Asthma On Campus: Studying Abroad

Maybe you are dreaming of a semester at sea, in Latin America, or Europe. I didn’t study abroad in college, it just never worked out. I wish I had taken the chance to live and study in another country. None of my care team ever specifically said I couldn’t study abroad it was more the major I chose that limited my options. Obiviously like any big decision there are many things to consider before you decide if studying abroad is the right thing for you. Hopefully the study abroad office at your home university has helped other students with chronic conditions go abroad and will have resources for you. Here’s some of the things I researched before ultimately deciding to stay stateside in college.

Insurance: If your domestic insurance situation makes your head spin, then you might need to sit down and drink some coffee before you start your research. Many developed nations have some type of insurance scheme to cover its citizens. Find out what kinds of travel insurance are available and appropriate for your destination. Be sure you understand what kinds of care will be covered and what kind of costs you can expect to encounter.

Language and Cultural Differences: Even if you are fluent or native in the language spoken in your destination make sure you know the right local phrases. Are you going to the pharmacy to pick up an albuterol inhaler or picking up your salbutamol puffer from the chemist? Is it taboo to cough in public or cover your cough with a hand instead of an elbow? Hopefully your international student office can point you to resources on these topics. Make sure you review medical vocabulary and terms in the local language. Get translations of keywords and phrases as needed so you can communicate your needs in an emergency.

Care Continuity: Talk to your doctor now and find out what they think of your going abroad. Discuss what countries and length abroad might be appropriate given your current health. Find out what immunizations or other health care you need before you go. As Kerri mentioned in her post on air travel pack all the medications you will need plus extras. If you will be abroad for an extended study time make sure you know how you’ll get medications while you’re there or if you can bring a supply for the whole travel time. As the CDC notes your medications may have different names or regulations abroad.1 I’d rather have more paperwork (in the correct language) than I need, than need it and not have it. Of course research how you might access emergency and routine care if needed throughout the time abroad.
I spent a spring break vacationing in Canada without incident. I wish I had found a course of study that fit more closely with my major. The flip side of this is that I didn’t have to do all the planning for time abroad. My campus had a very good study abroad office that was ready and willing to help me work out how to have a great experience. Have you studied or lived abroad? How did you prepare for extended travels?

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