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Off-Campus Study & Exchanges

Health Abroad

Staying healthy while abroad is important to having a successful study abroad experience. We strongly recommend that you read all the information your program provides on health issues in your host country, and then read this information again. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for information about health issues in the parts of the world you are going to visit. . We suggest you discuss your health needs with your doctors to ensure you understand if there are any restrictions to your activities while abroad.

Please be aware that the stress of travel and adjusting to a new culture can exacerbate physical or emotional conditions that may be under control at home. Therefore, if you have a physical or emotional condition it is important that you meet with the staff at Skidmore's Health Center or Counseling Services to discuss how studying off campus could affect your situation. Addressing your health issues prior to studying off campus will help you to identify those resources that will and will not be available at your program site. Also, if you have particular health issues that people overseas should be aware of, please make sure you inform them before you depart. You have already been accepted to your program. Therefore, any information you share with them should in no way affect your participation. However, it is critical that your program provider is aware of any special needs you have. Only with this knowledge can they be prepared to deal with any health emergencies that might arise.

Before You Go

Before you leave for your program you will need to have a routine physical. (You might also want to have a dental checkup.) If there are any prescription medications that you need to take while abroad, get them filled shortly before you leave. Keep them in their original, labeled containers and pack them in your carry-on luggage, not in checked luggage. Bring enough medication for the duration of your stay and be wary of buying prescription drugs abroad. Take the actual written prescription with you in case you need to show it at Customs or have an emergency and need additional medication. (If you regularly take medicine with codeine, speak to your physician about using an alternative while abroad because codeine is considered a narcotic in many parts of the world.) Syringes and needles necessary for medications must be accompanied by a doctor's letter. Students with a chronic medical condition will want to consider wearing a medical alert style bracelet. Also, contraceptives may be in short supply or of poor quality in certain countries. If you wear glasses or contacts, it is a good idea to get your eyes checked and your prescription updated. Take extra eyeglasses or contacts and contact solution in case you cannot purchase your regular brand overseas.


You should be sure that all of your routine immunizations are up to date. Students who have not had the meningococcal vaccine should consider this vaccination. Your program sponsor should tell you about any needed vaccinations or medications particular to your program location. Other immunizations are rarely required for travel to most of Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. However, travelers to many developing countries may need immunization against yellow fever, typhoid, cholera, and other diseases including malaria and hepatitis. If you will need them, start your immunizations early. Some cannot be given at the same time as others or may require a series of shots over several months. For information about immunizations specific to your destination contact the Centers for Disease Control Traveler's 24-hour hotline, (404) 332-4559 or visit You will also want to contact Skidmore Health Services to discuss health concerns in your host country, the pros and cons of receiving certain immunizations, and to plan the administration of any vaccinations you choose to receive. Please be aware that some vaccinations can be expensive ($50 or more per shot). This can be discussed with Health Services. No matter where you are going, make sure your immunizations for tetanus, polio and measles, mumps, rubella, are up to date.

Health Insurance

It is very important that you understand HOW your insurance coverage works overseas, WHAT types of illness and emergency care your insurance covers, WHERE you will go to receive your health care abroad, and WHY you should have coverage that provides for medical evacuation and repatriation.

Students on all study abroad programs (Skidmore and Approved Programs) will be automatically enrolled for international health insurance coverage through Skidmore College. The cost of insurance is included in the program fees paid to Skidmore College, and this insurance cannot be waived.

The Skidmore international health insurance policies will only cover students for the dates of the program, when outside of the United States. Students traveling overseas prior to the start of their program, or staying after the program completion date, are not covered through the Skidmore provided policies. Students will need to purchase additional insurance to cover them for these periods, unless their personal health insurance policy offers international coverage.

Students participating on domestic programs located within the United States are not covered by the Skidmore College international health insurance.

Questions? Check the Insurance Frequently Asked Questions or contact Off-Campus Study & Exchanges at 518-580-5355 or

The International Student Identity Card

Students should consider purchasing an International Student Identification Card (ISIC) for their travels abroad. The ISIC is recognized throughout the world as a verification of student status. In many countries, student status will provide discounts on air fare, travel insurance, emergency travel assistance, theaters, museums and more. The ISIC is most useful for receiving discounts in Western Europe. However, it can also be used in the United States to obtain special-rate student airfares.

The card's most important feature for students studying abroad is the emergency travel insurance, including limited coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation. We strongly encourage all students to purchase this card for this insurance coverage, which is the minimal coverage you should have while abroad. Again, this covers you for evacuation and repatriation; it is NOT a health insurance policy. Please read the section on health insurance for details.

Relationships Abroad

While abroad, we hope you will have the opportunity to make friends and form lasting relationships with your host country citizens. This is one of the most enriching experiences you can have. Your friends will help you learn about the culture and discover the city and country where you are studying. Therefore, we encourage you to be courageous and meet people while you are overseas.

Having said that, we should warn that not all of the people you meet will offer the positive relationships we hope you will form. Just as in the U.S., there are people abroad that you should avoid. Learning to distinguish between culturally acceptable behavior and culturally inappropriate behavior abroad can be difficult. This becomes especially difficult when it comes to dating and sexual relationships. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for ways to deal with this incongruity. Being aware of the interactions between men and women in the host culture is a good place to start. Before leaving the United States, talk to others who have lived and traveled in the country you will be visiting. Ask what types of relationships exist between men and women. Are platonic friendships even possible? In some countries, culture prohibits men and women from developing friendships. How do people date? Do students usually go out in groups? How are couples viewed if they go out by themselves? What is the perception of Americans as far as social relationships are concerned? Are there preconceived ideas about American women that would make it difficult for a female to be friends with a male? By educating yourself ahead of time you will be better equipped to deal with the realities facing you once you arrive overseas. Hopefully, this will help you distinguish between true friendship and relationships you'd be better off without.

Sexual Harassment

Another topic that becomes difficult to interpret once you are in another culture is sexual harassment. Again it is hard to know what behavior is culturally acceptable and what behavior is sexual harassment. If you are ever in doubt, seek assistance immediately. Should you ever find yourself receiving unwanted sexual advances from another student on your program, from a member of your host family, or even from the program staff and are unable to resolve the problem yourself, seek help right away. Your study abroad program should have an individual or office responsible for assisting you in such situations, usually a Resident Director or Student Life Office. Do not feel you need to accept behavior that makes you uncomfortable simply because it might be part of the "cultural experience." Most of the time, these problems arise due to misunderstandings of cultural cues on both sides. However, this should not stop you from speaking up. While we encourage you to learn to accept and respect cultural differences, the desire to be culturally sensitive should never be at the expense of your personal safety.


No place in the world is immune from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or the AIDS virus. Despite what you may hear expressed by locals in your host country, AIDS exists everywhere. In some parts of the world, particularly in East Africa, the occurrence of the AIDS virus in the heterosexual population is extreme. If you choose to be sexually active while abroad (and we are not encouraging you to do so), do not assume that your sexual partner will be free of sexually transmitted diseases. Always use a condom; but remember that abstinence is the only way to be certain that you will not contract the AIDS virus or other STD through sexual activity.