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Health Issues Abroad

In order to stay healthy during your study abroad experience, it is best to be aware and prepare before you go. These steps prior to departure and while you're abroad may help you stay healthy, which will help you make the most of your experience. Exciting as it is, physical, mental and emotional health can be affected.

Schedule a Routine Checkup

Arrange to have a physical (and dental) check-up before you go abroad. In part, this is because you'll need to have the Physician's Release form signed. More importantly, these routine check-ups would normally occur and this will be a good way to assure your pre-departure well-being.

Consider Pre-existing Conditions

If you have an ongoing medical issue, talk to your health care professional as well as your study abroad advisor to assure that both you and they are aware of what you will need in order to stay healthy during your time abroad. If you require medication, make sure you've planned for access while abroad. Make copies of any important health records and know how to contact your physician or therapist from abroad, if needed.

Medications and Treatments Abroad
If you are taking medications, have your doctor provide you with an explanation and the generic name for your prescription, especially if you know you will need to fill it abroad. You cannot legally mail medication internationally. Follow the same procedures for any other type of treatments you may be undergoing. If you know you will need to see a doctor abroad for a specific reason, bring as much documentation about your condition as possible, including copies of your prescriptions to show at Customs if necessary and in some cases, a letter from your home physician or pharmacist describing the condition being treated and your medications, their dosage and a generic name for them. This way, you will be able to obtain prescriptions you need while you're abroad.

International Health Insurance

UMass Boston requires that all students maintain some form of primary medical insurance coverage valid in both the U.S. and host country before, during and after the education abroad period.

The University Treasurer's Office provides international insurance coverage and services to: the University's Students when participating in University sponsored and approved international study abroad programs. International travel coverage is intended to provide the first line of service and protection to the University's travelers.

Prior to departure, students & families should still contact their personal health insurance company to make certain they understand what additional coverage they may have in place, or may want to put in place, while traveling abroad. Any additional coverage purchased would be at the traveler's own expense.
Immunizations and Regional Health Conditions
Many countries do not require that you present proof of immunizations. However, depending on where you are going, you may want to consider taking certain immunizations before you leave. To learn about recommended, or even required, immunizations, please visit the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for travelers.
The food in your host country will likely be different from what you're used to consuming at home. While your stomach is still adjusting, you may wish to include some familiar foods in your diet. You may be able to find a western-style supermarket, and purchase some of the foods that you would eat at home. Restaurants in major cities and tourist areas may also serve familiar foods; basic fruits, vegetables, and starches to which you are accustomed can often be found in local food stores. Gradual transition to local food makes social and nutritional adjustment easier.

Find out before you go whether the local tap water is drinkable. (In most Western European countries, it is.) If it isn't, drink bottled water. In restaurants, order bottled water if tap water is unhealthy. If you are going to be hiking in a remote area where bottled water may not be available, bring a high-quality water filter or iodine tablets to purify water.


Regular exercise will help to invigorate you and speed you through your initial jet lag. Throughout your time abroad, you'll feel more energetic and less stressed if you stay active.
Alcohol Consumption
If you drink, drink wisely and responsibly. The customs regarding drinking wine and beer may be different in your host country than in the United States. The minimum drinking age may be lower, and it may be customary to drink wine or beer with meals. Try to be culturally sensitive to the drinking norms and aware of your own behavior in your host country.
AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In some countries, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is a widespread health problem. Take the same steps to avoid this disease as you would at home. Use a condom if you are sexually active. (It may be a good idea to bring condoms with you, because the quality of condoms in some countries is unreliable.) Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and herpes, are also present worldwide. Use the necessary precautions to avoid these diseases.
University of Massachusetts Boston Study Abroad & International Exchange