Before You Go
Country-Specific Health Info
As you choose a host country, submit your application, and prepare to depart, pay special attention to whether the host country's food, climate, access to medical care, etc. are compatible with your health needs. Be sure to read about the health advisories and immunization requirements and recommendations specific to your host country:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT)
- World Health Organization
Students with Disabilities
For information and resources specific to students with disabilities, please visit Mobility International USA (MIUSA).
If you have a disability or health-related need and believe you need accommodation to meet the requirements of program participation: Make an appointment and be prepared to submit documentation of a disability or health-related need, along with a request for reasonable accommodation to the Services for Students with Disabilities Office.
Medical Checkups & Forms
Visit your physician, gynecologist, and dentist several weeks prior to your departure. Ask them for advice about how to manage your personal health concerns while abroad. The organization or institution arranging your education abroad program may also request that you have your doctor (and mental health professional, if applicable) complete a special health evaluation form. In most cases, your health should not disqualify you from studying abroad. Your doctors, advisors, and coordinators will either find ways to accommodate your needs on your preferred program, or they will suggest alternative programs or countries, or a later departure date.
If you need a visa to enter your host country, you may need to obtain a health statement from your doctor. Also note that some countries require a health screening by a host country physician after you arrive in order to allow you to get a temporary residence permit.
Personal Health Inventory
Take inventory of your concerns and potential issues that may affect you while abroad. Which ones concern you? What steps do you need to take, and what resources do you need to access, in order to avoid problems?
- ability/disability issues
- alcohol or drug use/abuse
- dental care
- dietary concerns
- emergency resources
- eyeglass/contact prescription
- gender-specific health care
- health advisories
- mental health and culture shock
- sleep patterns
Shots and Inoculations
Some countries require immunizations of all visitors. Your program provider should inform you of any recommended and/or required shots and inoculations prior to departing. To find out about specific inoculations required to enter your host country or countries in which you may wish to travel, consult the Travel Clinic at the UNL Health Center.
The Travel Clinic will provide you with a World Health Organization (WHO) "International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis." Any inoculation should be recorded in this yellow booklet with an officially approved stamp.
Many immunizations require at least 14 days prior to travel to be effective. Since many inoculations require more than one visit to the clinic or cannot be taken in combination with others, please start the process well in advance of your departure.
All UNL students are required to have insurance coverage during their education abroad program. On programs directly administered by UNL, you will have coverage through HTH Worldwide. On programs administered by other institutions or providers, you will likely be required to enroll in that institution's/provider's insurance policy. However, if that institution's/provider's coverage is not as inclusive as the HTH coverage, you will be required to enroll in UNL's HTH policy.
Coverage on UNL-Administered Programs
You are required to have health insurance while studying abroad on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln program. UNL offers accident and sickness insurance to students, faculty, and their dependents through HTH Worldwide. The insurance policy is automatically included in the program cost of most UNL programs. Please read the coverage details carefully.
If your program automatically includes insurance, you will be covered for the number of months captured in your official program dates. The Education Abroad Office will enroll you in the plan and provide you with an electronic and/or paper copy of your card. We encourage you to log in to the HTH website to access useful information including a directory of hospitals and doctors, translations of medical vocabulary, and city safety guides. All expenses for doctors, hospitalization, medication, and so on, must be paid out-of-pocket. You will be reimbursed after you submit your claim information to HTH online or via mail, along with all receipts for the costs that you incurred. HTH's insurance programs have an emergency assistance benefit built in.
Coverage on Non-UNL Programs
If you are participating in a non-UNL program (primarily administered by an institution or organization other than UNL), please ask your program provider about insurance coverage. If coverage is not as inclusive as UNL's HTH coverage (for example, if it does not include medical evacuation and/or repatriation of remains), you will be required to enroll in UNL's HTH policy for the duration of the program.
If your program does not require you to enroll in a particular insurance program and you are considering using the health insurance plan you use in the U.S., please review your plan carefully to ensure it will provide adequate coverage while you are out of the country. Again, if your current plan's coverage is not as inclusive as UNL's HTH coverage, you will be required to enroll in UNL's HTH policy for the duration of the program.
Important questions you should ask in assessing your coverage are:
- Does your current insurance provide coverage outside of the United States?
- If it does cover you abroad, how will you be reimbursed for expenses?
- Does your insurance cover non-emergencies, e.g., prescriptions, doctor visits?
- What does your current policy exclude from coverage? (e.g., injuries received while driving an automobile, sporting injuries, etc.)
- What is the maximum amount of coverage your insurance provides?
- Is emergency medical transportation/evacuation covered?
- If so, what is the maximum payable?
- Is repatriation of remains covered and if so, what is the maximum payable?
Coverage during Independent Travel
If you plan to travel independently outside of the program dates, you will have the option to extend your HTH coverage at an additional cost. It is your responsibility to contact the Education Abroad Office to request extended coverage beyond your program dates.
Continuous Insurance Coverage in the United States
Please do not let your regular U.S. insurance coverage lapse while you are out of the country. Any medical condition for which you have already received treatment or which might develop while abroad could be considered a "pre-existing condition" when you attempt to enroll again.
What to Bring
While living and traveling abroad, it is a wise precaution to keep personal medical records with you in case of an accident or illness. Your records should include:
- all medications you are taking (generic names and dosages)
- any chronic ailments, allergies or hypersensitivities
- immunization history
- blood type
- eyeglass prescription
- personal physician's contact information
- health insurance
- your religion, if pertinent
Be sure to make a photocopy of your medical records. Carry these documents with you at all times, in a secure and accessible place.
Prescription Medicine: If you take prescription medicine, you should research whether it is available and legal in your host country. Bring a copy of the prescription for the generic name of the drug. In developed countries, you will need to take only an initial supply of the medication, as you will likely be able to refill your prescription at a host country pharmacy. In most developing countries, you should take a supply that will last your entire stay. For long programs, check the country's customs regulations on the number of months worth of medicine that you may bring in. Make sure all medications are in your carry-on bag, in their original containers, and with your name printed on them.
Over-the-Counter Remedies: If you regularly use any over-the-counter remedies, you may want to take an initial supply. For customs purposes, take all medicines in their original containers.
Your Personal Health Kit: Depending on your destination(s) and level of staff supervision you expect on your program, you may want to pack a small first aid kit, with some or all of the following: insect repellant, rubbing alcohol, thermometer, bandages, anti-diarrheal and anti-indigestion medicine, pain relievers, cough and cold remedies, antibacterial ointment, sunscreen, aloe, and re-hydration salts/pills. Some personal items, such as sensitive skin toiletries, feminine hygiene products, and contact lens solution, may be very expensive or unavailable in your preferred brand.
Syringes: Syringes can be construed as drug paraphernalia. Read the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policies and bring a prescription and doctor's note.
Medic Alert Emblem: If you have a medical issue such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, food or drug allergies, be sure to wear a Medic Alert emblem (1-888-633-4298).
Staying Healthy Abroad
At the beginning of your program, and perhaps throughout it, you will encounter new types of psychological and physical stress. However, the health risks in most countries are fundamentally no greater than those in the United States, provided you use common sense and follow the guidelines laid out by your medical professionals and program coordinators.
Monitor Your Health
Above all else, take care of yourself, and learn to read the signs and signals that your body is sending. The differences in climate, food, water, and bacteria common to an area can affect your health. Some common health problems are: colds, sore throats, the flu, hair loss, weight loss, and the inevitable gastrointestinal problems. You will probably have more ailments than normal. If you remain in the host country for a long period, however, your body will likely acclimate itself.
Do not exhaust yourself. If you don't get enough rest, you will be run down, your resistance will be lowered, and you will be more likely to become ill. Make time for adequate rest, avoid dehydration by carrying plenty of bottled water, and get the nourishment and vitamins your body requires.
Like any significant life experience, study abroad can worsen or even precipitate mental health conditions. If you experience deep and persistent adjustment difficulties or strong emotions such as sadness, hopelessness, or worry, or you observe the same in a fellow student, seek the advice of your parents, and/or a program coordinator, mental health professional, or primary care physician.
Take measures to reduce the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. As always, intimate contact could expose you to bacteria or viruses that could lead to contraction of STDs/STIs, including HIV. If you plan to have sex, practice safe sex. Bring condoms and use them. Approach new partners with at least as much caution as you would at home.
Alcohol & Drugs
If you consume alcoholic beverages abroad, do so in moderation. Inebriation can result in poor academic performance, higher risk behavior, and/or regretted sexual activity. In many serious accidents and deaths involving students overseas, excessive alcohol consumption plays a role. Don't become a statistic.
In addition to the health risks of using drugs, as a foreigner you may be targeted by the most unscrupulous of all the suppliers. If drugs or their contaminants make you sick, you will also find it much more difficult to get medical care abroad.
Eat Well & Exercise
You know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are good for you, but it's easy to forget when you have a new routine in a new environment. Do your best to maintain a balanced diet. Follow your program coordinators' country- and city-specific advice about what to eat and what to avoid (such as street food). Hopefully, exercise will be built in to your new routine: you may walk more in your host country than you do at home. Depending on your destination, you may have to seek out exercise opportunities, and find places to exercise where you feel safe and comfortable.
Traveling will bring your body into contact with different bacteria; the change can unsettle your stomach or cause other health problems. Water (including ice cubes), milk, fresh fruit and unwashed, raw vegetables could upset your system until your body adjusts. Ask your program coordinators if they recommend bringing a small travel water filter, or water disinfectant. Boiling water has the same effect as filtering.
Vegetarians may find that maintaining a vegetarian diet abroad can be a challenge. It may be difficult to obtain enough quality fruits and vegetables to stay healthy, and you may not find many vegetarian options. Be sure to research the foods available in your host country. Consider bringing protein powder, vitamins, and other dietary supplements with you. Talk to other vegetarians who have studied abroad in your host country, as well as your host country coordinator. Learn a culturally sensitive way (as well as the host language vocabulary) to deal with social situations in which you are offered meals that include meat.
Know where to get medical treatment
Find out where health care facilities are and how to access them, in your primary destination as well as on side trips. Find out the names of hospitals that provide quality care. Learn the emergency numbers for your destination(s) and know that in some places you should not rely on these emergency numbers. Similarly, in some countries, you're better off taking a taxi to a hospital rather than waiting for an ambulance. HTH Worldwide offers students and travelers access to a community of pre-selected doctors outside the U.S. HTH's city profiles can help you learn what you need to know about hospitals and emergency numbers around the world.