Most students who study abroad do not consider the potential effects that an
overseas experience can have on physical or mental health. Fortunately, it is
unusual for students to struggle with health issues abroad. However, it is
always a possibility, so it is highly advisable to be prepared before
The Study Abroad Office recommends that all students consider the following tips when planning for study abroad:
Schedule any medical checkups before you leave as you may not have access to regular appointments overseas and it is wise to make sure you have a clean bill of health before departure.
Make copies of any important health records before departure, and make a note of how to contact your physician or therapist from overseas.
Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to determine whether immunizations are recommended for travelers to your destination country. If you do need any immunizations contact your doctor or a travel medical clinic such as Passport Health.
If you do have a pre-existing mental or physical health condition, check in with your physician or mental health professional to discuss the possible stresses that could be caused by study abroad. If you require medication, discuss the best way to ensure that you will have a sufficient quantity for your stay.
If you take prescription medicine, you should research whether it is available in your host country and bring a copy of the prescription for the generic name of the drug. If you have any favorite over-the-counter remedies that you use, you may want to take an initial or full year’s supply.
IMPORTANT:Some prescription and over-the counter medicines that are readily available in the United States may not be permitted overseas. If you plan on taking any medications with you abroad, check with the host country’s embassy to make sure they are legal to take through customs and use in-country.
Once you arrive in country, acquaint yourself with your host country’s health care system. Determine how you would find a doctor in the event of an emergency.
Remember that health care differs dramatically between countries. You cannot expect all health services to resemble the services found in the United States!
You may find that your diet changes significantly while you are abroad. If you have specific nutritional needs or preferences, you should be aware that it may be difficult to carefully monitor your diet.
Be aware of sanitation in health preparation. For example, if you are studying in a less developed country you should avoid street food and raw vegetables whenever possible.
Ask your faculty or program director if it is safe to drink the water in your destination country. If it is not, avoid all exposure to the water by using bottled water for tasks such as brushing your teeth, ask for drinks without ice, and avoid salads in restaurants as raw vegetables are often rinsed in tap water.
Stay abreast of all health alerts in your destination country. If you feel that you are getting sick, inform your faculty or program director so that they can determine whether or not you will need additional care.
Sexually-transmitted diseases are prevalent around the world. Exercise extreme caution if engaging in any sexual activity.
Studying abroad will drastically change your daily routine. As a result, your physical or mental health can be affected. You may experience jet lag, culture shock, emotional reactions to changes in diet or lack of exercise, homesickness or loneliness. Prepare yourself for the potential of these emotions and determine how best to handle them if they do arise.