Managing health is a crucial part of a successful study abroad experience for all students. It is important to recognize that health can be affected in unexpected ways while studying abroad. Consider the resources below and be prepared for any issues or changes that may arise during study abroad.
General health considerations
Before you go
Students should do research and make sure they are fully informed about their destination prior to departure. They should also take steps to determine their health needs before and during their study abroad experience.
- Do I have any preexisting conditions that will need to be managed while abroad?
- What kind of health services are available in the host country?
- Are there any aspects of the local culture and conditions that could affect my health?
Things to Do
- Visit your primary care physician for a check-up
- Determine if your location requires any immunizations and if so, make arrangements to get them prior to departure
- Print out your GeoBlue health insurance cards
- If you are managing a chronic condition, make a plan for how you will continue treatment abroad
- Make a plan with members of your support system in the U.S. about mutual expectations for keeping in touch while you are away
- Center for Disease Control Traveler’s Health
- U.S. Department of State Country-Specific Information
- U.S. Students Abroad
Over the counter and prescription medications that are readily available in the United States, may not be available in your host country, or may not be legal to bring with you into that country. It is important that when preparing for a study abroad experience students research the host country regarding the legality and availability of their current medications.
- Determine if your medication is legal in the host country; some countries have restrictions on the types and/or amounts you can bring with you
- Get a copy of your prescription(s) from your doctor and keep it with your medication
- Bring a supply of basic over-the-counter medicines for minor issues; medications in the host country will likely have different strengths and compositions
- The GeoBlue app is a great resource for identifying medications and locating pharmacies in your host country
Mental Health Abroad
All individuals traveling to new countries and unfamiliar cultures can experience some level of stress or anxiety related to their new situation. It is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical health. Students are encouraged to set up a support system in advance, even if they think they won’t need it. Proactive planning can help prevent or manage mental health conditions while abroad.
- Expect additional stress on a study abroad program, at least initially
- Disclose pre-existing conditions to EA and/or on-site coordinators so they may be able to offer support and information on how mental health emergencies are handled in the host country
- Do you have specific coping mechanisms and/or routines?
- Will you need medications overseas? Are they legal in your host country?
- Will you need access to therapy while abroad? Research what resources are available in your host country
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – reach out to EA, your on-site coordinators, and/or faculty director to ask for support if needed
- Be prepared to spot changes in behavior and stress patterns so you can access resources and assistance as soon as possible if necessary
Sexual Health Abroad
Cultural norms and expectations around dating, relationships, and health care access vary greatly around the world and attitudes towards sex and relationships are likely to differ from those students may encounter at home. It is most important to protect yourself and take precautions and take control of your sexual health while traveling abroad.
- If you choose to be sexually active while abroad remember that laws, cultural norms, and risks related to sexual activity will be different than at home and you should therefore take greater precautions
- Always practice Consent: The unambiguous, clear, knowing, and voluntary approval given by words or demonstrated actions to engage in ANY sexual activity
- STDs do not need passports; exercise all precautions to avoid the contraction of sexually transmitted infections
- Contraception may not be as readily available abroad and so it is best to arrive prepared. Talk to your doctor in advance about your options. In some cultures contraceptives may not be publicly discussed and may be widely misunderstood.
- If you experience any relationship or sexual violence while abroad, whether from someone else on your program, someone you know personally, or from someone you meet abroad, you are encouraged to report it to the UNC Charlotte Office of Civil Rights & Title IX
- Sexual Assault Support & Help for Americans Abroad (SASHAA)