OzTREKK Ambassadors: The Worst Part of Studying Abroad

19 July 2019

Hi, everyone!

Not going to lie—this post isn’t going to be the happiest one, and I would be lying if this story made me change my opinion on studying abroad.

Last night my Mom and I were texting, I had been in medical school “exam mode” for a few weeks so admittedly had neglected my family time and we were finally catching up. As it turns out, I missed the news that a couple days earlier my Nanny had been admitted to the local hospital (Spoiler alert: She’s fine, happy, healthy and back at home!).

But to frame this story, I first want to tell you a bit about my Nanny. She’s a 93-year-old woman who’s sharp as a whip, 85 lbs of pure stubborn independence, and I’m honoured to share her name. My Nanny grew up in a different time. She’s watched the world modernize. She helped raise her siblings. She eventually became a nurse, so caring for others is more in her nature than caring for herself let alone asking for help. She was an integral part in my childhood—always over filling our dinner plates, caring for her family and aging husband. It took a lot of coercion to move her out of the county and closer to us, and she still lives as independently as possible. Dad needs to install her window AC unit in her apartment in the summer. She’s spunky, full of life, and stubborn in the best ways. In short, I want to be her when I grow up.

Nanny has had her fair share of pneumonia, a few falls, and the standard aches, pains, and problems of aging. With her fierce independence, we’ve had to intercept her walking herself home from the hospital more than once. She never wants to be a bother in the late afternoon knowing my Dad is at work.

So when my parents received a call from her at 4 in the morning, they knew it was something major. Nanny had a couple falls during the evening. She described losing the feeling in her legs before the falls, but now at 4 a.m. the feeling hadn’t come back and she needed help. My Dad carried his mother, now smaller than both his daughters, into his truck to take her to the hospital. I have to say as a budding medical professional, I’m so happy with the care my Nanny received there. They figured out that she had a recent cold and had been prescribed cold meds that contained codeine, which was just a bit much for her system to handle. They did all the right scans to rule out all the scary potential causes, and kept her for the rest of the night so that she would be safe while the meds left her system. Surprisingly, one of the doctors even managed to convince Nanny to consider a walker. We’ll see how that goes over with Miss Independent.

All in all, a very good ending to something that could have been really scary. Thank you for listening to the lamenting of a girl who adores her aging Nanny.

Now how does this relate to studying abroad? Well, because I’m across the world I didn’t know about this right away. Because I’m in Australia, I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t bring her tea the way she likes it (sugar and a pinch of milk), couldn’t tease her about calling us sooner. Because I chose this degree in this country, I also couldn’t be there for my parents, making them breakfast after an unexpected early morning before having to go to work, or greet my dad with coffee the way he likes (Double Double).

I wanted to share this story because it was a scare that I had considered but didn’t think would happen to me. When I chose to study abroad, I knew I would be missing birthdays and anniversaries. I knew missing the happy things would make me sad, but I didn’t think about how missing the scary or sad events would make me feel guilty.

My parents—of course—don’t blame me. Nanny didn’t wonder why I wasn’t there. They all love and support me and are proud of me for pursuing my dream. When Nanny is up to it, my parents are going to bring a laptop over to Skype with her so I can say hi! I write her letters. She knows she’s loved.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I wouldn’t change my decision. Coming to Australia has been a life-changing step in the right direction for me. But I wanted to share this—luckily—happy ending with you so you’re aware that sometimes not being home sucks and it’s not for the reasons you always expect.


First-year Macquarie Medical School student
Follow Emma’s journey on Instagram! @emmab_md

OzTREKK Ambassadors