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When You Fall Down a Hill

Photo by Hannah Christiansen

If you’ve seen the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, you may recognize the gazebo where Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth Bennet that first horrific time. It was raining dramatically— and he was rejected equally as dramatically.

That gazebo is real, and it lives on an estate called Stourhead. Other good things to know about Stourhead: it’s beautiful, it’s hilly, and if it has rained recently (which it usually has—this is England), you should be very, very careful going down those hills. And if you do find yourself in distress, it is not likely that a man you hate is going to come propose to you—at least, that didn’t happen for me.

Luckily, out of the four of us who embarked on the adventure down this slippery hill, I was the only one who fell and got injured. Dislocating my shoulder wasn’t that terrible of an injury—though it was not that great to deal with while abroad. If you injure yourself abroad, you don’t have all the same resources you do at home, and you may not be sure about how to get help wherever you are. But maybe these tips will help you out.

Get Resourceful

In England, there are many bank holidays, and the day I injured myself happened to fall on one of them. Later, when we arrived in Bath, I tried to find a place where I could buy a sling or something that could be made into a sling. The only place open was a gelato shop, and, while the gelato was delicious, it didn’t help with the intense shoulder pain. I had to wait until the next day when we were on the move again.

The other thing about traveling is that you often have plans, and these can limit your ability to find medical supplies. I ended up purchasing a sweatshirt from a gift shop and using that as a sling by tying it around my neck (very temporary, but it worked).

Ask for Help from Atypical Places

We were still on the move, as we were planning to go from England to Wales. We were hanging out in the lobby of our hotel in Cardiff, trying to figure out where to go for dinner. It was another bank holiday, so again, most places weren’t open. However, while I was standing there with a sweatshirt tied around my shoulder, answering questions from others who hadn’t seen what happened, the hotel receptionist brought me a temporary sling from a first aid kit. I hadn’t even thought to ask, but locals often have resources you don’t.

Photo by Hannah Christiansen

Be Prepared for a Different Kind of Doctor’s Visit

Back in London, I did finally go to an urgent care. We asked one of the permanent residents where we were staying for recommendations, and off I went—on my own. I talked to English nurses and doctors to figure out if my shoulder needed treatment (and I got a real sling!). But I learned that even in places where you expect the culture to be close to your own, the culture at doctor’s offices changes depending on where you are, so you should always remove all expectations you have that are based on your home country’s medical system. However, everyone was still very nice to me. Ultimately, all doctors have the same purpose—to help you recover.

Keep a Good Attitude

I’d been to the doctor and received a referral to a shoulder specialist, but I couldn’t get in for a few weeks because we were going to Scotland. What now? I wasn’t about to let an injured shoulder stop me from going to Scotland, so I kept going and did everything in a sling.

I must admit, it was difficult to accept at first. But it’s how things happened, and I wasn’t going to let that wreck my study abroad. I kept moving forward and did what I could. Ultimately, no matter what happens, you’re on a trip, and you want to remember it as a fun experience rather than a time of misfortune. When I remember my trip, I don’t remember my inability to do things—I remember the fun times and the good friends I made.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Even with a strong attitude, you won’t be able to do everything as easily as you can when you’re in full health. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance. I couldn’t carry a lot with just one arm, but my fellow travelers were there, ready to help with anything I needed. There are kind people all over the world, and there will be people willing to help you. You aren’t alone in this, even if it feels like luck is against you because of your injury. Think of it this way—now you have a cool story to tell about that time you overcame a crazy obstacle in a foreign country.
—Hannah Christiansen