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. The CDC also has helpful apps to assist with planning for international travel (“TravWell”), as well as staying healthy while you are abroad (“Can I Eat This?). We suggest you discuss your health needs with your doctors to ensure you understand if there are any restrictions to your activities while abroad.
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.) Students with a chronic medical condition will want to consider wearing a medical alert style bracelet. 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.
Medication - Prescription and Over-The-Counter
If there are any prescription medications that you need to take while abroad, please confirm whether they are legal in your country of study. Some prescription medication while widely utilized in the United States, are illegal in other countries. For example, Japan does not allow some over-the-counter medications such as inhalers, allergy or sinus medications. Banned as well are prescription medications that contain codeine or stimulants, these ingredients can be found in cough syrup and ADHD medications, respectively.
Some countries limit the supply of medications that you can bring into the country or require a special license to do so. For example, Denmark requires you to have a “license” if you are carrying a supply of medicine that would last you three months or more.
It is important that you confirm that your over-the-counter and/or prescription medication can be brought into the country. You can do so by checking with your program provider, that country’s embassy website, Embassy of the United States in that country (check under U.S. Citizens Services – Resources for U.S. Citizens – Medical Resources) or through a simple Google search.
Once you have confirmed that the prescription medication can be brought into the country, have all prescriptions filled shortly before you leave. It may be required that you show a receipt for the purchase of the prescription or over-the-counter medication, so please retain these documents. You should also request a letter from your doctor to demonstrate that the medication was prescribed to you and that you own it. The letter should minimally include the following:
- your name
- what countries you’re going to and when
- a list of your medicine, including how much you have and doses
- the signature of the person who prescribed your drugs
Some countries will require this letter to obtain a “license” to bring the medication into the country or that the letter be shown at Customs when arriving. Syringes and needles necessary for medications must also be accompanied by a doctor's letter. You should also bring the actual written prescription with you in case you need to show it at Customs or have an emergency and need additional medication.
Keep all medication in the 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. 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. Travelers to some 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 at (800) 232-4636 or visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
STDs & AIDS
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.