Nothing puts a damper on travels more than getting sick. And if we’re being honest, when you embark on a study abroad you are most likely to get sick at some point in time. Whether it be from the food, environmental changes, or your normal cold, chances are you’ll find yourself feeling under the weather in a foreign country far away from your doctor and your mom’s chicken noodle soup.
The good news is that not all hope is lost. If you find yourself abroad and sick, here are some tips to help you get back to your old self in no-time.
Do Research Before You Leave
One of the easiest ways to deal with getting sick during your study abroad is to not get sick at all! I know, we said that you’ll most likely get sick, but doing a little research on your study abroad location before you leave can lessen your chances of illness. Spend some time on Google looking at common illnesses in the city, understanding the types of food and tips for acclimating to the new culture. There are also some locations that may recommend or require specific vaccinations depending on where you’re studying or traveling during your studies.
Bring Medications Abroad With You
If you know you need to pop some Pepto-Bismol every time you eat fried food, or that you’re prone to migraines whenever it rains, then be sure to bring those medications with you abroad. While the USAC Resident Directors on-site can help you get a specific prescription, never count on another country having medications you know you require or know work for you, so bring enough to last you your entire time abroad.
Know You Have Insurance
You’ve done your prep work, but now you’re abroad and woke up with a horrible stomachache and what feels like a slow black cloud creeping over your body. The first thing to do is to know you have insurance and to use it! All USAC students are covered through our insurance provider, CISI, which includes a comprehensive medical plan that covers up to $500,000 USD with a zero deductible, which means you don’t need to pay anything to go to a doctor or hospital.
This insurance is included in program fees so there is no added cost for you to utilize the insurance. The insurance covers therapy, continued therapy, doctor’s visits, most medicines, ambulances, some dental coverage, etc. The insurance can direct you to the best providers who are English speaking or who have worked with our students in the past. You can find everything you need to know about CISI insurance in your Gateway account.
Let the Resident Director Know
If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s always a good idea to let your Resident Director know. If you attend a partnership university where there isn’t a USAC staff member, head to the international office of the university.
The Resident Director can help get you to a hospital if needed, meet you at the hospital and even help you translate (If the Resident Director can’t be there with you, or if your program doesn’t have a Resident Director the insurance provider offers a translator 24/7). If you’re in an emergency, the RD can get in touch with your emergency contacts. All Resident Directors are trained on protocols to be able to help students in case of sickness, injury, or emergency.
The Resident Director can also be helpful if your illness causes you to miss class. They can work with professors to schedule make-up work or reschedule assignments.
Go to the Local Pharmacy
Many common colds or upset stomachs can be solved with a quick trip to the local pharmacy. Foreign pharmacies tend to carry much stronger medications than U.S. grocery stores and markets. If you’re able to head to the local pharmacy, you may be able to get exactly what you need from them.
Connect with a Therapist
Not all illnesses are physical. If you’re feeling like you’re struggling with mental illness during your time abroad there are ways to connect with a therapist. You can work with the USAC Resident Director or international office on campus to connect you with a local therapist.
Students who are currently in therapy can work with Assist America, USAC’s insurance partner, to set up continued therapy abroad, at no cost, with an English-speaking therapist in your host city or even through Skype!
These are the six main things you can do if you find yourself sick during your study abroad. In addition to the above tips, here are some other things to know.
- If payment is required up front, you can submit the bill and copy of any receipts to the insurance along with a claim form. You have up to one year to submit these, so you don’t have to stress about deadlines, you can wait until after your program. Additionally, you can set up direct pay in cases like needing continual therapy so you don’t have to pay over and over again. The insurance can directly contact the provider. For reimbursement, the insurance writes a check within a couple of weeks to the student, so for big expenses we ask that you work with the Resident Director so you don’t have to pay so much out of pocket.
- The Insurance policy and claim form are found in your Gateway account. You will also be given an emergency card at orientation with the local “911” and ambulance numbers and nearest hospital addresses. We suggest memorizing your address in the local language. You will also be explained the health and safety protocols or what to do in case of sickness/emergency at actual orientation.
- USAC is only authorized to contact your listed emergency contacts. So when filling out your forms, be sure to put any family members or friends that you’d want contacted in the case of an emergency.
Getting sick while abroad is common but doesn’t have to ruin your study abroad. With a little planning and the above tips, if you find yourself feeling less than great while overseas, let the USAC staff and resources help get you back on your feet and enjoying your time abroad.