What if I Have a Physical or Mental-Health Issue?
Having a mental health or medical issue is nothing to be ashamed of. However, you should be sure that you fully understand the implications of study abroad with your condition. Mental health conditions can be especially difficult to handle during a semester or year abroad. Cultural differences in mental health care can limit the resources available to you. Access to mental-health counseling services and medication may be limited (or non-existent) in some countries and the use of medication to treat mental health conditions is less common in countries outside the United States. If you have depression, an eating disorder, or another mental health condition you should talk with your doctor or other health providers about the viability of study abroad.
Eating disorders can be difficult to handle abroad. Travel and culture shock can dangerously exacerbate an eating disorder. Adjusting to different food and having limited food choices when living with a host family can be extremely stressful. Students need to be willing to embrace the cultural differences around food in order to have a successful study-abroad experience.
Once you and your doctor have decided that study abroad is a reasonable option for you, we urge you to consult confidentially with the resident director of the program you have chosen. The resident director can guide you to resources, and discuss whether the resources you need will be available. The more the resident director knows about your medical issues and needs, the better he or she can help you—from picking the best host family match, to helping you find a clinician, or accessing the medication you need.
If you take regular medication you will need to be proactive in developing a plan for getting refills while abroad. Most health insurance providers limit the amount of medication that can be dispensed at one time, and many countries limit the amount of medication that you can take through customs. All this must be researched and planned well ahead of time. Here are some questions to review with your doctor and the resident director:
- Can you get refills mailed to you?
- Can family or friends who are visiting bring refills?
- Can you consult with the resident director to see if there is a clinician where you are studying who could prescribe refills?
- Is the medication you are taking available or legal in the country you are going to?
If you would like to discuss any health concerns related to study abroad, we encourage you to contact to Tufts Health Service.
You can also find information from the U.S. State Department about health matters abroad (such as prescriptions, vaccinations, mental health, and general precautions) via their "Students Abroad" website. We encourage you to investigate what specific health concerns you might encounter in your particular host country.
Physical and Academic Accommodations
If you would like to request accommodation for physical or learning differences while abroad, you should contact your program to discuss your needs and the availability of support services at your host institution. In some cases, you might be able to arrange for the same or similar accommodations, but it is also important to understand that there may be limitations to what can be offered and that other countries are not required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Students participating in Tufts Programs Abroad are required to carry U.S.-based health insurance, and it is strongly recommended that you subscribe to the Tufts University Student Health Insurance Plan, which provides coverage for one calendar year (from September to September) and provides coverage overseas. You may alternatively choose to remain under your own or your family’s health insurance plan. If you are participating in a non-Tufts program, your program provider will likely have a similar requirement for you to have health insurance that covers you while abroad. Make sure that the plan you have includes coverage for routine medical care and treatment during overseas residence and while traveling internationally. Typically, if you require treatment abroad, you will need to pay for the service upfront and then request reimbursement from your insurance company (make sure to obtain a receipt!).