Toilet-side Talks: A Year Abroad

This blog entry was submitted by Adni Utter, who is studying abroad in Costa Rica.

Featured photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.

“I LOVE FOOD. Honestly, it is one of my favorite things aside from books. Mealtimes are the best part of the day when I am at home, so naturally, they would continue to be that way when I am abroad, right? Well… Yes and no.

My journey started once I left Texas and landed in Costa Rica for the Cultural Foundations course 1320 in which we were planning to stay for eleven days. I was cautioned about the water and some street foods, for these usually tend to upset foreigners stomachs. So far so good though–my friends and I ate like kings and I had never felt healthier (so much fruit was consumed on this trip). As time went on I became even more confident about eating different foods and enjoyed how easy and pleasurable it was to assimilate to the food options in a country different from mine. I would continue to stay volunteering in Costa Rica until mid-July. After this time elapsed my significantly heavier frame would board a flight to Botswana, where I would spend one academic year studying at the University of Botswana under an exchange program.

Being the ignorant international flyer I am, I did not account for the amount or frequency of food that is offered on long international flights. I ate way too much, and most of it did not agree with me at all! So by the time I arrive in Botswana my stomach is backed up really badly and I want to pass out from lack of sleep. After I had recovered from the flight food things got better. I was cooking for myself for the first month, so no stomach problems occurred for the first month in Botswana.

As soon as I began to eat cafeteria food disaster hit. Some meals were fine and I would be able to function afterward, and others hurt me so bad that I would hug the toilet the entire evening/night if I was really unlucky. The first week of school I got a terrible case of diarrhea, which is the first time that has ever happened to me. I missed so many classes and felt so vulnerable and alone. In those moments you miss home more than ever because it seems like there is no one who can help you or who cares when you are in a strange place so far away. However, my new friends had the medicine and I was on my feet again in no time.

What this experience in Botswana has taught me is that we take for granted how when we eat a meal, our stomachs most of the time have the capacity to handle and digest the meal and no problems will be experienced. It is never a guessing game of what will make me sick and what will not. It is never an experience of “I slept by the toilet because my room was too far away from the bathroom and I did not have the

energy for multiple trips.” I am so grateful when I make it through a meal intact! These toilet-side talks were meant to highlight one aspect of my experience abroad, but by all means, I would gladly do this whole journey again (next time though I will pack some better medicines).”

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