Health Issues While Studying Abroad

Once you arrive to a new country after joining a study abroad program, you will soon discover that many elements in the environment may affect or alter your health. Most likely, you will be eating different foods, living in a different climate, and reacting emotionally in some way to this new experience.

Jet Lag

You may experience jet lag or traveler’s stress. Some helpful ways to counteract jet lag include: getting plenty of rest before your trip, eating healthy food, drinking plenty of fluids (particularly juices and water), getting some moderate exercise and wearing loose, comfortable clothing.

Culture Shock and Stress

Culture shock is a typical phenomenon that happens to most travelers who venture to a new culture and country to study abroad, for an extended period of time. There are many emotional effects of facing new values, habits, and lifestyles. You may experience confusing emotional highs and lows during your time abroad. You may also feel impatient, bewildered and depressed at times. These are all initial symptoms of culture shock, and may easily be overcome.

Be aware that a moderate amount of anxiety and stress is a natural part of intercultural transitions. A new language, exotic foods, registration, beginning classes, and even changes in the weather can affect your stress level. This stress is nothing to be afraid of and can easily be dealt with by having a positive attitude and taking good care of yourself emotionally and physically during your study abroad program.

Other Health Issues


You are undoubtedly aware of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Your risk of infection depends almost entirely on your own behavior. You should take the same sexual health precautions abroad that you take in the United States during the entire course of your study abroad program.


The use of illegal drugs is treated very seriously by local authorities in all countries and by all study abroad program sponsors irrespective of whether you choose a program to study in London or a program to study in Spain. If you are convicted on drug charges, you will almost certainly be charged with fines and face jail time. If you are arrested on drug charges, there is nothing the U.S. government, your school or the study abroad program sponsor can do with respect to the legal process.

Any student consuming or possessing illegal drugs while on a study abroad program will most likely be expelled from the program without a refund or credit transfer and there are bound to be additional sanctions back at the home university.


The use of alcohol for adults over the age of 18 is legal in all of our program host countries. That said, most students in other countries are taught from an early age to take a moderate and considered approach to alcohol. Heavy/binge drinking and drunkenness are far less common than in the United States, and considered immature and unacceptable behavior.

The negative social and physical effects of the use of alcohol are well documented. Use of alcohol may cause: blackouts, poisoning and overdose; physical and psychological dependence; damage to vital organs; inability to learn and remember information; and psychological problems including depression, psychosis and severe anxiety. Impaired judgment and coordination resulting from the use of alcohol and drugs is associated with acquaintance assault and rape; DUI/DWI arrests; hazing; falls, drowning and other injuries; contracting sexually-transmitted diseases including AIDS; and unwanted or unplanned sexual experiences and pregnancy.

You will be in unfamiliar settings and alcohol can lead to you to make poor and unsafe judgments. Your safest decision is not to drink alcoholic beverages.

If you choose to drink, follow sensible drinking habits, including:

o not drinking on an empty stomach

o not drinking if you are feeling tired or ill

o alternating alcohol drinks with non-alcoholic drinks like water or juice

o limiting yourself to 2-3 drinks in a night at most

o having a friend with you in case you have difficulties

o not drinking during periods when we are traveling vigorously

Do not under any circumstances drink and drive or accept a ride from anyone else that has been drinking!

Source by Dr. Sandi Smith

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