Hospitalized in Rome

By Alison Mohn
Published November 8, 2011

I had heard time and time again that college would be the time in my life to discover not only my ideal career path, but to embark on adventures that would help build my character, maturity and independence while of course having a little fun. Ok, maybe a lot of fun. My friends and I figured what better way to do this than to study abroad? As 21- year-old college seniors at the time, we decided to spend a summer abroad. We signed up for a six-week summer study abroad program in Rome and couldn't wait to travel across Europe!

The trip was going perfectly. We traveled to different countries every weekend and juggled two college courses during the week, all while surrounded by great friends, food and sights. The six-week program was quickly coming to an end, but my friend Kaitlin and I wanted to get in one last excursion so we decided to take a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast. The trip included three planned stops to visit Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. Our last stop was a day trip to Pompeii and at this point, the weekend was filled with laughter, beauty and fun people.

When we got to Pompeii, our tour guide mentioned that some of the pipelines were still made out of original cooper and suggested that we only drink bottles water. As we were walking around exploring the historic land, Kaitlin felt as though she was becoming dehydrated and was desperate to quench her thirst and shake off an oncoming headache. Without hesitation, Kaitlin drank the water from a nearby public water fountain, and we continued on with our sightseeing.

As I'm sure you can imagine, this was where things began to go downhill.

A few hours after returning to Rome, Kaitlin began developing severe systems of food poisoning. Luckily, in the midst of our panic, we remembered the name of a local hospital which we were told about during our registration week. As Kaitlin's symptoms only worsened, our concern continued to rise. We decided to call an ambulance and take her to the recommended hospital.

Kaitlin needed to spend the next 26 hours at the hospital in Rome. Upon her discharge, our panic returned when we saw the hospital bill: $15,000! Fortunately, the costs were paid off between her private insurance carrier and the insurance that our program required each student to purchase prior to leaving the U.S. Not all students may be so lucky, especially if they didn't plan ahead and check about insurance coverage.

What should you do...if you get sick while abroad?

The program you choose to study abroad with will usually require you to purchase a student identification car. This particular card has your ID picture on it and will cover all in case of emergency coverage until you return to your home ground. It is important to always keep the card with you at all times. If your program does not offer the student identification card, ask about other coverage plans.

It is imperative for you safety that you always know where the nearest hospital is while traveling in an unfamiliar city. Keep the name, address and phone number of the nearby hospital(s) on hand, be sure to keep some form of identification on you at all times and be aware of your level of insurance coverage you have while traveling. Remember, it's always best to be proactive instead of reactive when traveling in an unfamiliar, foreign city.

Lastly, be mindful that as you study abroad, water is not always drinkable in all countries or cities. Keep a bottle of water on you just in case.

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Learn more about studying abroad in Rome.

Alison Mohn studied abroad in Rome during 2010. She is a 2012 graduate of Temple University.