to all of you comes in: BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!

Prior to your trip to Costa Rica you are asked to provide emergency contact information and then you are also given a copy of your international insurance information. I strongly suggest that you print out both pieces of information and carry it with you AT ALL TIMES, along with a copy of your passport and the phone number/address of your host family. (Do NOT carry your actual passport with you. That is something you do not want to lose or have stolen.)

Having all of these pieces of information organized and readily accessible will make it easier for you and those around you. Take my word for it. I will certainly be better prepared for next year’s trip to Ecuador. Everyone wants you to enjoy your trip. The last thing you want is to be worrying about what will happen to you in case of an emergency. If you gather the necessary information and have it organized, you will be all set.

¡Adios amigos!


-Jessica Garcia

( With: Alex Maestre and Tatiana Reis)

Shaking Up the Place!

This is my inaugural post and I am already excited.

As evidenced by my bio I hail from Arizona. While I was enthusiastic about escaping the Arizona heat before it pushed well into the 90s before 7am I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The drive across country (yes, I drove!) was a nice one. It was uneventful and I arrived sooner than I thought I would. Awesome! After getting settled in and soaking up the last few days of “vacation” before Fundamentals Week started for all of the incoming students at MSPP I wondered whether the calmness would subside or be a constant in my new world. The calmness was definitely short lived.

The 1st day of Fundamentals Week went off without a hitch. I made new friends, connected with some of the people I had met during my initial interview for the program in April, and I even learned all of the Professor’s names and faces. MSPP pulled out all the stops. There was a wonderful buffet of food to nourish us in the morning and a nice spread (with enough for seconds) at lunch time. Each staff member and returning graduate student ensured us that they all have “open door” policies and they strongly promote self-care. I felt that my future was definitely their priority. I felt secure and I knew I was in the right place.

The 2nd day of Fundamentals Week began much like the 1st. Breakfast, friends, introduction to the ins and outs of MSPP by the staff and students, lunch, friends, further information about the ins and outs of MSPP, and then… EARTHQUAKE!

Granted it was a slight disturbance (not everyone in the room felt the rumble beneath their seats) but I went from thinking I was getting sick to realizing I wasn’t shaking… the ground was shaking! A quick check on a handy cellphone confirmed what those of us in the back of the room had felt. A 5.8 earthquake had hit Virginia. I was thrilled! Arizona doesn’t have their own earthquakes. They “borrow” earthquake shakes from California. Yet, despite some of the shocks felt in my home state over the years I had never actually felt one myself. This was my first.

And if that weren’t enough excitement I come home to learn that Hurricane Irene was on her way. The weather report was promising that she would be in Massachusetts before the weekend was over. Amazing, I thought! I’ve never been through this type of weather before. This is going to be much more exciting than a monsoon! And it was. Although she was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time she hit, Irene managed to flood our basement and rip the power lines off of our house. We were fortunate, however. The damages were relatively minor and we never lost power. And while I ran around documenting everything on my trusty Flip for my family back home my family here had their own idea why such odd things were happening on the east coast.

“Jess never does anything small. She comes to town and already she is shaking up the place. See what happens when we let an Arizonan move to Boston? Earthquakes and hurricanes!” Of course the comments were made in good humor but it got me to thinking… Even though a part of me misses the calmness that carried me from AZ to MA I love nothing more than to make the most of any situation. I never took the earthquake or hurricane as a deterrent. I take it more as an initiation.

Thank you, Massachusetts (and MSPP). I couldn’t have asked for a more exciting start to graduate school.

~ Jess

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