Health & Safety
MAIN THREATS, and ways to minimize them:
- Illness: getting sick is the most likely problem you may face. Research required and recommended inoculations for your host country on the CDC website and discuss them with your doctor. Follow local precautions, such as water safety and other hygiene measures.
- Traffic accidents: know local traffic laws, safe public transportation, and pedestrian safety
- Alcohol-related incidents: drink responsibly, go out and return home with someone, avoid vulnerable situations while under the influence, watch out for others with you;
- Petty theft: do not carry more than you can afford to lose, spread items out on your body, be vigilant in crowded areas, know pick pocket techniques, which can vary by location;
- Sexual harassment and assault: know local gender roles and assumptions, go out and return home with someone learn which areas of the city require caution.
- Eat well
- Drink water
- Get enough sleep
- If you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Keep in mind that many factors influence your individual alcohol tolerance.
- Wash your hands
Adapting to a new culture, while rewarding, can also take a toll on your mental health. Preparing ahead can make all the difference for your study abroad experience. It is highly encouraged, though not required, to disclose any previous health issues — mental or physical — to the GEO staff, so you a you receive the support you need.
Understanding the supportive structures of the country in which you will study, as well as the laws and regulations around the importation of certain medications, will help ensure a safer, more fulfilling, study abroad experience. Do your research!
- Work with a mental health care provider to create a mental health plan for study abroad. Research and understand where you can find support while abroad
- If you are taking any prescription medications, you will need to acquire a prescription for a supply that will last the duration of your time abroad. Find out whether your prescription or over-the-counter medicine is legal in the country(ies) you will travel to by looking at the country’s U.S. embassy website.
- The U.S. Embassy in the country(ies) you will visit has recommendations for medical care, including mental health.
- Make a list of vocabulary associated with your condition if going to a non-English speaking country.
- You will be required to purchase insurance either as a part of your program or through Beloit College. Look over your plan and be clear on what it will and won’t cover regarding mental health services abroad.
- Make a plan to find activities to do during unstructured time while abroad — look into campus clubs, organizations, or other services like mentoring programs. Understand that some of these may cost money, but may also be highly beneficial to your mental health.
- Talk to returned study abroad. They’ll have valuable insights and can help you set realistic expectations.
- Pay attention to how you’re feeling - and to the food you’re eating, how much you’re sleeping, if you’re exercising, and how you’re socializing.
- Symptoms of culture shock include physical symptoms, sadness, difficulty concentrating, withdrawal from social situations, boredom, and excessive sleep. Culture shock is normal, but when the symptoms persist for a long time or keep you from doing what you need to, it might be time to reach out for help.
- Be proactive about your mental health. Find something that makes you happy and excited to be where you are in your host environment — and then find a way to do it! Participating in activities that make you happy is a great way to handle stress and culture shock.
- If you’re having problems, reach out: to a fellow student, local support services, a host family, family or friends from home, GEO staff, or a mental health provider at home. You’re not alone.
- It’s okay to feel bad. Not every moment while studying abroad feels life changing or positive. Being bored, homesick, or worried about not having the “right” study abroad experience are normal.
- The re-entry or re-adjustment process when returning from abroad can also be difficult. Similarly to when you left, you may feel out of sorts as you transition from one way of being and thinking to your home environment — this is known as “reverse culture shock” or “re-entry shock.” This period of re-entry and re-adjust can be very similar to the first few months of being abroad.