Learning Abroad Center

Mental & Physical Health

Health Information Form

All students participating in a Learning Abroad Center program are required to complete the Health Information Form. This information is used to advise learning abroad staff of your health history, conditions and needs, in order to facilitate a planning conversation so your health needs can be supported. If you are participating on an affiliated program, the affiliate will have a similar requirement.

By signing the Release and Waiver you have authorized Learning Abroad Center staff or its agents to release medical information contained in the Learning Abroad Center files to health care providers and to secure medical treatment on your behalf in the event of emergency medical illness or injury. You have also agreed to accept financial responsibility for the treatment.

Mental Health

It’s important to attend to your mental health and wellness as you plan your study 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 stress you’re feeling. You should proactively and attentively plan for how you’ll attend to your wellness and your mental health. 

The Health Information Form requires you to disclose your current medications, medical history, plan for managing these conditions while abroad, current treatment, and family history—including mental health—and any other information that would help us know how best to support your mental health & wellness. It is imperative for Learning Abroad Center staff to have this information before you study abroad.

If you have a mental health condition, have received mental health treatment in the past, or utilize medications for mental health, you should visit with a mental health professional to strategize managing your health while abroad. Campus counseling and psychiatric services can assist you if you don’t have a current provider. Once you let us know what kind of treatment you’ll need while abroad, we’ll work with you and the insurance provider to arrange it. In the rare circumstance that your mental health professional recommends treatment or support that cannot be met at your intended study location, we’ll recommend alternate sites and talk with you about shifting to one where your health needs can be met. If your provider were to recommend no travel or travel only under certain conditions which cannot be met, you would be encouraged to focus on your health first and postpone program participation.

The following steps for planning for mental health and wellness are important, regardless of where you will be studying abroad:

  • Complete the Health Information Form with complete information
  • Meet with your mental health professional to discuss:
    • The stressors associated with foreign travel and intercultural living experiences 
    • Your plan to manage your health while abroad, including medications and/or therapy needed
    • Other informal sources of support you will access, how, and how often
  • Meet with disability services’ staff to prepare a request for accommodations, if that is recommended
  • Design a self-care plan for yourself, including:
    • Discuss a realistic, regular communication plan with your support networks (i.e. family and friends)
  • Connect with a LAC staff member in follow-up to discuss your needs and to arrange onsite care, if that would be helpful support either immediately once in-country or for later if needed
  • If you are taking any mental health medication(s), arrange to receive sufficient amounts with you for the duration of your program. Once you get international insurance through the U of M (after you complete the health & safety online orientation), call the insurer to discuss your medication. They will tell you whether your medications (in particular mental health medications) will be legal abroad. Then follow-up with LAC staff to confirm your plan. 

Once in-country:

  • Follow your pre-designed self-care plan 
  • Seek support if you are struggling--from onsite staff or from your LAC staff. We’re all well-prepared to get you professional support or to chat with you about what might contribute to your wellness

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.

Mental Health Resources

Health abroad: Info from GPS Alliance 
Maintaining Strong Mental & Emotional Health: Info on the intersection of mental health and traveling abroad from the Center for Global Education
Mobility International: Testimonials by study abroad students with mental health concerns

Physical Health

Before you depart for studying abroad, understand the health conditions in your host country and obtain information about appropriate precautionary measures. The following steps are important, regardless of where you will be traveling:

  • If you have a medical condition that is not easily identified (diabetes, epilepsy, severe allergies), you should wear a medic alert bracelet while you are abroad and consider translation. You should also inform the Learning Abroad Center, traveling companions, and on-site staff so that they can be prepared in case of an emergency. Be sure to discuss a plan with your physician before you leave home.
  • Some drugs available on prescription in the US are illegal in other countries. To determine the legality of your prescription, review the US Department of State Travel information regarding prescriptions abroad, and consult Consular Information for the country(s) you intend to visit or the University's international health insurance.
    • If your medication is legal but simply not available in the country you will be visiting, ask your health-care provider to write an official letter stating the medication has been prescribed.
    • In most cases, it is not legal or feasible to mail prescriptions from the US overseas. Plan to take enough in original bottles for your full program.
    • If your insurance only allows a few months of prescription at a time and this isn't enough for your term abroad, call your insurance company and ask for an exception. A copy of your acceptance from the Learning Abroad Center will often assist your appeal.
  • HIV/AIDS is a major concern in some locations. While abroad, avoid injections and blood transfusions. If an injection is required, make sure that the syringe comes directly from a sealed package. Diabetics are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of needles and syringes with a prescription or doctor’s authorization. Avoid ear piercing and tattooing while abroad.
  • Eat lightly for several days after arrival until your system has had a chance to adjust to changes in climate and food. Adjusting to a new diet often causes mild intestinal upsets or diarrhea. You may wish to pack an anti-diarrhea medication. You should also check on other health issues, such as whether it is safe to drink the local water, and ask your doctor about preventive medication for the common illnesses that can result. If you are very ill, see a doctor.