While You're Abroad: Staying Healthy
In addition to reading the tips below, please visit the US State Department's website for students abroad. The State Department has created a special site with information on destinations worldwide and how to react to a variety of situations and emergencies just for students.
With new time zones, different food, disrupted schedules, and a general sense of disorientation, international travel can bring on some (minor) physical health issues. Follow these tips to stay feeling your best.
Fight jet lag
Though it might only sound like a slight inconvenience, jet lag can take a true physical toll and hinder your adjustment to a new environment. Here are some ways to prevent bad jet lag:
- Get a good night’s sleep prior to your flight
- Try to stretch or walk around the airport prior to boarding the plane
- While in the air, drink plenty of water and get up to walk around once an hour
- Use sleeping aids (eye masks, earplugs, neck rests, etc.) so you can get some rest on the plane
- As soon as you land, force yourself to adjust to your new time zone.
- This means that if you land first thing in the morning, you need to stay awake all day until at least 9:00 pm local time
- Expect a day of adjustment for every hour in the time difference.
- For example, it will take about a week if you’re in a time zone that’s seven hours off from what you’re used to.
Ease into new foods
Part of the fun of traveling abroad is trying new foods, but it’s wise to adjust your diet slowly. Rather than eating as much local cuisine as you can the moment your plane lands, try to primarily stick to mild foods that you know have been cooked properly. When you introduce new foods with caution, you’ll be far less likely to feel sick or get food poisoning in your first weeks abroad.
When you get sick, go to the doctor
You have travel insurance for a reason. Rather than waiting for a cold to turn into something more serious, go to a doctor as soon as you begin to feel ill. This will decrease your downtime and help you enjoy every minute you have abroad.
While studying abroad is an incredibly valuable experience, it is also a challenging one. Sometimes being in a new country, where everything is unfamiliar and accomplishing daily tasks is no longer simple, can cause a change in mood or exacerbate existing mental health issues. By taking care of yourself, you can limit the emotional toll that international travel can take.
Make a plan
If you currently see a mental health care professional, ask them to help you develop a strategy for maintaining your mental health overseas. If you feel that you need to see a mental health care professional abroad, talk to your program provider or host university to ask for recommendations.
Learn what to expect and how to handle it effectively
You will most likely experience culture shock and homesickness in some capacity, so check out these helpful tips for dealing with the emotions that accompany an international experience.