A trip abroad can be the highlight of a student’s four years in college. It’s a time for students to gain new skills, enhance their resume, and hopefully, make lifelong friends. We want to make sure it is a pleasant and memorable experience that the students will treasure for years to come. It’s most definitely not a time for students to worry about their health. Here are four things you can do to help keep your students healthy and safe during their trip abroad.
1. Be mindful of medical coverage
There is so much preparation involved in traveling, especially for study abroad trips. The last thing a student may have on their mind is medical insurance. For many, it will stay at the back of their mind until they need it.
You’ve likely equipped your students with a study abroad plan. Start by reviewing this insurance coverage to make sure it covers important travel-related benefits as well as standard medical benefits. Medical evacuation and repatriation are some examples of travel-specific benefits that could be of tremendous value to your students in the case of an emergency.
Once you’ve selected the best plan for your students, the next step is to make sure they understand what the plan covers and how to use their benefits. Other important travel information that you can include are a list of local providers and country-specific considerations. Flyers and informational sessions are a great way to communicate this information to students.
In addition to understanding their study abroad insurance, it’s also important for students to know what their U.S. medical insurance covers. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the international SHIP benefits, as these could vary or even be non-existent on the medical plan. In many cases, the medical plan will cover out-of-country claims as out-of-network paid at the usual and customary charges specific to that country. However, some carriers do contract with local providers. For students who are not covered by the school plan, communicate to them the importance of calling their insurance provider to get information on the available benefits.
Students who are planning long trips, or even a move overseas, should consider getting local medical insurance. These plans are often much less expensive than medical insurance plans in the U.S.
2. Get informed on prescription benefits
Packing for an overseas trip can be stressful. There’s always that nagging feeling that you may have forgotten something. It is even worse when it comes to your prescription medications, since missing even one dose can have negative effects on our health.
It is important to remind students that some medications that are legal in the U.S. are banned overseas, and vice-versa. “For example, the active ingredient in Benadryl, diphenhydramine, is banned in Zambia in over-the counter products.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has its own regulations for brining medications into the United States so students may want to think twice before bringing their over-the-counter antibiotics home with them.
Students should try their best to bring enough supply with them to cover the duration of their trip. For long trips, such as a six-month study abroad program, a student may be able to obtain a larger than the normal 30 or 31-day supply by speaking with their insurance company and physician who prescribed the medication. This may require documentation of their stay abroad.
If a student needs to get a prescription filled overseas, they should research the process for getting the medication and its costs. Overseas pharmacies may use different dosages and manufacturers. They also may have special requirements such as a prescription from a local physician.
3. Research nearby providers
Help students locate the nearest emergency room, pharmacy, and other necessary medical providers and notify them that they may be required to pay the costs up front. We suggest developing a list of local providers to hand out to students traveling abroad. Many study abroad insurance carriers have this information easily accessible. Try reaching out to them as your first step to find the best local providers for your students.
4. Get familiar with immigration & customs, political, safety and cultural concerns
The U.S. Department of State is a great resource for anyone traveling abroad. They have a database of country-specific information which includes travel advisories, vaccination and visa requirements, local transportation, safety information, local laws, and much more.
U.S. Consulates overseas offer many services to U.S. citizens, including replacing a stolen passport, contacting family, and obtaining medical care. Students should be familiar with the location and contact information for the closest U.S. Consulate in their host country. They should also know the local emergency phone number, since not all countries use 911. Here’s a list of overseas emergency numbers for ambulance, fire, and police.
You can also prepare students for a trip abroad by equipping them with information on local customs and appropriate etiquette in their host country. Here are a few examples of foreign faux pas that your students wouldn’t want to commit.
Not only are these some tips on how you can best support your students, you can also use this advice to plan for your own trip abroad. And to make sure you are covered abroad, we offer individual travel insurance plans that anyone can purchase.