(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.
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.