Maintaining Mental and Physical Well-being Abroad
There are few things more exciting than traveling to a foreign country. Studying abroad is an eye-opening opportunity that exposes you to new cultures, cuisines, ideas and environments.
Whether you stay for one week or one year, your adventures abroad will offer you invaluable experiences and new perspectives on the world we live in. Your travels will also expose you to new risks, both mentally and physically, and it is important to be ever cautious and aware of the surroundings in which you decide to explore.
Culture shock is a very real experience. Before you think about drinking the water or eating the food, think about stepping off the plane. Will you understand the woman at the information kiosk? Will you be able to read the signs? It doesn't matter how many hours you've spent studying the language, or how handy your pocket guide is, everything changes once you are there.
Arriving in a new country is typically thought of as being a beautiful mixture of excitement, terror and joy. You will be disoriented. You may be jet lagged. You will not be at home. Here are some tips to help quell the mental cartwheels.
Have an Itinerary:
Know where to go when you exit the terminal. Before you leave, research the public transit system if you plan to use it. Knowing how to get to your first resting point greatly reduces stress. Play with Google Street View if the city has it; I knew how to navigate the 16th arrondissment of Paris before I ever set foot in France.
Engage the Culture:
Embrace the honeymoon phase of your acclimation. Speak to locals and stay active. Remember, even your frustrations are integral to your overall experience.
Bring a Memento:
It can be a photograph, a letter, a lucky coin, anything. These small, yet familiar objects can help you collect yourself if you're going abroad for an extended period of time and begin to feel lonely. Technology is never guaranteed.
Along with being mentally prepared for your time spent studying abroad, you must also be aware of the physical risks involved in such an endeavor. Taking certain precautions before leaving, and following some basic guidelines during your trip will help ensure that you remain healthy and comfortable.
Depending on where you will be traveling, you may be required or recommended to receive certain immunizations. Here is the Center for Disease Control's resource that will help you find information about the specific region you will be visiting.
Having health and/or traveler's insurance is a good idea for both brief and extended travel outside of the U.S. We offer several packages that are designed to meet your specific travel needs.
Register with Your Embassy:
If you are an American going abroad, you can locate your specific U.S. embassy here. Registering with your embassy is a proactive step that helps you stay connected with your country in the event of an emergency.
Getting to know a new culture involves getting to know their cuisine. Participating in trying new and exotic dishes is a wonderful way to experience a countries traditions and customs, but there are a few tips you should follow to keep your stomach smiling.
- Eat food that has been fully cooked. Avoid raw or undercooked meats.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel.
- Drink sealed, bottled beverages. Boil water if you intend to drink it.
- In some countries, try to avoid drinks with ice.
Put together a wellness pack to bring with you on your travels.
- First Aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Any prescription medicine (enough to last three months). A physician's note is also recommended to bring along with your medication.
Avoid any high-risk activity that may expose you to injury, and always use sound judgment when engaging a new city at night. Studying abroad is an incredibly rewarding experience, and being mentally and physically prepared throughout your journey will guarantee that you have the best experience possible.
Return to our "Insurance Explained" section for more information and help