Getting Sick Abroad, Do Not Panic!

Programs for this blog post

Liberal Arts

Authored By:

Sofia S.

If you are scared of getting sick abroad or have anxiety about it... this blog post is for you. 

My first year abroad living in Spain, 2017 I went to the hospital three times. I had strep twice and a bad case of vertigo towards the warmer months. At first, I was petrified. I did not speak Spanish well and I was so scared the doctors would not understand my vestibular health problems. It is not that I did not trust the Spanish healthcare system, rather, I did not have the at home support I was used to. I could not communicate how I was feeling directly to my doctor and they did do things differently. 

Having spent years in and out of American hospitals and doctor's offices, I was used to my medical situation there. Like I have said in previous posts, I am deaf and suffer from an ocular and vestibular issue as well as partial paralysis. Hospitals became almost comforting to me, so when I went abroad, I was nervous. 

Despite being nervous, now having lived in Spain for cumulatively over 2 years, I can confidently say there is nothing to be nervous about. That does not mean your nerves should go away, but remember that you can and will get help if you need it. 

My experiences in Spanish hospitals have been nonetheless great. After 2017, my other two times at the hospital in 2019 and 2022 were also fantastic. In Spain, after getting blood work you actually wait in the hospital for 2 hours instead of having to go home a few days to wait for results. Not to mention, any medicine you are prescribed is CHEAP. If you go into a pharmacy with a doctor note the prices will surprise you. The price of a packet of Spanish "Advil" is 2 dollars! 

Another thing that surprised me is that you can also go into any pharmacy, describe your symptoms, and a pharmacist will give you medicine accordingly. 

A funny story: When I needed the flu shot, I had to buy the liquid at the pharmacy, keep it in my fridge and BRING it to the hospital! Very different, but worked all the same:)

Another thing to note is in Spain, usually there are no doctor offices, if you need medical attention you will always go to the hospital as a foreigner, and most residents as well. 

While in Spain, I grew to become very comfortable with the healthcare system and my fear of getting sick or something happening was minimized. 

Spanish doctors, like ANY doctor, want to help you, the patient. They will take their time explaining things to you and make sure you receive the best care possible. 

If you are nervous, locating your nearest hospital and researching about the differences in health care may help calm your nerves. Or, like me, realizing when you experience it first hand, you are okay and can receive all the care you could in the US.