a woman preparing to study abroad

Staying Healthy While Studying Abroad

For most college students, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you’ll be heading off to a foreign country sometime soon, you probably want your experience to be as perfect as possible. While many travelers spend lots of time planning excursions and making sure everything is in place, there’s one thing that you’re likely to overlook—your health.

Unfortunately, poor health can mean the difference between a great trip and one you just wish would end. Before you jet off to your exciting destination, there are some things to consider to ensure that you arrive in tip-top shape and stay that way for the duration of your time outside the country. Use these four tips to help you stay healthy while studying abroad.

Get vaccinated.

While many deadly diseases have been virtually eliminated in the United States, there are still some parts of the world where they pose a problem. That’s why getting your vaccinations up-to-date before you leave is so important. Start with the routine vaccinations. Get a flu shot and a tetanus shot as well if it’s been more than 10 years since your last one. Additionally, if you never received the MMR, polio, hepatitis, or meningitis vaccines as a child, it’s important that you get them as well. Depending on where you’re studying, there may be other vaccinations you need in addition to the routine ones. To find out what these may be, consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Traveler’s Health website.

Don’t neglect exercise.

When staying in a different country, hitting the gym is probably the last thing on your mind—there are just too many other fun things to do and explore. However, just because you’re not trudging away on the treadmill, it doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to sneak in some exercise during your time abroad. When possible and safe, walk instead of using transportation, and look for outdoor activities that keep you moving and provide you with a taste of the local culture.

Have a medical emergency plan.

Hopefully your stay abroad will be disease- and injury-free, but sometimes accidents happen, and when they do, it’s good to have a plan in place. This means knowing where the nearest hospital or doctor’s office is located and figuring out how you can pay for any services you need. Health care costs and how they’re dealt with vary from country to country, so you should be prepared to do some specific research on your own. Additionally, it may be a good idea to invest in health insurance specifically designed for students studying abroad—there are several companies that offer this at affordable rates.  

Be smart about what you eat.

Obviously one of the greatest joys of studying abroad is getting to sample the delicious local cuisine, and it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge every once and a while when travelling. However, if you’re smart about what you eat, you can still enjoy your stay without going up a couple pants sizes in the process. The best way to accomplish this is to cook for yourself—find a local dish you love and make it from scratch. When you do the cooking, you’re in complete control of the ingredients that go into your food and the size of your portions. Additionally, avoid the temptation to waste your calories on foods you can have at home. A fast food hamburger may be tasty and convenient, but if you’re going to splurge, find something to eat that you can’t have anywhere else in the world. 

Last Updated: December 16, 2014