A College Freshman Explains Why Getting Sick At College Really Stinks

“Ok, I think that’s everything you’ll need for the foreseeable future,” my mom said as she dropped the remaining boxes into my dorm room.

Everything from boxes of cereal to toilet paper to notebooks filled the floor, desk, and bathroom of my apartment-style living arrangement. After an hour of unpacking, organizing, and cleaning (mostly spearheaded by my mom), I said my teary goodbyes to my family and began living on my own for the first time in my life.

The nerves and excitement surrounding this new chapter of my life were almost too much to bear. Thoughts of everyday struggles such as, “Where am I going to get dinner from every night?” and “Will I have to do the dishes and laundry by myself now?” flooded my head.

Getting sick at school stinks.
A college freshman learned a valuable lesson when he got sick for the first time at school.

Not once did I think of a much bigger problem, until it knocked me square on my butt.

I arrived back at my dorm from my political science class around eight o’clock with a massive headache. “Whatever,” I thought,  “I’ll take some ibuprofen and go to sleep a bit earlier this time.” I fell asleep around 9:30, a time I hadn’t gone to bed since I had a bedtime in fourth grade.

I woke up the next morning with an aching headache just as strong as when I went to sleep, and shivering from what had to be a fever. I was sick, and no one was around to make me soup or call the doctor for me. “What do I do? Who do I call? I’m never sick! I’m going to have to miss class!” I thought. I stifled a shout for my mom from in bed; something I normally did when I felt too sick for school, which was always a rare occurrence.

All of the practice I had being independent like folding laundry, making basic meals for myself, and managing my own bank account, did nothing for me in this situation.

I was an adult on my own now.

“What do adults even do when they’re sick?” I thought to myself. Feelings of fear, nervousness, and anxiety were all creeping up on me as I lay in bed contemplating my next move. My nerves intensified when I got my usual “Good morning :)” text from my mom.

While my college adjustment had been difficult, it seemed as though the adjustment was just as challenging for my mom. The daily texts to see if I’m eating enough, getting enough sleep, and staying safe revealed that I certainly wasn’t alone in this adjustment. That’s why when I groggily woke up to my mom’s message I was mortified to tell her that I felt too weak to go to class.

The last thing I needed was my panic-stricken mother going so far as making the grueling trek down to Philadelphia on a minute’s notice.

So I waited.

In hindsight, this was a terrible idea, as I tried to nurse myself back to health with ibuprofen and instant ramen noodles. After about three hours of miserably failing at playing nurse, I finally caved and called my mom, who already seemed to know by my silence over text and midday call, that something was off.

“Hello? What’s up?” my mom asked with a twinge of nervousness already in her voice.

“Don’t freak out,” I prefaced, “but I feel really crappy. I’m not going to class. What do you think I should do?”

Not to my surprise at all, my mom swooped into action, even over the phone. After her phone call I promptly scheduled an appointment with a campus doctor, picked up cold medicine, chicken soup, and Gatorade from the local drug store, and spent the next three days in bed watching The Office until I was finally able to resume my daily routine.

So for all of those stuck in their dorms during flu season, here’s a list of advice so that you don’t make the same mistake that I did:

  1. Listen to your body. Don’t ignore the signs of an illness coming on. If you feel as though you’re getting sick, you probably are.
  2. Always keep your bathroom cabinet stocked with remedies,  just in case a stomach bug, flu, or other bad virus makes its way through your campus.
  3. Lastly, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER think about leaving your mom out of the equation. While she may not hop in a car or plane to swoop in and save you like a superhero, just the company and advice of a loved one is always the best medicine.

Related:

All the Stuff You Should Not Worry About When Your Kid Goes to College 

Dorm Room Shopping:  50 Questions to Answer First

Michael Santos is the son of Mike and Krista Santos and is the oldest of four children. He is currently a freshman at Temple University, studying Political Science with a minor in English.

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