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Planning for a Healthy Experience Abroad

Visit health services or your family physician to discuss your plans for managing your health and wellness while living abroad. Visiting the dentist before you leave is also highly recommended. Many programs will require a physician's statement of good health.

Before you travel, become familiar with the health care system and security issues of the country where you will be studying. AIG/Travel Guard can provide this information.


Discuss with your prescribing physician and family how you will obtain prescription medications while abroad, well in advance of your departure; in some cases there may be limitations on the amount of medications that you may receive before you go or on their availability abroad. Ask your physician to prescribe a supply of medication that will last the length of your stay, or make arrangements to purchase your medications abroad or have them sent to you. Carry a copy of your prescription and keep medications in the labeled containers in which they were dispensed.

Chronic Illnesses

If you have asthma, diabetes, allergies or other chronic conditions, learn the vocabulary to describe your condition in the host country language and carry a written explanation in that language in case you are unable to communicate in an emergency. Plan to wear your medical bracelet if you own one. Smith College recommends that you share your medical information with your overseas contact and ask for a copy of your program's in-country communicable diseases risk reduction and prevention plan prior to departure.

Emotional Well-Being

Going abroad and venturing out of your comfort zone is normally stressful, so you should plan to use typical stress reduction strategies such as exercise and relaxation to cope with all the changes you will encounter in your new host country. If you are currently seeing a therapist, discuss how you will continue your mental health care while you are abroad, and inquire with your program about counseling services that may be available to you abroad.

Diet and Nutrition

Learn about the regional diet, eating habits and meal schedule for your destination, as these are an integral part of the culture, and learn to explain your dietary restrictions in a culturally appropriate way. Be informed about food and water precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Country-Specific Health Preparation and Immunizations

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization offer online information about regional and country health risks and disease outbreaks, with recommendations for immunizations. Study abroad program providers also provide students with health advice. After researching the requirements and recommendations for your specific destination, discuss your choices with your physician, planning well in advance since some immunizations are administered over a period of several months. Carry your certificate of immunizations with your passport when you enter the country and when you return to the U.S.

CDC International Travelers' Hotline: (404) 332-4559

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Before departing for countries where avian influenza is present, you should read the information, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about contact with poultry and eggs. Learn about the risks, and plan to stay informed of developments while you are abroad.

MDR/XDR Tuberculosis

All students returning to Smith College from areas of the world where Tuberculosis (TB) is a threat are required to have a TB test by Smith College Health Services.

Before traveling to a country where TB is present, read the information provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have symptoms (feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats) or if you think you have been exposed to someone with TB, you should contact your program provider, doctor or local health department about getting a TB skin or blood test.


It is wise to know your HIV status in advance. It is possible to be anonymously tested through state organizations, which would allow you the privacy to decide if you want to get a second test through a physician who can provide you with an official certificate to be used for immigration. Some locations overseas may present greater risks to those who are HIV positive or are living with AIDS due to limited medical facilities or limited availability of sterile needles and screened blood.