Planning for a Healthy Year Abroad
Before a study abroad experience, all students should have a general physical done by their primary care provider and assure that all their routine immunizations are up-to-date.
Immunizations and Vaccinations
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization offer on-line information about regional and country health risks and disease outbreaks, with recommendations for immunizations. After researching the requirements and recommendations for your specific destination, discuss your choices with your physician, planning well in advance, as some immunizations are administered over a period of several months.
Students are advised to assure that all routine immunizations are up-to-date, including Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B vaccines.
Discuss with your prescribing physician and family how you will obtain prescription medications while abroad, well in advance of your departure. Ask your physician to prescribe a supply of medication that will last the length of your stay. You may request that your physician or pharmacist write a letter describing your medications, their dosage, and a generic name for them and the condition they treat. This letter could be useful when going through customs/immigration and in case of an emergency
Always carry a copy of your prescription and keep medications in the labeled containers in which they were dispensed.
Over-the Counter Medications
You may want to consider travelling with common over-the-counter medications, as they may be more difficult to find in your final destination.
- Painkillers: aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Motion sickness pills
- Allergy medication/antihistamine (some medications, such as those containing pseudoephedrine may be considered an illegal controlled substance in your final destination; be sure to understand the laws and regulations of your host country, prior to departure)
- Decongestant/flu medicine
- Prescriptions and/or extra sets of contact lenses or glasses
- Any other items appropriate for your specific destination and personal health (sunscreen, bug repellant, etc.)
If you have asthma, diabetes, allergies, or other chronic conditions, learn the vocabulary to describe your condition in the host country language, and carry a written explanation in that language, in case you are unable to communicate in an emergency. Plan to wear your medical bracelet if you own one. Saint Louis University recommends that you share your medical information with your host program for further assistance.
Going abroad and venturing out of your comfort zone is stressful. You should plan to use common stress reduction strategies such as exercise and relaxation to cope with all the changes you will encounter in your new host country. If you are currently seeing a therapist, discuss how you will continue your mental health care while you are abroad, and inquire with your home and host institution about counseling services that may be available to you abroad.
Most students abroad experience some degree of culture shock. Culture shock refers to the stresses and strains associated with adapting to life in a new a culture. Symptoms may include: frustration, mental fatigue, disorientation about how to work with and relate to others, boredom, lack of motivation and physical discomfort. Please be aware of these symptoms and contact someone at your home or host institution if the symptoms persist or you would like to talk with someone.
Diet and Nutrition
Learn about the regional diet, eating habits and meal schedule for your destination, as it is an integral part of the culture and may vary greatly from your current practices. Learn how to explain any dietary restrictions in a culturally appropriate way.
Remain informed of food and water precautions recommended by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.