Studying Abroad 101: Staying Healthy Abroad

There are a number of precautions you can take while studying abroad to ensure that you stay healthy.

Here are some of the basic pointers:
Monitor your health. Do not run yourself into the ground trying to see everything and to sample all the culinary delights. Moderation will pay off in the long run.
Eat well. This does not mean spending money freely in elegant restaurants, but it does mean eating a well-balanced diet. Note to vegans and vegetarians–You may find that maintaining a vegan diet abroad can be a challenge since many countries use meat as a staple of their cuisine. It may be difficult to obtain enough quality fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy diet, and meal plans may or may not include vegetarian offerings. Here are some tips to help you through:

  • Research the cuisine and foods offered in your host country.
  • You may wish to bring protein powder, vitamins, or other dietary supplements with you to ensure good nutrition while abroad.
  • Talk to other vegetarians who have studied abroad.
  • During your on-site orientation, talk to your Study Abroad coordinator regarding resources or suggestions to help maintain your diet.
  • Finally you may need to find a tactful way to deal with social situations in which you are offered specially prepared meals that include meat.

Watch what you eat. Traveling will bring your body in contact with different bacteria, which are not necessarily harmful in themselves, but the change can unsettle your stomach or cause other health problems. Water, including ice cubes, milk, fresh fruit and unwashed, raw vegetables could upset your system until your body adjusts to its new surroundings.
Use moderation and good judgment when drinking alcohol. In the U.S., the official drinking age is 21–higher than in many other countries. Attitudes towards alcohol consumption vary greatly from country to country. Whatever the local rules and customs, remember that drinking may place you at risk because it reduces your awareness and ability to judge potential dangers. Excessive consumption of alcohol has been identified as the greatest single risk factor for study abroad participants.
Take measures to reduce the risk of exposure to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Intimate contact could expose you to different bacteria or viruses that could lead to infection or contraction of STDs, including AIDS.
Know where to get treatment. When you settle in, find out where health care facilities are and check your health insurance provider’s website or ask the U.S. Embassy or the Study Abroad coordinator for the name of a doctor before the need for medical treatment arises.
Do not hesitate to obtain treatment. If you experience any symptoms such as high fever or digestive problems, do not wait to get treatment. It is better to go early and get treated, as you may not be familiar with local illnesses!

Information from UNC Asheville Study Abroad Handbook.

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