Just five days into his post-grad trip to Madrid, Spain, Willie started feeling an unusual pain.
"The pain was so bad," he said. "I don't know. I just could not move."
He found out the pain was more serious than he thought after seeing a doctor who examined his abdomen nearly 12 hours later.
"He was just like, 'The next step is surgery.' And my mouth just dropped," Willie said.
His appendix was in bad shape. Willie remembers being scared.
"That was my first surgery ever. I was in a different country where nobody spoke my language."
Willie had to interact with ambulance personnel, nurses and doctors. He said that wasn't easy in a foreign country.
"They spoke English but not as fluent as us, so it was a lot more difficult to explain what was going on to them."
The trip was with a group of YSU students and one professor, who was the chaperone. Everyone was supposed to fly to Barcelona the morning this happened.
Willie said everyone else went on the trip as planned.
"Nobody came to the hospital but my girlfriend, she stayed the entire time with me."
He and Desia Suesberry have been together for almost five years. She's also a recent YSU graduate.
Her trip got cut short, too, staying by Willie's side.
"I didn't know how to feel," she said. "I just gotta react because you don't have time to kind of sit in the corner and cry about it."
Desia acted as a translator as best she could.
"Do they understand the severity of the issue? Because there's a disconnect here," she said. "I'm saying, 'He's in pain.' They're like, 'Oh, he doesn't need to go to the hospital.' 'He does need to go to the hospital.'"
Willie said his doctors told him he was treated just in time. The surgery was successful and he returned to the U.S. a few days later.
We reached out to YSU about the situation and they sent the following response:
A student on a recent faculty-led study abroad trip to Madrid, Spain fell ill and required surgery on his appendix. The surgery went well and the student has since returned, is back on campus and doing well. The YSU International Programs Office has met twice with the student to discuss the trip and his concerns about the manner in which his medical situation was handled. The university is in the process of gathering information on the occurrence to determine if appropriate protocols were followed.
In the meantime, since the medical situation caused the student to miss most of the program, the university has agreed to reimburse the student the full program fee. Likewise, the university will reimburse the full program fee for the student's girlfriend, also a YSU student, whose trip was also interrupted due to the medical situation.
As YSU expands its international programs, an increasing number of students are participating in faculty-led study abroad experiences across the world. The professionals in the International Programs Office are committed to ensuring that all study abroad students have an academically fulfilling experience and that all steps are taken to advance the safety and well-being of students at all times."