Staying healthy while participating on a global learning experience requires following many of the same good habits needed for staying healthy at home—with additional precautions depending on your location. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice for travel to specific countries in the “Stay Healthy and Safe” section of each country. Specific advice will also be given in program orientations. Here are a few general tips gathered from a variety of sources.
Before you leave:
- Prescription medications: Take enough of any prescription drugs you are taking to last you the length of the program. Keep your prescriptions in their original containers and take a copy of the prescription with the generic names of these drugs with you. Make sure that the containers clearly show your name and the prescription number on the label.
- Eyeglasses: Pack extra eyeglasses or contact lenses with a written prescription. Take sufficient quantities of contact lens solution since it may not be readily available.
- Personal first aid kit: Take a first aid kit small enough that you will keep it with you at all times, containing at least: adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin or acetaminophen, antihistamine and anti-diarrhea medicine.
- Physical exam: It is recommended that you get a physical exam prior to going abroad, and complete any foreseeable medical or dental work beforehand.
When you arrive:
- Take it easy the first few days: Because changes in climate, environment, diet, water, etc, can be physically and mentally stressful, and illnesses such as the flu, colds and gastrointestinal disorders tend to occur more frequently when we travel, it is recommended that you take it easy the first few days after you arrive.
- Hydration: To help your body adapt to your new location, drink plenty of water (bottled if recommended) for the first few days and avoid/reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks (coffee, some sodas, etc.) and alcoholic drinks.
- Water quality: If water quality is a concern at your location, drink bottled liquids only (or bottled sodas, juices, etc.), don't drink water from the faucet (or drinks made from tap water), ask for poured drinks without ice, and be cautious when eating raw fruits and vegetables.
- Sleep: As at home, get adequate amounts of sleep to bolster your physical and mental health.
- Food: Eat a balanced diet. Be wary of foods that look like they have been sitting out for some time, especially at buffets.
- Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap before meals.
If you feel ill or need medical attention, inform the program instructor/coordinator/administrator of your symptoms. If necessary, they will assist you in contacting the local hospital, a doctor or a pharmacist.
Health and accident insurance resources: GeoBlue Global Health Insurance, UC Traveler Insurance Coverage, Extended Overseas Travel Coverage, Gap Coverage for Domestic Insurance, and Trip Cancellation Coverage.
Some countries have specific vaccination/immunization requirements that need to be fulfilled before departure. There may also be vaccinations that are recommended rather than required—sometimes based on the areas in the country you will be visiting.
If you are sexually active while abroad, please be aware that laws, cultural norms and risks related to sexual activity may vary widely, and it is important, to consider the context of your individual situation and assume a greater degree of caution.
Alcohol abuse and intoxication are a leading cause of injury and disruption on study abroad programs. The abuse of alcohol is often tied to becoming a victim of a violent crime or accident.
Before you travel, research safety issues in the specific locations you will be visiting by consulting U.S. State Department reports on those locations, and register your trip with the State Department so that they can better assist you in the case of emergencies.
Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be disorienting, frustrating and depressing. Such distress or “culture shock” is due to the twofold challenge of being in a new environment with unfamiliar customs, language, etc., and being away from home.
Travel to any part of the world, including within the United States, includes risk of natural disaster, terrorism, severe weather, criminal activity, disease, accident and injury.