Health & Wellness Abroad
By its very nature, traveling takes you out of your normal, day-to-day routine. Such a disruption can potentially threaten your health and wellness. If you’re in a different time zone, then your circadian rhythm needs to readjust (jet lag is no joke!).
Before you leave, you should discuss your medications with your primary care provider to be sure you will have your prescriptions during your experience. Refer back to our Travel Preparations page for more information about that, but what about once you’re in your destination? In a new setting, it is important that you attend to your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being. What coping strategies work best for you, and how can you implement them while abroad?
Did you know that the University of Michigan has developed a free app called Entrain that uses your lighting history, activity, and heart rate to recommend schedules of light and dark that help you adapt to new time zones?
Did you know that mood and food go hand in hand? While abroad, make a point to eat high-quality foods containing lots of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. That means avoid eating too much fast food even if it’s the cheapest and most accessible option. Even if it’s unfamiliar, your host country’s diet will be much better for you than McDonald’s.
It’s the end of your first month in Japan. Even though you’ve studied Japanese for two semesters at UNC, you find it extremely difficult to communicate. You barely know anyone, so you find yourself watching TV in your flat all the time. To make matters worse, several weeks of eating Japanese cuisine and fast food has made you miss your mom’s home cooking…a lot.
Feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation are often symptomatic of culture shock. According to testimonies in a 2016 article, quite a bit of frustration can follow the initial honeymoon stage of living abroad. At the outset of your trip, you should anticipate such challenges and, importantly, determine some coping mechanisms. Challenge yourself, for example, to get plugged in to a local sports league or another extracurricular activity. Create a robust social media platform to keep you connected to community.
Video Credit: intostudy.com
While you are abroad, it is critical that you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Depending on the nature of your global experience, you may find yourself in a foreign land knowing next to no one. That reality can be exhilarating and empowering, or it can be overwhelming, isolating, and ultimately debilitating. If you find your mental health deteriorating, know that there are dependable resources. If you’re seeing a counselor or therapist at home, be sure to have a conversation with them before your global experience to discuss your options for care. Your GeoBlue insurance also covers some mental health services, and you can use their app to find a provider while abroad.
If you have a medical emergency abroad and need to find a doctor or hospital, one option is to contact the US embassy in your visited country. Once you find your specific embassy’s website, check in the “American Citizens Services” section for information about medical assistance.
The GeoBlue health insurance app also has a provider search function. Be sure that the provider speaks English or that you will be able to effectively communicate with them in their home language. You can also check out the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers’ list of healthcare providers.
Students, faculty, and staff are required to have international health insurance coverage when traveling abroad on University-affiliated business. University-affiliated international travel includes all international travel funded by the University as well as all travel for academic credit.
The University offers a comprehensive accident and sickness insurance policy specially designed for students, faculty, and staff participating in international programs. This coverage can be obtained by enrolling in the University’s travel abroad insurance program administered by the department of Treasury and Risk Management Services.
The coverage is provided by GeoBlue, an accident and sickness policy that includes medical evacuation and repatriation of remains coverage, along with some political, security and natural disaster evacuation coverage. It is primary coverage with a $0 deductible and includes coverage for pre-existing conditions. It also covers inpatient care, emergency treatment and procedures, and medications. As health policy, it does not include coverage for trip cancellation or lost baggage.
Students traveling internationally may decline to participate in this University-sponsored insurance program. However, they must still provide evidence of comparable insurance coverage. GeoBlue insurance for personal or vacation travel is not available for purchase through the University.