International Student Health: A Guide

International Student Health: A Guide main image

Make sure your study-abroad experience is healthy and hassle-free, with this guide to international student health.

As an international student, the same rules generally apply to your health as they would at home. With the right research and planning, you are unlikely to encounter any major problems.

Research

Look up the basic facts before you set off - browse the internet, speak to your GP, look at some travel guides. It sounds so simple, yet will be forgotten by so many international students!

Some countries require immunizations prior to arrival, so be sure to check before you leave. You may need to arrange these a few weeks prior to your departure. Even if not stipulated, certain immunizations are often advisable, so check this and other general advice with your doctor or travel clinic.

Check out other basic facts about the country. Should you beware of any certain foods? Is the water safe to drink? Are there any other diseases you need to be aware of?

Planning

Most of this section comes down to simply racking your brain and thinking what you need on a daily basis at home, that you may also need abroad.

Before you leave arrange a check-up with your GP. This will give you the chance to speak to someone with whom you are familiar and feel comfortable and with whom you can discuss anything on your mind and in your own language.

If you have any pre-existing conditions or may require certain medication whilst studying abroad, ensure that all you need will be available. If not, arrange for supplies before you leave. If you are taking medication with you, make sure you have all necessary prescriptions and labels, otherwise your trip through customs may be rather longer than you envisage.

Are you allergic to any medications? Take details with in case they are prescribed to you while abroad. Also, take the phone number and details of your doctor should you need to contact them.

Do you suffer from diabetes or any other conditions? Make sure you wear your bracelet in case of an emergency.

Do you wear glasses or contacts? If so, take an extra pair/plenty of spares.

It would not be possible to cover every eventuality here, but hopefully this will give you the general idea of how to think and plan ahead. To be safe, just ensure you have the contact details of anyone back home should you forget anything or be unable to find it once you are overseas.

Insurance

The majority of study abroad programs require you to submit medical forms on enrolment and depending on where you are coming from, you may be asked to produce any relevant documentation at immigration.

You are also likely to be asked to provide health or medical insurance cover that covers your area of study. In France you will need proof of cover to secure your accommodation, while in Holland you need it to get into the country.

Medical cover in some countries is free. Again, this is something you should check before you leave.

In the Nordic countries, for example, you may find that you are covered depending upon your circumstances, while in the UK it is free if you are enrolled on a program of six months or more.

Mental health

Depending on where you choose to study and what type of person you are, international study may bring somewhat of a culture shock. This can bring with it feelings of unease, nervousness and stress.

However, following the tips we have given, and researching and planning before you leave, should minimize or eliminate the difficulties you face.

Should you, however, find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, or perhaps homesick, there are always people to help you. Your university will generally have a department dedicated to dealing with such issues and this should be your first port of call.

Physical health

As opposed to your mental state, which you may not always be able to pre-empt, you are generally responsible for a large part of your physical health.

If you follow the advice above, arrange a check-up before you leave, maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise, you should generally stay fit.

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