During my first quarter at Stanford, I got sick a lot. This was very unusual for me and was a little mysterious, since I was practicing all my healthy behaviors — eating well, sleeping well, and exercising daily. I blamed my frequent illness on living with so many people in a dorm (I figured there were more germs when you’re sharing a bathroom with 20 and a dining hall with 700). I even blamed the “West Coast Germs,” which certainly my body needed to adjust to after having lived in Miami almost my entire life.

In order to protect myself, I became germaphobic — always using a napkin to hold the salt and peppershakers and serving utensils in the dining hall. Whenever anyone in my dorm got sick, I went to great lengths to spend as little time in the dorm as possible. As soon as I felt tired, I would head straight to bed. I washed my hands so often, and used so much hand sanitizer that the skin on my hands dried out, and began to crack and even bleed a little. Though I was making friends, these people that I had only known for a couple months didn’t compare to my family and the tight-knit group of friends I had back at home, and my further self-isolation from being sick and my fear of sickness didn’t help. By the end of my first quarter, I felt lonely and anxious.

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Keryn Breiterman-Loader

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