They Weren’t Kidding When They Said Don’t Drink The Water

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 11. Travails, Shanghai by Brooke2 Comments

There are a certain set of rules that are ubiquitous for every traveler, no matter where the location. Some of these include: make sure you always have your passport with you, look out for pickpockets and scammers on the street, and, but of course, don’t drink the water. I did not follow one of these rules. The sheer amount of times that I was told not to drink the water in the U.S. and nothing ever happened was ludicrous. So, after filling my water bottle up with nice, cold tap water instead of the warm, filtered water, I thought, what’s the worst thing that could happen? After doing that for two weeks, I ended up in the hospital.

Last Tuesday, I went to my first class barely being able to stand on my feet and feeling a sharp pain in my side. I had recently spilled to my friends that I had been drinking tap water but in that moment, I assured them I would be fine. If my life was a movie, and I had a narrator, my narrator would be saying “She in fact was no where near fine”. They told me I should stop drinking it, so I did; however, by that Tuesday, it appeared it was too late.

I ended up going to the health center after my first class where they revealed that I had a 100-degree fever. Shortly after, I went to the nearby hospital. I went through the works of getting blood drawn and an ultrasound done. The doctor told me she found some abnormalities in my stomach from the ultrasound; however, it had not reached my blood yet. I was able to receive antibiotics and I’m already feeling better.

Because I studied abroad last semester as well, I feel as though I got so comfortable with constantly being in a new country that I started to treat wherever I was as a home to me. I forgot that I am still very new here. There are many things I have to learn and be humble about. I should not always assume that my instincts are correct.

Another type of illness that I have experienced since being abroad is homesickness. With China being a fundamentally different cultural landscape than the U.S. and barely anyone speaking English, Shanghai has a tendency to be pretty isolated. Last semester being in Prague, the study away group had such a close-knit community, I don’t feel that same sense of community here. I miss the feeling of knowing so many people and being surrounded with love. So, I guess it is not a homesickness specific to my actual home but just an environment that feels like home.

Although I only have one month left here, I feel as though I am ready to go home. This semester has been pretty draining academically and not having a real sense of community here doesn’t help me achieve a balanced life. Although I am grateful for the opportunity to soak in the culture of China, homesickness has plagued my perception of Shanghai.

It could possibly be that studying abroad two semesters was too much for me. I did not expect to long for being in the U.S. as much as I do now.


  1. Brooke,

    The concept of feeling comfortable (and at home) in foreign places, given that you have essentially lived abroad for the past school year, is especially interesting since you finished that thought with the idea that “you are still very new here.” After settling into a new place abroad, and getting into our hectic schedules of trying to maintain academic, social and extracurricular standards we often do feel “at home.” Partially, I think we are “at home” abroad in the fact that we are constantly busy, and the other part simply comes from the sheer amount of time spent in a single location. Given the language barrier and cultural expectations in China, I can see how Shanghai provides an exceedingly isolated setting compared to that of Prague. However, the last month abroad will undeniably go the fastest, and we will be back in the states before you know it.

  2. Hi Brooke,

    I have definitely always heard that I shouldn’t drink tap water in foreign places, but I think I have always been in the same boat as you. I always feel like I know better and tended to play it by ear. I do recall that when I was younger and visited China, I pretty much only drank tea for my whole stay, because apparently we had to boil the water before drinking it. However, coming to Australia I felt that unfiltered tap water is just fine and I haven’t suffered any negative effects due to my tap water consumption, but then again I might just have gotten lucky this time.

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