Safety Net: How Dartmouth Had My Back While Solo-Traveling Abroad
Despite having studied, interned, and conducted independent research abroad multiple times since coming to Dartmouth, there is one conversation I just cannot avoid with my mom each time I jet off someplace new: safety. Coming to Dartmouth, I felt very safe knowing that I would be going to school in a non-urban environment with a tight-knit community, the blue light system, and campus security that took its job very seriously. Being abroad, however, would be a different story―or at least I assumed.
I like to think of my time abroad as falling into two distinct camps: that of travel affiliated with Dartmouth like studying abroad and that which is a bit more independent, like solo research and internships. For me, studying abroad wasn't something I was very nervous about (despite my mom's initial hesitations). I was excited to explore new countries with a group of my peers, and I knew that having a Dartmouth professor lead my study abroad programs would ensure safety and bring an additional sense of comfort and support.
It was not until I began living and traveling alone in foreign countries for internships and independent research that I began to also worry about safety. I was responsible for myself and, without a professor or established program to lean back on, I had to embrace a sense of fierce independence and caution―an attitude I truly embodied this summer while living and working on my own in Beijing, China.
As you may have been able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I LOVE Beijing. After studying abroad in China the summer following my freshman year of Dartmouth, I was excited to finally return to the city I loved and experience it in a new way― this time with a little more independence, for better or for worse. As an avid hiker, I used my free weekends to section-hike remote, unrestored parts of the Great Wall that were largely avoided by the typical tourist. I met friends from Ireland, England, and Korea, practiced my Chinese, and even spent the night with some of my new friends camping on top of the Great Wall of China.
But, with all of these amazing experiences came a bit of a hiccup. As I prepared for bed one night after climbing the Wall, I noticed a red mark on my arm that looked a bit like a bulls-eye, the classic sign I recognized as a potential tick bite that could lead to Lyme disease. Uh oh.
Had I been on a study abroad program, I likely would have just called the professor and had him bring me to a well-reputed hospital. This time, however, I was alone, in a foreign country, and did not know how to describe "tick bite" in Chinese. After taking a moment to freak out, I remembered that Dartmouth had a partnership with a service called International SOS (ISOS for short) that had English-speaking doctors on call 24/7 in over 30 countries around the world. I found my ISOS card in my wallet, called the number for China, and began speaking with an English-speaking doctor within 15 minutes. All I had to do was provide my Dartmouth ISOS number--something that all students have access to.
Less than 24 hours later I was being seen by an English doctor at a reputed clinic, an appointment that ISOS had made for me. I was given the correct antibiotics and was on my way, tick and Lyme-disease free!!
So, I suppose the moral of this story is that Dartmouth had my back even when I didn't realize it. My summer internship in Beijing was not affiliated with Dartmouth, yet the medical resources and ability for me to get the help I needed were still there when I needed them most.