Health While Abroad

The health and well being of all University travelers abroad is of the utmost importance to the University of Minnesota. While the information below is written specifically for students, all University travelers may find the information and tools provided helpful in making informed decisions to manage their health while abroad.

Find more health abroad resources at Travel Resources: Health.

Prescription Medications

The University recommends that all students have a routine check-up with your primary care physician before you go abroad to discuss your continuation of care plan, including prescription medications.

  • Students should bring enough of their prescription medication for the duration of their program in original bottles with the prescription (translated into the local language, if possible) in your carry on luggage. If your U.S. health insurance only allows a few months of prescription to be filled at a time and this isn't enough for your program abroad, it is often helpful to call the insurance company and ask for an exception. A copy of your acceptance or confirmation from your education abroad office will often assist with your request.
  • Some prescription medications available in the U.S. are illegal in other countries, including common medications for the treatment of ADHD and anxiety/depression. Check the U.S. Department of State Consular Information Sheets for the country(s) you intend to visit or consult your international health insurance company. If your medication is legal, ask your health-care provider to write a letter on office stationery stating the medication has been prescribed for you and for what purpose. If it is not legal, you should work with your health-care provider to prescribe an alternative, legal medication several months prior to departure.
  • If you have a medical condition that is not easily identified (diabetes, epilepsy, severe allergies), obtain and wear a medic alert bracelet while you are abroad and consider translation. Inform your education abroad office, traveling companions, and onsite staff so that they can be prepared in case of an emergency. Be sure to discuss a plan with your health-care provider before you leave home.

Mental Health

It’s important to attend to your mental health and wellness as you plan your international travel abroad. Cultural adjustment and being in a foreign environment can have a big impact on your mental health—sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Many students find that the challenges of living in or visiting an unfamiliar culture and environment impacts their sense of wellbeing and mental health. Being away from support networks such as family and friends can additionally challenge your ability to manage and cope with stress. Emotional ups and downs are normal during travel and new living situations, but it’s important to pay attention to how you’re coping and how much distress you’re feeling.

We encourage you to proactively and attentively plan for how you’ll attend to your wellness and your mental health. 

If you have a mental health condition, have received mental health treatment in the past, or utilize psychotropic medications, you are requested to visit with a treatment provider to strategize managing your health while abroad. Campus counseling and psychiatric services can assist you in planning and preparing for wellness during your international experience. Refer to the resources on your campus:

If you are taking any psychotropic medications, make sure you pack enough of it for the duration of your travel. Once you get international insurance through the U of M (after you complete this orientation), call CISI’s (the insurer's) 24/7 Travel Assist Team. They will tell you whether your medications (in particular mental health medications) will be legal abroad.

Having a mental health condition isn’t a reason to stay home—plenty of students with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health conditions go abroad each term and have wonderful experiences. But as with any health condition, it warrants good, proactive planning—after all, you deserve good care.

If you have questions regarding mental health support and services in-country during study abroad, contact the person you’re working with in your Education Abroad Office.

If you’re not traveling through an Education Abroad Office and need assistance finding professional support abroad or have questions about University mental health insurance coverage abroad, contact Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu.

If you have other questions about mental health support while abroad, contact Laura Dupont-Jarrett at ldj@umn.edu.

Travel Clinic

All students should visit a local travel clinic, in addition to meeting with their primary care physician and any relevant mental health professionals, prior to departure. A travel clinic specialist is trained to consider your health history, current medications, drug allergies, required immunizations, and travel plans when recommending shots and other medications.

Find a travel clinic and make an appointment as soon as possible so that you can get a scheduled appointment in time to complete any recommended immunization series. Many travel clinics often book far in advance (especially around the holidays), and some immunizations need to be started months in advance of your departure. Thus, you should call to make your appointment at least three months before your travel date.

For UMTC Campus students, student services fees cover consults at Boynton Health Services International Travel Clinic; however, prescriptions and immunizations are an additional cost. Students can also contact their private U.S. health insurance provider to identify a travel clinic and fully understand their insurance coverage. The Minnesota Department of Health also provides a list of international travel health clinics serving Minnesota residents.

Additionally, the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) provides a listing of its member clinics by state. For more information about ISTM or a listing of clinics and doctors in your area, contact ISTM by phone at 770.736.7060 or email at bcbistm@aol.com.

International Health Insurance

All students and faculty or staff traveling abroad for University purposes or on University business are required to carry University-approved international health, security, medical, and evacuation insurance. For more information, visit the International Insurance page. Contact Kevin Dostal Dauer at dauer001@umn.edu with questions.

Health Information Form

All students participating on programs through one of the University’s Education Abroad Offices are required to complete a Health Information Form either for the University or the program provider. The purpose of the form is to help students make informed decisions to manage their health abroad and to assist the education abroad office staff, program leader (if applicable), and any onsite staff to make any necessary preparations and be advised of any health issues. The information will only be shared as necessary and with appropriate professionals to ensure students’ well being. Students are encouraged to complete the form completely and honestly. If you have already completed the form and would like to share additional health information, please contact your education abroad office staff member.

Note: Information collected on the University’s Health Information Form does NOT affect your admission into the program.

Students not traveling through an education abroad office will not complete a health form through the University but may be asked to do so by their independently chosen program sponsor.

Resources for Education Abroad Program Leaders

As a program leader, it’s important to attend to student mental health as well as the program content and intercultural learning. Towards that goal, here are several resources that might be helpful to you:

  • When you take students abroad, remember that if their basic physiological needs aren’t met, it’ll be difficult for them to attend to their more advanced educational and intercultural goals. Here are some practical ways you can attend to their basic needs.
  • It can be helpful to remind students, when they have a few minutes of free time, to engage in self-care. This can help them regulate their emotional state. This document lists some quick self-care activities.
  • It’s valuable for students to think deeply about how they’ll take care of themselves emotionally while studying abroad. You might consider asking them to engage in this in-depth planning activity before departure.