Prior to embarking on your study abroad program, you should take into account any health and well-being considerations you may have. It is important to talk with your physician(s) and make a plan that meets any of your health needs. Researching and planning well in advance can limit unexpected challenges when navigating the health system in a foreign country. You may want to familiarize yourself with health facilities and services in your host city and at your host institution. You should also determine where the nearest hospitals or medical establishments are in every city you plan to visit.
It is strongly recommended you see your counselor, physician(s), and/or dentist before you depart for your host country to make any necessary preparations for your upcoming travel. It is a good idea to bring their contact information and/or portal login details with you in case you need to consult with them while abroad.
Due to state license restrictions, students do not have access to ISU Counseling Services while abroad. However, all study abroad participants are enrolled in Mandatory International Health Insurance which provides provisions for behavioral health treatment. The policy brochure provides detailed coverage information and can be found on our Insurance website.
Medications & Prescriptions:
- Bring enough of your medications to last the duration of your program. You may need to work with your physician and/or health insurance provider in order to obtain the necessary quantity.
- Make sure all medications are in their original containers and that all prescriptions have their labels intact. Bring a physical note or written prescription from your doctor in case documentation is needed.
- It can be difficult to locate facilities that can provide you with your medication needs abroad. Additionally, not all medications from the U.S. are legal to fill in the countries in which you will be traveling.
- Verify that your medications are legal to use in your host country to avoid any potential consequences. For example, in Japan, some inhalers and certain allergy and sinus medications are illegal. Also, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has strict narcotics laws that have landed many travelers in prison. This information is often found on the consulate or embassy website of your host country.
Vaccines & Immunizations:
- Determine if there are any vaccinations you may need prior to entering your host country. This information can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
- ISU Student Health Services offers many of the vaccines and medications you may need and can provide a travel consult to help you determine what is needed for your travel plans. There may be some fees associated with specific vaccines and medications, so be sure to check your insurance coverage.
- Some vaccinations require a series of shots to be administered at specific time intervals to be considered effective. Plan ahead to ensure you are able to complete the vaccination series prior to your departure.
Well-Being While Abroad
The state of well-being means something different to everyone, but there are some facets that impact us all. Awareness of the cultural differences between your home country and host country can better prepare you for life abroad. Though keeping an open mind, stepping out of your comfort zone, and trying new things are inherent to an immersive study abroad experience, it is equally important to stay true to your values and exercise good judgement.
- Daily walks and other forms of exercise release endorphins and is a great way to explore your surroundings, take care of your body, and maintain your physical well-being.
- Once you have overcome jetlag and time zone differences, maintaining a regular sleep schedule is beneficial in many ways (e.g., better academic focus, more alert and aware of surroundings, improved mood, healthier immune system, etc.).
- Hygiene standards and routines vary by country and culture. You may find that what you are accustomed to is not the norm and you will need to adapt. For example, some countries have limited water supply, non-modern appliances, and the frequency of hygiene practices can vary.
- One of the most memorable parts of studying abroad is trying new foods! Though you may be tempted to indulge in the local foods and beverages, it is important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet to supply your body with the nutrients and hydration it needs to function effectively. Without balanced nutrition and hydration, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and low performance.
- Be aware of what you are consuming as each country has different regulations surrounding food and beverage production, preparation, and consumption. For example, many countries do not pasteurize their dairy products, raw food may be more common, consumption of local water and ice may not be advised, and some countries have minimal food safety standards.
- If you have any allergies (environmental or food) learn to say your allergy in your host country’s language. Additionally, if you have dietary preferences or restrictions (e.g., gluten free, vegan) you should learn how to communicate this in the local language, but remember, they may not always be easily accommodated.
- Download the multi-lingual food allergy app, ALLERGY FT
- Visit AllergyUK for live chat assistance and information about traveling with allergies in the UK
- Though you may be of the legal drinking age in your host country, all study abroad participants are still considered ISU students while abroad and are held to the ISU Code of Student Conduct. Additional information regarding the use of alcohol and/or drugs can be found in the Safety & Compliance section of the Pre-Departure Guide.
Mental & Emotional:
- Consider the situations you find particularly stressful and be prepared for potential new stressors. Knowing your coping mechanisms and establishing a communication plan with your support system can assist in managing these scenarios.
- If you are not feeling “right”, don’t ignore the signs. The on-site staff at your host institution and/or your program Faculty Director can be contacted if you are having difficulty adjusting or feel you need support. These individuals are there to listen and assist students with getting the help they need.
- Spirituality and religion are viewed differently around the world, and your personal beliefs and rituals may not be practiced widely. If you are feeling disconnected from your spiritutality and/or religion while abroad, you may want to connect with your community back home or seek guidance from your host institution to find local communities that may align with your values.
- Take the time to learn about dating practices, gender roles, sexual behaviors, and cultural relationship norms in your host country. What Americans view as a platonic friendship versus intimate relationship may not translate the same in your new host culture. How you present yourself through your clothing, behavior, and non-verbal cues may communicate sexual boundaries different than what you intend.
By following the information provided above, we hope that you will have a positive and healthy experience abroad. With this in mind, each individual person and experience will be unique. The Study Abroad Team is here to support you before, during, and after your journey and we encourage you to connect with us. Should you experience a personal or health-related emergency while abroad, please follow our guidance for handling emergencies.