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.
UNL's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available for consultation any time of day.
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.