You should take the following steps to stay healthy while you are abroad.
Obtain Study Abroad Health Insurance
Northwestern requires all students to have HTH health insurance coverage for the period of time they are studying and traveling abroad. Learn about this requirement. HTH Global Health staff can help you prepare for your program by answering questions about importing prescription medications or pre-arranging for needed or known treatment, such as allergy shots or therapy/counseling.
Get a medical examination before departure
Especially if you are taking prescription medication or are in regular treatment for a pre-existing condition, we strongly recommend that you have a medical examination before you leave. To maximize the effectiveness of your appointment, take a copy of your program information as well as a printout of the CDC requirements for your program location. An illness could negatively affect your experience abroad, so it’s best to take care of pre-existing conditions before you go.
Maintain domestic health care coverage
Northwestern requires all full-time students to have health insurance coverage during enrollment. Because HTH only applies while abroad, not while in the United States, you are strongly encouraged to maintain domestic health insurance coverage while abroad to avoid any gaps in coverage. This is particularly important in case a medical emergency abroad requires you to return home early for continued treatment or recovery.
Disclose and plan for pre-existing conditions
It’s important to disclose any pre-existing conditions as well as past or current treatment or medications on your NU health assessment form, to HTH Worldwide, and/or to your Program Director so they can help you continue treatment abroad. Read our suggestions for dealing with mental health conditions.
If you have a pre-existing health condition, we strongly encourage you to develop a medical management plan in cooperation with HTH because changes in air quality, elevation, diet, climate and geography/topography as well as stress factors related to culture and language, can exacerbate symptoms. Furthermore, students that require regular medical care, including counseling, blood work, physical therapy, allergy shots, etc., can continue such treatment abroad, but the HTH staff needs to know this in advance of departure to provide the best service. You can contact HTH staff by phone at 1-610-254-8771 or by email at email@example.com. Be sure to clarify that you are not presently abroad nor in current need of medical attention, but instead seeking pre-departure advice. You should also be prepared to provide: 1) first and last name; 2) institutional affiliation (Northwestern University); 3) main overseas location (city and country); 4) An overview of the condition, its severity and current management plan; 5) The name (brand and generic, if known) and dosages of all prescription medication(s) and; 6) your HTH certificate number, if coverage has already been ordered or purchased (this information is NOT required, just helpful if available).
Additional questions about international health care management can be directed to Northwestern's Office of Global Safety and Security at 1-847-467-6400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know your local health services
Know how to access health services, both for non-emergency routine care and emergencies. If you do need to seek medical treatment while abroad, make sure to request and keep any medical records and receipts for the treatment, as you may need to submit them to HTH for reimbursement. HTH claim forms are available on the HTH or Office of Risk Management websites.
Do not use drugs and use good judgment if you consume alcohol
Drugs are illegal in most countries in the world, with very severe penalties. Alcohol may be legal in your host country, but it is important to consume it safely. Learn more about drug and alcohol use abroad.
Eat well, exercise regularly, & get enough sleep
An important part of maintaining your health while abroad is eating and drinking properly – stay hydrated! Remember that in addition to the cultural and emotional adjustments you’ll be making, your body will be adjusting to a new climate, new time zone, new food, etc. and eating right, exercising and getting rest will help ease that adjustment.
Engage in healthy relationships
The “rules” of dating vary from culture to culture. It is important that you consider your behavior and inform yourself as best as possible about how dating and relationships generally function in your host culture.
Remember, HIV and other STIs are prevalent everywhere in the world. To protect yourself, do not have unprotected sex. We strongly recommend that students pack condoms, since they are not always widely available overseas. Overall, we encourage students to be cautious about their sexual activity while abroad.