Wellness "U": A Study Abroad Pre-Departure Health Checklist

Wellness "U":  A Study Abroad Pre-Departure Health Checklist

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience.  Attending university classes in different countries exposes students to unique and robust cultures.

If you’re a student planning to study abroad, here are some important things to do before you set out on your adventure.

  1. Health exam
    First, make sure you are in good health. Schedule an exam with your doctor a couple months before you leave.

    This is also the perfect time to get any vaccines you may need. Depending on where you are traveling, check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s leaving site icon  website for info on travelers' health.

  2. Prescription drugs
    If you are taking any prescription medications, remember to:
    1. Bring enough medicine to last your entire stay. Medicines need to be in their original containers to pass airport security.
    2. Bring written prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining why you need the medicine.
    3. Ask your physician to write down the generic names of the drugs you are taking. U.S. brand names may not be the same in the country you visit.
    4. Make sure your medicines are allowed in that country. You can do this by contacting the country’s embassy.

  3. Health insurance
    You may not want to think about the possibility of getting sick or hurt while traveling, but make a game plan in case you do. First, find out if your health benefits travel with you. If you have coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, you may have access to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Global® Core program leaving site icon  which gives you access to doctors and hospitals around the world.

    You can also look into buying a supplemental health plan through your university or GeoBlue, leaving site icon a Blue Cross and Blue Shield offering. Depending on the plan you select, GeoBlue may cover preventive, specialty, inpatient, outpatient and urgent care all around the world. GeoBlue can also assist with medical evacuations in the event you need help returning to the U.S. This is very important if you are seriously injured, because you’ll need to use a medical transport rather than an airline to get you home. Medical transport is very expensive.

  4. Copies of documents
    Make photocopies of your ID and other important information so you’ll have them if there is an emergency or your wallet, purse or luggage is lost or stolen. Make copies of your:
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Insurance card
    4. Visa (if needed)
    5. Credit cards
    6. Letter of acceptance and contact information for the program
    7. Flight details

Leave one set of copies with your family at home, and bring the second set with you. Be sure to store the second set separately from the originals.

This list can help you prepare for a healthy and safe semester abroad.

Where will the world take you? Login or register to share your travel experience in the comments below.

Sources: Traveler’s Health, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023; GeoBlue Travel Medical & International Health Insurance, leaving site icon 2023; GeoBlue, leaving site icon GeoBlue, 2023   

Originally published July 20, 2015; Revised 2020, 2023