a woman gets a vaccine before studying abroad

Study Abroad: Vaccines You'll Need

Studying abroad is an exciting prospect for any student, and chances are you don’t want your experience in a new country to be tainted by illness. For this reason, getting the appropriate vaccinations before you leave is vital for staying healthy overseas.

In addition to routine vaccinations (which are explained below), there may be additional specific vaccinations that are important depending on what country you visit. In general, these vaccinations are similar for large geographic areas, but if you would like to make sure you get all the shots you need in your specific host country, check out travel guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Routine Vaccinations for All Destinations

The CDC recommends that all people studying abroad, regardless of their destinations, should make sure their routine vaccinations are up to date. Those over the age of 18 should get vaccines for:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Shingles
  • Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Tdap)
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Meningitis

Many of these diseases have been all but eliminated in the United States, but in other parts of the world they may still pose a problem—sometimes even in places where you might not expect to contract a disease. Because of this, it’s important to ensure that you are protected against some of the more commonly occurring diseases. Most people receive a majority of these vaccines during childhood, but you will need a flu shot every year and a tetanus booster every 10 years.


In addition to your routine vaccinations, it may also be beneficial to get a rabies shot before studying in countries around Europe. Similar to the United States, bats in this area are carriers of the virus and may spread it to you if you come into contact with them. If you’ll be living in a predominantly urban area, bats shouldn’t pose a problem, but for those who will be in more remote areas, a rabies vaccine will probably be beneficial.

The Middle East

If you’ll be studying in countries near the Middle East, there are a couple of extra vaccinations that may be beneficial in addition to your routine ones. These include both the rabies vaccine and a typhoid vaccine. Multiple types of mammals, including bats and domestic pets, regularly carry the rabies virus in this area, and so it may be beneficial to protect yourself against this. However, the risk of rabies is highest in rural areas; if you’ll normally be staying in cities or other more urban areas, it’s likely that rabies won’t be a problem for you. Similarly, typhoid is normally only found in rural areas where food and water contamination is more rampant. However, this disease is still found in some bigger cities as well, so the vaccination is recommended regardless of where you’ll be staying.

South Asia

More vaccinations are recommended for South Asia than many other areas of the world. In addition to your routine vaccines, you may also need to receive typhoid, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. The risk for contracting these diseases is highest if you will be visiting more rural areas, but some, like malaria, can be contracted in larger cities as well. A vaccination for Japanese encephalitis is only necessary if you will be staying in South Asia longer than a month.

East Asia

Many of the vaccinations that you need for studying in South Asian countries are the same ones you need for visiting East Asia—including typhoid, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. However, in addition to these vaccinations it’s also recommended that you receive a polio vaccination, especially if you will be studying in the Xinjiang province. Almost all Americans are vaccinated against polio when they are children, but a booster shot in adulthood is still encouraged.