Ensuring that you have a safe and healthy experience abroad depends both on advance preparation and common sense while abroad. As part of your pre-departure research, check the website for the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) for comments on health issues specific to your program location, including current information on disease outbreaks and immunization requirements.
You should also discuss studying abroad with your health care provider(s). They should be apprised of where you are going and for how long, and you can talk with them at the same time about any prescriptions you are currently taking.
All IWU students studying abroad are required to complete the Medical Information Form that is part of the Pre-Departure Packet. The information you provide will not affect your eligibility to study abroad, but it will, in the case of emergencies, allow IWU, the International Office, and our partners abroad to better respond to you needs.
Students participating in study abroad at IWU maintain registered student status at the University, and as such must carry health insurance. The Student Health Plan, obtained through the University, covers you year-round and worldwide. If you are covered by another plan, be sure that the policy offers comparable coverage and make sure that you have the necessary information before departing. The Illinois Wesleyan University Student Health Plan does not make direct payments to health care providers outside the U.S. It will be your responsibility to make arrangements for payment (or credit until the claim is handled). Your health plan identification card has the address and phone number of the Student Health Plan Office at Illinois Wesleyan. Providers can contact that office directly in order to verify coverage and policy provisions.
Some programs require students to purchase additional health insurance; others require or provide an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which provides some health coverage. Regardless of program requirements, you should make sure you have health insurance while abroad and that you understand precisely what your policy covers (and, more importantly, what it doesn’t).
If you are interested in purchasing additional travel insurance, the U.S. State Department Website (www.travel.state.gov) provides a list of names of travel insurance companies.
If you take prescription medications regularly, consult with your physician before you depart. You should, if practical, bring a supply to last throughout your time abroad -- and leave them in their original prescription containers. You should also bring a copy of your written prescription and possibly a letter from you physician describing the condition being treated and offering additional information on the medication (ask that the letter use generic rather than brand names) and dosages. Carry both the medication and any documentation, such as the written prescription and physician’s letter, with you in your carry-on luggage and be prepared to present them to customs officials if asked.
Do not plan to have family or friends ship medicines or vitamins to you while you are abroad. At best, they may be held up in customs; but many countries have much more stringent drug laws, so shipping medications may lead to legal trouble.
The stresses of study abroad can exacerbate or lead to recurrence of anxiety, depression, eating disorders. If you are currently on prescription medication for these or similar conditions, now is not the time to go off your medication.
If you are diabetic or have another medical condition that requires the use of a syringe, look into bringing a supply of disposable syringes, which may not be available in your host country. Some countries, however, restrict the importation of syringes -- as well as of certain medications and contraceptives. Before departure, research the policies of your host country as they pertain to any medications you take regularly.
If you are prescribed narcotic or other habit-forming medication, discuss this with the program prior to your departure. Plan to bring a physician’s letter with you, and register the prescription information with the local U.S. Embassy at your destination.
Use of non-prescription narcotic substances is strictly prohibited and cause for summary dismissal from your program. Moreover, you will be subject to local laws governing and penalties for the use, transportation, and/or possession of controlled substances. International drug penalties are generally more severe than those in the United States: In some countries, simple acquisition of prohibited drugs, including marijuana and other controlled substances, can result in heavy fines, deportation, and prison sentences ranging from months to years -- and in some countries, these acts are considered a capital offense.
Take an extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lenses if you wear them, and bring a copy of the prescription, as well. If you wear contacts, consider bringing extra contact lens solution.