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5 Signs Your Medical Condition is Too Serious to Study Abroad

 (photo by: eogroup.biz)

Deciding that studying abroad is right for you is a big decision, especially when it comes to your health. Most students don’t think their health or medication regimen has anything to do with their study abroad choice but it does. There are articles online telling students to go abroad at any cost but I think it’s important to acknowledge when studying abroad isn’t worth risking your health. Let’s take a look at 5 signs your medical condition should keep you at home.

1)      You have to get blood work monthly: Some medical conditions require constant monitoring with you going to a lab every month for blood work. Trying to squeeze lab work abroad between classes and figuring out the host culture/language would be a nightmare on your schedule. It would also be extremely difficult to try to coordinate with your health insurance to pay a foreign lab on a monthly basis, not to mention could be pricey too if you have to pay out of pocket each time before your insurance could reimburse you or the lab. Remember, you are not eligible for universal healthcare in the host country as a foreign student, especially if you are not working there.

2)      You have to visit your doctor monthly: Do you visit your doctor every month for a check up on your condition? If so, this is a good indication that studying abroad is probably not right for you. Your program may be able to recommend a physician abroad or there may even be one on campus but remember this doctor is not familiar with you and your history. You would have to start from the very beginning with this new doctor and bring your entire medical file with you (it may even need to be translated). If your medical condition needs to be monitored closely, it’s a good idea to stay close to the doctor who knows you best.

3)      You take medication intravenously: Bringing your Rx with you abroad can be tricky but it can be even trickier if it’s an intravenous medication. If the thought of you being interrogated by TSA and foreign customs on the syringe in your bag isn’t bad enough, think about how you will maintain your medication abroad. Some intravenous medication needs to be kept refrigerated which is not ideal when you’re sharing a super tiny fridge with strangers who speak a different language. If this is how you take your medication, please talk with your program coordinator, your doctor as well as visit travel.state.gov for more information to determine if your medication is allowed in the country and if there are any pill alternatives.

syringe(photo by:www.onclive.com)

4)      Your condition just got out of remission: Anyone who has ever gone through remission of their medical condition can tell you that you’re not quite out of the woods. Remission means that you still have to be monitored closely by your doctor as well as have follow-up tests to ensure that you stay on the path to permanent recovery. If you’re overseas, it will be hard for your doctor to help you stay healthy.

5)      Stress can trigger an attack: The experience of transitioning into a new culture, language, college experience, a city environment or living with a host family can be stressful. If your condition can be affected by stress to cause an attack, a relapse, or any medical problems/ complications, you may need to rethink studying abroad.

The best way to find out if studying abroad is right for your health is to ask your doctor. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity but so is your life! It’s important to not risk your health. If your doctor deems your medical condition ok for going overseas, you should wear a bracelet at all times that briefly details your medical condition, your medication name and dose (generic and brand), your doctor’s name and contact info, and allergies. Please list this information in English and the host language. It’s also a good idea to give your program director abroad this information so that someone abroad has it in the event of an emergency.


Happy Birthday Twenty in Paris!

(photo by: www.clipartbest.com)

It’s hard to believe that 1 year ago, Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris, was published! It has been a whirlwind 12 months (in a good way) where I have had the privilege of meeting great students (and even featuring their study abroad stories) and companies. I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of Twenty in Paris and The Paris Diaries as well to you! I don’t have much more to say other than I look forward to another year together to better prepare students for the experience of studying abroad in Paris. Vive Twenty in Paris !


3 Ways You Never Considered Going Abroad (But should!)

(Photo by: www.searchjobsabroad.com)

Andrea’s note: On July 9th, Meaghan put her study abroad advisor hat on and shared with us the Ins and Outs of Choosing a Study Abroad Program. What you might not have known is that studying isn’t the only way you can go abroad during college. Check out these 3 ways you never considered going abroad but totally should- by Meaghan Murphy.

Internships Abroad – Working overseas for a short period of time with the goal being hands on work experience, training, and networking rather than making a salary. By interning abroad, you can test out a new interest or determine whether a certain profession is the best career choice for you

Teach Abroad – You spend a chunk of time overseas working with the local population and teaching them about your own culture and language. The countries vary as does the age of the population you work with, what’s included within your program and what type of salary you would get from teaching overseas

Volunteer Abroad – Basically what it says – you’re spending some time abroad volunteering with local projects. Often you pay a provider to connect you with a local group and you fly over and work with that particular group on a project. Countries, projects, prices, and time commitment vary by provider or organization

Miss America Building

(Volunteering abroad is a great opportunity. Photo by: www.examiner.com)

Now for my suggestions:

There are a ton of resources available to you. My first suggestion is to sit down and ask yourself exactly what you want out of a program; here are a few ideas of which questions to consider:

  • How long do you want to be away? (A few weeks, few months, as long as possible?)
  • Which part of the world do you want to be in? (Close to the USA? Somewhere that doesn’t speak English? A traditional hot spot like the UK or Spain or Italy?)
  • Do you want to take classes with other Americans or with local students?
  • What do you want included in the program – housing, field trips, meals?


Next, speak with someone who can help you narrow down your options.

Academic Advising

(Talking to your advisor is a great start! Photo by: www.collegemagazine.com)

  • The majority of colleges and universities in the US will have someone who can advise on study abroad options.
  • Visit your study abroad or stop by the study abroad fair and speak with any of the numerous representatives.
  • If that doesn’t work, there are a couple of websites that can help narrow down the options. Those sites are goabroad.com, ratemystudyabroad.com, Abroad101.com.
  • Speak with your friends and classmates – odds are at least one of them has studied abroad and they can help point you in the right direction
  • Ask your faculty advisors if they have any recommendations on programs to fit your major or your interests

It’s never too early to start planning, so start thinking about it now and start looking at the options available to you!


Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.


Studying Abroad – The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Program

(photo by: www.supergamedroid.com)

Choosing a program can be a bit like selecting a college; there are way too many options to choose from and the process can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. Never fear, here’s a quick guide to the different options available to you, some of the pros and cons associated with them, and some topics to consider when selecting your program.

Program Lengths:

Option 1: Semester or Academic Year

These programs are exactly what they sound like – you study abroad for either a semester or a full academic year. Some students even choose to study in two separate locations for the academic year and spend the first semester in one country before moving on to a different country for the second semester.

Pros: more time abroad = more time to learn about the culture; can usually use financial aid to pay for a portion (if not the entire cost) of the program; easier to find classes that fit your major or requirements; more time to travel on your own (weekends, day trips)

Cons: you miss a whole semester back home (clubs, activities, etc.); can end up spending quite a bit of money on extracurricular travel; if you choose a program that doesn’t offer your courses, you may be behind a semester or term


Option 2: Summer or J-Term

These programs are considerably shorter than the semester or academic year options. Many summer programs will run for anywhere between 3 and 10 weeks, and January programs tend to be just a few weeks over the winter holiday.

Pros: shorter travel times means you are not away from home as long; easy to find electives so you could take a couple of general elective classes rather than major courses; can be more affordable overall; more traveling/multi-country programs tend to be available during the shorter time periods; good for those with limited travel experience

Cons: many international students do not take summer classes, so there’s less of a chance to meet local students; many students are unable to take financial aid on summer programs so costs would be out of pocket; limited opportunity to explore the country and become acquainted with the local language and culture

 iStock_000017906987Small(Which program type will you choose? Photo by: michaelhyatt.com)


Types of Schools/Programs:

Option 1: Direct Enroll

These study abroad programs allow students to enroll directly within the overseas university, meaning that you will live with local and other international students and take classes with those same students. These programs tend to be for students who are on the more independent side and are more open to learning about the local culture rather than sticking with the Americans. Since you interact daily with the locals, you will pick up the local traditions and lingo and will be sure to make friends from many different cultures

Pros: more independent; more chances to mingle with the locals; more variety of class topics not found in an American school; often more affordable than other options

Cons: need to be proficient in the local language; immersion in the local culture can be challenging and requires a high level of student maturity and flexibility


Option 2: American Centers/Island Programs

These programs tend to be heavily American in the sense that many of these centers are schools established just for American students or are satellite campuses of U.S. schools. Often because the schools are more American, you are more able to find classes to fit your majors and transferring credits back home may be easier

Pros: live and study with other Americans; the language of the program is usually English;

Cons: not a lot of opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about local customs or language


Option 3: Faculty-Led and Traveling Programs

Traveling programs are options that allow you to visit multiple locations on one program. These can take the form of programs like Semester at Sea (which allows students to spend the semester traveling the globe by ship and docking at ports for several days at a time) or faculty-led programs where students travel for a small amount of time (anywhere from 1 week to several months) with a faculty member from the home school.

Pros: good for those with a rigorous course load; can be more affordable; you get to see more sites on a traveling program

Cons: you might feel overwhelmed or rushed due to the often busy schedule; little time to adjust to traveling; less of a chance to really learn about the locations you’re traveling to and to learn the local language and customs


Option 4: Study Abroad Providers

These programs are organized by a company versus your school. They are usually some combination of a direct enroll program or an American school/island program. Often providers will put together a package for you that can include housing, tuition and fees, excursions, possibly meals, insurance, among other items, that may not be available with a direct exchange or direct enroll program.

Pros: more support during the process and on the ground; offers students some type of program package; you meet students from all over the U.S. who are on the same program as you

Cons: can be more expensive than your school tuition and other program options; there are a ton of providers – make sure to research the company and programs before selecting one


Option 5: Exchange Programs

With these programs, students exchange places with a student from overseas; for example you would go to the University of Auckland in New Zealand for a semester, and one New Zealand student would spend the semester at your home university.

Pros: your school already has a partnership set up with the overseas school; because of this established relationship, it can be easier to find classes and transfer credits back home; you might be able to find more upper level classes in your major; huge level of cultural immersion; cost of the program is usually very similar (or the same as) the home school tuition and fees

Cons: sometimes very competitive to get into; language of instruction may not be English




Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.