Mental and Physical Health Information
Whether studying abroad for a semester program or short-term on a faculty-led course, your health and safety is a priority for Merrimack College. Please read through the following information to ensure that you understand both Merrimack’s policies and how best to prepare yourself for study abroad.
Health Information Form
All students participating in a GEO program, whether semester or faculty-led, must complete the Health Information Form in the application process. This form is used to advise staff of health issues and to assist in making any necessary preparations. (Please note, semester program providers may have a similar requirement, and you must complete theirs as well.)
By signing the Release and Hold Harmless and Participation Agreements you have authorized GEO staff (and its agents) to release medical information contained in that form to health care providers and to secure medical treatment on your behalf in the event of an emergency, medical illness/injury. You have also agreed to accept financial responsibility for any such treatment.
Studying abroad can be a challenging as well as fulfilling experience for students. While this is a normal part of cross-cultural life and adjustment, it can present additional challenges for students with mental health conditions. Also, cultural adjustment can offer students who have no history of mental health conditions, a challenge with respect to their feelings of well being.
The Health Information Form requests that you to disclose any past and current mental health issues, family history of mental health, indication of mental health concerns and current prescriptions medicines. While the disclosure is voluntary, it is very important for the GEO to have this information before you study abroad in order to best support you and provide reasonable preparations.
Past or current treatment for psychiatric and mental health conditions does not preclude you from studying abroad. However, if a healthcare professional recommends no travel or travel under certain conditions that cannot be met by certain program locations/faculty-led courses, you may be encouraged to focus on your health at the present and postpone program/course participation until a later time.
Here are the recommended steps for managing mental health if you are considering applying to participate in a GEO program/course:
PRIOR TO APPLICATION: Make an appointment and meet with your mental health professional to discuss:
- Studying abroad and implications for your health;
- Your plan to manage your health if you go abroad; and
- Access to alternative support networks (these are available through semester program providers, but more difficult in short-term programs although not impossible).
- Establish a realistic communication plan for your time abroad with your support network (i.e. family, etc.);
- Communicate with GEO staff to discuss onsite care with a mental health care professional, should you require this support; please do this very quickly after acceptance and well before departure;
- Make arrangements to bring sufficient amounts of required prescriptions for the entirety of the program; it is your responsibility to check with the embassy of your host country to make sure that you can bring those medications with you, and to determine what additional documentation you may need (original prescription, physician's letter, etc.); and
- Read over the information on Maintaining Strong Mental and Emotional Health from the Center for Global Education [links to http://globaled.us/peacecorps/maintaining-strong-mental-and-emotional-health.asp].
- Remember that fluctuations in mood and perspective are a normal part of study abroad.
- Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Check in with yourself often and seek support from on-site program staff &/or GEO staff if you’re feeling that the fluctuations and adjustments are more intense than to be expected.
You are responsible for understanding the health conditions in your host country before you depart, so that you can take the appropriate precautionary measures. No matter where you are traveling, the following steps are important:
- Go to the CDC’s Traveler’s Health website and read over all the information for your country on:
- STAY HEALTHY AND SAFE
- HEALTHY TRAVEL PACKING LIST
- TRAVEL HEALTH NOTICES
- Some drug/medications available by prescription in the U.S. are illegal elsewhere. If you have pre-existing medical conditions:
- Carry a letter from a physician that describes the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.
- Leave your medications in their original containers and label them clearly.
- Check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting or transiting to make sure your medications are permitted in that country.
- Even if your prescription is legal in another country, it is generally illegal to mail prescriptions from the US overseas. Plan to take what you will need in the original bottles for the entirety of your program.
- If your insurance only allows a few months of the prescription at a time and this is not enough for your term abroad, call your insurance company and ask for any exceptions. The GEO will provide you with a letter with the dates of your program and confirmation of enrollment in order to assist your appeal.
- If you have a medical condition that is not easily identified (e.g. diabetes, severe allergies, seizure disorder), wear a medic alert bracelet while you are abroad (and consider translation). Be sure to discuss a plan with your physician before you leave.
- It can take a few days for your body to adjust to changes in climate and food. So, eat lightly for several days after arrival.
- Adjusting to a new diet may cause mild intestinal upset or diarrhea. So, you may wish to pack an anti-diarrheal.
- If you have a medical condition that is not easily identified, in addition to wearing a medic alert bracelet, be sure to inform traveling companions just as you have the GEO and on-site program staff, so that they can be prepared in the case of an emergency.
- HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis strains are major concerns 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 should bring a sufficient supply of needles and syringes with a prescription or doctor’s authorization. Avoid ear piercing and tattooing while abroad.