Before you go…
Consider your preparedness for life in another country
Assess your physical and mental health
See your heath care practitioners
Know the demands and resources of the program
Know your insurance
When you study abroad, you embark on one of the greatest adventures of your life. With a little forethought and planning, you can help ensure that your study abroad experience will deliver the adventure and education that you want. Be prepared though! Life abroad is different than at home – that’s one of the reasons you are going.
Travel and living in foreign cultures can be demanding emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Some people believe that travel to other countries will allow them to leave their worries behind and start with a clean slate. We believe firmly that study abroad is a transformative experience. But we also know from our own experience that you do not leave your self behind when you go abroad. You should ask yourself whether you are ready for the emotional work involved in an extended trip to another country.
Do not expect to solve problems or deal with personal issues by leaving them behind. If you have any doubts about this, or if you have had emotional or psychological problems, it is very important to consult with a mental health professional and the Study Abroad staff before studying abroad to discuss the potential stress of life overseas. Loyola Marymount University does not employ health care professionals at our sites abroad and cannot guarantee access to the level of mental health treatment you expect at home.
Similarly, if you suffer from a chronic physical condition, you should consult with your physician before making the decision to study abroad. We cannot guarantee access to the same kind of medical care or medications you are used to at home. Please make the program staff aware of any medical issues or disabilities, so that we may make necessary arrangements and advise you regarding conditions and resources abroad.
In addition, check your health care insurance policy, whether it is provided by your school or by your parents, to see what coverage it provides while you are outside the United States. In most cases, you will be expected to pay in cash for any medical services provided while abroad and seek reimbursement later from your insurance company.
Few events can negatively impact the travel experience more than becoming sick or being injured while far away from home. To reduce health risks while studying abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following general guidelines for students:
- Be sure to check with a healthcare provider to make sure you are up to date with all routine vaccinations (i.e., measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, and polio). Diseases such as measles and mumps remain common in many parts of the world, including some developed countries.
- See a healthcare provider or a travel medicine specialist, ideally 4-6 weeks before travel, to get any additional vaccinations, medications, or information you may need to stay healthy. If it is less than 4 weeks before travel, a healthcare provider should still be consulted, as there may be some vaccinations, medications, or prevention information that could be beneficial to you. Click here to locate a travel medicine specialist.
- Students with complicated travel itineraries (e.g., travel to rural areas of developing countries) or who have medical problems that will need to be managed while abroad are especially advised to consult a healthcare provider who specializes in travel medicine.
- Visit CDC's Travelers' Health website to educate yourself about any disease risks and preventive measures for the countries where you plan to study. Students visiting developing countries are at greater risk for illness or injury than those who travel to developed countries (e.g., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Western Europe), where the health risks are compatible to those found in the United States.
- Prepare a travel health kit that includes an ample supply of your prescribed medications in their original containers; an anti-diarrheal medication; alcohol-based hand gel (containing at least 60% alcohol); an antibiotic for self-treatment of most causes of acute bacterial illness; a thermometer; insect repellent containing at least 30% DEET if you plan to study in or visit a tropical or subtropical area; the name and telephone number of your primary healthcare provider; and a copy of your vaccination record.
- Familiarize yourself with basic first aid so you can self-treat minor injuries should they occur. Learn how to swim if you are inexperienced and plan to participate in recreational water activities while abroad.
- Consider a health insurance plan or additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick or injured, if your plan does not already offer this service. Information about medical evacuation services is provided on the U.S. Department of State web page .
- Identify in-country healthcare resources in advance of your trip in case of a medical emergency. This is especially important if you have a pre-existing medical condition. The U.S. Department of State has a List of Doctors/Hospitals Abroad. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your travel destination may also be able to assist in locating these resources. Several private travel medicine organizations provide assistance in locating medical care abroad; see Seeking Health Care Abroad in Health Information for International Travel.
- Register with the State Department travel registration website so the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you will be visiting is aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency that makes it necessary for a consular officer to contact you. This registration is especially important if you plan to stay abroad for longer than 1 month or will be visiting a country that has an unstable political climate or that undergoes a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane.
Studying abroad can be a fun and safe experience but it is important to realize that you are subject to the laws and customs of another country. Here are some tips prepared by the Department of State to help keep you prepared and safe.
Although most trips abroad are trouble free, being prepared will go a long way to avoiding the possibility of serious trouble.
Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit before you travel.
Remember: Reckless behavior while in another country can do more than ruin your vacation; it can land you in a foreign jail or worse! To have a safe trip, avoid risky behavior and plan ahead.
Preparing for Your Trip Abroad
Apply early for your passport and, if necessary, any visas: Passports are required to enter and/or depart most countries around the world. Apply for a passport as soon as possible. Some countries also require U.S. citizens to obtain visas before entering. Most countries require visitors who are planning to study or work abroad to obtain visas before entering. Check with the embassy of the foreign country that you are planning to visit for up-to-date visa and other entry requirements. (Passport and visa information is available on the State Department's website.)
Learn about the country that you plan to visit. Before departing, take the time to do some research about the people and their culture, and any problems that the country is experiencing that may affect your travel plans. The Department of State publishes Background Notes on about 170 countries. These brief, factual pamphlets contain information on each country's culture, history, geography, economy, government, and current political situation. Background Notes are available at www.state.gov.
Read the Consular Information Sheet. Consular Information Sheets provide up-to-date travel information on any country in the world that you plan to visit. They cover topics such as entry regulations, the crime and security situation, drug penalties, road conditions, and the location of the U.S. embassy, consulates, and consular agencies.
Check for Travel Warnings and Public Announcements. Travel Warnings recommend U.S. citizens defer travel to a country because of dangerous conditions. Public Announcements provide fast-breaking information about relatively short-term conditions that may pose risks to the security of travelers.
Register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
Register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts may not be released without your express authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States. (U.S. embassy and consulate locations can be found in the country's Consular Information Sheet.) If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency, they can pass a message to you through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5225. This office will contact the embassy or consulate in the country where you are traveling and pass a message from your family to you. Remember consular officers cannot cash checks, lend money or serve as your attorney. They can, however, if the need arises, assist you in obtaining emergency funds from your family, help you find an attorney, help you find medical assistance, and replace your lost or stolen passport.