Travelling abroad, meeting new people, and learning and living in a different culture are all part of a great experience. To ensure this experience is uninterrupted, you should be aware of their health and wellness. As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This module will help you become more aware of the different aspects to health and wellness, especially while abroad.
Some things to remember:
- Ensure you have taken the necessary medical precautions before travelling abroad
- Remember to have sufficient supply of medication and proper documentations for pre-existing medical conditions
- Wellness includes all facets of health: general, physical, mental and emotional health
The stresses of international travel, especially if it is over a longer period of time, can often intensify pre-existing medical conditions. Ensure your doctor is aware of where you are going and the duration. If applicable, be sure to obtain referrals or resources that will help you while abroad.
If you regularly take prescription medication, be sure to bring your prescription and an adequate supply of the medication with you, provided that it is non-perishable and legal in your destination country. For more information, visit the Global Affairs website for prescription medication.
To facilitate your clearance through customs and to ease the process of refilling prescriptions by mail, clearly label your medication with your name, the prescribing doctor’s name, and the prescription number.
Notes and Records
If your prescribing doctor advises against taking a large supply of medication, he/she should provide a note with the diagnosis and the recommended medication so that an overseas physician can fill your prescription properly. In some cases, this physician may conduct an examination and confirm the diagnosis before filling the prescription provided by your Canadian doctor.
You may also request a copy of your personal health record to carry with you throughout your travels and present it to the attending physicians in case of an emergency.
If your pre-existing medical condition has the potential to become problematic on your trip, consider wearing a MedicAlert bracelet.
Before leaving for your host country, it is important to be aware of travel health information, such as the types of immunizations and vaccines needed for certain destinations. For more information and recommendations on vaccinations, visit a travel clinic such as Vancouver Coastal Health, or the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
Food and nutrition
Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet can help support an enjoyable experience while living abroad. Planning ahead can help with eating well on a budget.
Food and water-borne diseases are common in some countries and may lead to diarrhea. To avoid contamination, it is useful to prepare food and water in sanitary conditions, cook foods thoroughly, and boil water for three minutes for proper disinfection. For further information on food and water preparation, you can visit the Center for Global Education website.
Travel Health Kits
While travelling, you might not have access to health items and supplies, so it is a good idea to plan ahead and pack some over-the-counter medication and first aid supplies for unexpected health events.
Some health issues to prepare for are:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heartburn and stomach acid
- Infection and inflammation
- Insect bites
- Travel sickness and vomiting
Click here for a detailed overview of what you can include in a travel health kit.
Mental Health and Wellness
Travelling and studying abroad can trigger mental health issues such as stress, depression and homesickness. Learn how to take care of your mental health by recognizing symptoms and learning strategies to cope with mental health issues. Click through the slides below for more information.
Click here to expand the presentation.
Medical Services Abroad – Insurance
As a UBC student, you are covered under the provincial health plan (basic insurance). Be aware that some countries require travellers to present proof of extended travel health insurance coverage to enter. For more information, please visit the Insurance learning module.
Student Health Services Abroad
While abroad, familiarize yourself and be aware of local doctors’ and health services’ office locations and phone numbers. In an event of an emergency, this information will come in handy. For further information on well-being and counselling, be sure to contact your host organization’s student services centre.