Is a Study Abroad Program in Japan Safe? One American Female College Student's Experience May Shock You.
"I studied abroad in Japan from late August to late November in 2012. I spent the majority of my time in Kyoto, albeit a few weekend trips to nearby cities. My last two weeks in Japan were dedicated to an independent research study, during which I traveled to Tokyo for five days, Nikko for two days and Sendai for two days. While in Nikko, I experienced a constant headache. From there, I took a bullet train through Fukushima up to Sendai. I experienced a severe migraine while traveling through Fukushima by train, and by the time I got to Sendai, I felt fine. I have a history of migraines since Feb. 2009, when I suffered a concussion from a car accident. Despite that, I hadn't experienced a migraine for at least six months before I went through Fukushima.
Within the three weeks following my visits to Nikko and Sendai, I experienced on-and-off headaches and migraines. At the time, I was not sure if I could attribute that to radiation exposure or something else like altitude sickness or poor sleep. It was nonetheless unusual for me.
One week after returning to the United States, I began experiencing more severe symptoms of radiation exposure. I had daily bloody noses that lasted until mid-January. I had frequent stomach pain and nausea. In mid-December, I experienced 48 hours of constant vomiting. I've had food poisoning before, and this was much much worse. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. During the rest of the week, I continued to vomit on and off, but not continuously. Until about mid-January, my headaches, migraines, nausea and dizziness continued. I did not see a doctor during that time because I was traveling; I had made these plans before my trip to Japan, and I was nowhere near my regular physician. When I saw my doctor after the symptoms had stopped, I was told that there was no way of knowing whether I had experienced radiation sickness or still have radiation in my body. Doctors and nuclear experts have told me that my symptoms were typical of low radiation exposure. It's amazing to me that one can get so sick even from being exposed to radiation for such a short period of time. And for the record, I haven't had any of those symptoms since January.
In Nikko and Sendai, I ate no fish and drank only bottled water and green tea. In Nikko, I probably had hot tea at my hostel. In Tokyo, I ate sushi near Tsukiji market. No other fish. I didn't eat dairy products, and I had no way of knowing where my rice and vegetables were coming from. At the time, my Kanji knowledge was very poor. "
* Nikko is near Mito on the map.
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