When you're planning to study abroad, it's very important to consider the potential health issues you could encounter as a visiting student.
The Center for Global Education's Student Study Abroad Safety Handbook suggests that you take time to learn about precautions you can take to avoid illnesses, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes travel advisories on its website for countries around the world.
The U.S. Department of State also provides information on its Students Abroad website.
Sheryl Hill, executive director of DepartSmart, a nonprofit group that educates students about safe foreign travel, says it's helpful for students to enroll their trips with the U.S. Department of State so they can receive alerts about potential health hazards.
Enrolling will also allow your host country's U.S. Embassy to find you if there is an emergency.
It's easier to stay well if you're in good physical condition at the start of your trip.
- Make sure you receive any necessary inoculations before you leave the U.S. World Health Organization offers recommendations for getting vaccinations.
- If you take medications, make sure to bring an adequate supply. You can contact the U.S. Embassy or your student travel program to find out the rules for bringing prescription medications into the country you're planning to visit.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises travelers that drugs sold in developing countries may contain impure or toxic ingredients. Avoid taking them without first consulting a health professional.
- Because the quality of health care abroad may not meet the standards you're accustomed to, it's best to get a physical examination, a dental check-up, and an eye exam before you leave, the Center for Global Education advises.
- Furthermore, exercising regularly can help you maintain your health and fitness while you're abroad.
Not sure what else to take with you? Check out this ultimate study abroad packing list.
Be Cautious About What You Eat and Drink
Two common ways to become ill while abroad are eating and drinking contaminated food and beverages. Make sure you determine whether the local water is safe to drink. If you plan to drink bottled water, always check to make sure each bottle's seal is intact. Remember that ice can be a source of bacteria.
If you suffer from food poisoning or diarrhea while abroad, drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. Be sure to see a doctor if your condition worsens.
In addition to monitoring what you eat and drink, it's important to be aware of diseases that can be transmitted by insects. Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, more than one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases each year.
Get an International Health Insurance Plan
When you study abroad, it's essential to have an international student health insurance plan, since injuries and illnesses can happen anywhere.
Most domestic insurance policies won't cover you while you're outside the U.S. If you need a doctor and lack international health insurance, you may be required to pay cash before you receive treatment.
According to the CDC, you could pay more than $100,000 if you needed a medical evacuation and lacked international health insurance.
There are many international student health insurance plans to choose from. WorldTrips offers StudentSecure, a plan which provides comprehensive medical coverage for full-time students and scholars while they're abroad.
Because StudentSecure has four levels of coverage — Elite, Select, Budget, and Smart — you can find the policy you need at an affordable price. These plans come with a worldwide provider network that offers opportunities to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
You can choose maximum health benefits ranging from $200,000 to $500,000. All levels of coverage include emergency medical evacuation coverage and allow you to save money by paying your full premium in advance.
Always Be Prepared
International study provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn while gaining a cultural understanding of the world. You'll have a better experience abroad if you're knowledgeable about potential health issues and purchase an international medical insurance plan to provide financial assistance and access to quality care if needed.