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Being Sick in College: How Having COVID-19 Changed my Perspective on Illness

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

A self-proclaimed “sick kid”, I’m all too familiar with the panic of waking up with a tickle in your throat. Like clockwork, I catch almost every illness that runs through this school. On top of a weak immune system, I struggle with severe asthma. So, when I fall sick, I fall hard. 

Since I’m sick so often, one would assume I’ve learned how to take care of myself. The sad truth is that I haven’t. As a perfectionist who spent my adolescence at the whim of toxic productivity culture, my mantra in times of sickness never changed: “power through, no matter how awful you feel.” I swam at a meet with a cold that turned to pneumonia shortly after, took an AP exam with a 102 degree fever and went to school the day after I was hospitalized. 

Nothing changed when I moved away from home. In college, I’ve been sick more times than I can count. Each time, I powered through (always masked and tested consistently). I attended my classes on Zoom and spent late nights studying at my desk, as I always had. Escaping the overwhelmingly fast pace of the quarter system to rest felt impossible while staring down a lengthy to-do list. 

All of this changed when I caught COVID-19. After testing positive in the winter of my sophomore year, I moved into quarantine and isolation housing. My first day in isolation felt, well, isolating. I found myself craving dining hall soup and the comfort of the squish-mallows that littered my bed at home. More than anything, I felt lost without my routine. Of course, I would never assume normal activities while COVID positive. It was my responsibility as part of the Northwestern community to test myself and follow quarantine guidelines. Regardless, it felt odd. 

Days passed and I adjusted to life in quarantine and isolation housing. A text to my very concerned parents a few days after testing positive for COVID read, “I’m actually doing great! I haven’t felt this well rested in a while.” And it was true. I know it’s ironic, but I felt more physically well in my time at Hinman than I had in the weeks prior to me falling sick. Removed from an impossibly busy schedule, I was forced to invest time and effort into caring for myself. I averaged almost ten hours of sleep, followed a medicine and vitamin regimen, and chugged my way through a case of water. It’s simple stuff, but while trying to study for midterms under the pressure of the quarter system, it’s easy to forget. Hinman has its problems; it’s impossible to deny. But being there taught me how to care for my sick self properly. 

Though I began my stay with symptoms, they faded in a few days. Normally, my illnesses linger thanks to my own negligence. So when I woke up with a tickle in my throat last week, signifying the start of an illness, I followed my Hinman regimen. I neglected life, stayed in bed all day, took my vitamins and medicines, and rested until I felt better. Though I attended my classes on Zoom as I normally would if I were sick, I didn’t allow myself to stay up past midnight doing homework, nor did I spend energy stressing about falling behind because of my sickness. The next day, I woke up feeling so much better. 

This conclusion may be painfully obvious to any reader. Of course taking care of yourself leads to faster recovery, but it’s not always so obvious as a busy college student. Taking care of yourself is easier said than done, but it makes a world of a difference. 

(Disclaimer: Please stay home if you feel ill and continue testing yourself for COVID-19)

Preeta Kamat

Northwestern '24

Preeta is a sophomore from Rochester, Michigan studying Neuroscience and Global Health Studies in the seven year med program. When she's not working on school, you can find her on coffee runs, exploring campus with friends, baking, or watching reality TV.
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