Wellness Needs & Studying Abroad Guide
Things to consider before your trip:
- Schedule an appointment with your primary physician or Student Health Services for a physical screening. Ask about any health recommendations while traveling such as immunizations, disease outbreaks and travel notices.
- For mental health screenings contact Monsour Counseling or visit their website for a free screening: https://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/claremont
- Identify individuals in your home and host countries/cities who can provide support and/or resources; such as family, friends, host family, study abroad, student affairs, mental health providers, translators/guides, US Embassy, local hospital/urgent care.
- Develop realistic and consistent self-care routine and stress management skills with your provider or Pitzer’s case manager before you leave.
- Reach out to students or faculty who have traveled to your destination for travel tips, advice on culture and traditions, and support.
- Research your host country for things to see, eat and transportation.
- Develop an emergency or contingency plan with your family and/or provider in case you need extra support while travelling abroad or on domestic exchange. Investigate mental health services in your destination country or city and consider purchasing insurance that will cover these costs. You can try and pre-identify a therapist that speaks your language through https://www.goodtherapy.org/therapists/countries
- Identify a “travel buddy” traveling with you who can be a support person while traveling abroad and remind you of your self-care plan.
- Discuss with Academic Support Services any academic accommodations, support or resources you may need. Different countries, schools and programs have different academic rigor and standards.
- Meet with Pitzer Academic coach to discuss strategies for academia abroad. Perhaps putting together email check-ins for support
- Research host countries ability to meet your academic accommodations and how that will affect your academic journey.
- Classroom setting and physical environment (noise level, crowded rooms) compared to Pitzer.
- Cultural differences and attitudes that may impact your learning differences
- Storage: Take medications with you in your carry-on luggage, not in checked luggage. That way, if your luggage is lost or your plane is delayed, you will still have access to your medications. Try to keep your medications in a cool, dry place that is safe from others. Also, keep a note in a separate place from your medications, listing the name, dose, and other instructions related to your medications, along with your own physician’s and pharmacist’s phone numbers.
- Identification: Bring a copy of the prescription or some other documentation identifying the medications as legitimately yours. If possible, keep your medication in its original bottle, which has the correct label and instructions.
- Access: Bring enough medications to last the trip, or make arrangements in advance for how you will refill the prescription while you are abroad. For example, you may need to find out:
- Are there pharmacy services where you will be?
- Is your medication available there?
- Will you be able to use your US insurance? Your US prescription?
- Is it legal to have medications mailed to you there?
- How reliable is the governmental mail service and are other carriers available (e.g., FedEx)?
- Effectiveness: Remember the effect and effectiveness of your medications can change with changes in stress, diet, and climate. Even if you have been stable and doing well on your medications, plan in advance what you will do if your medications become problematic and you need psychiatric services while you are abroad.
- Schedule – even if it is inconvenient while you are on the road. Remember the schedule of medication may also change as time zones change – ask your treatment provider to advise you on how to adjust your medication schedule to a new time zone.
- Check whether the local tap water is safe before using it to take medications. If the local water is not safe to drink, use bottled water or bottled soda (unless otherwise indicated by your prescription).
Travel Anxiety and Stress Reduction
- Regardless of how you are traveling, leave early enough so you do not feel rushed and can deal with delays such as traffic or long lines. Coordinate airport transportation early in advance.
- Practice the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding method: Start with three slow and quiet deep breaths. Then list 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste (or list 1 thing positive about yourself!). Followed by three slow and quiet deep breaths. Repeat as necessary.
- Meditation, yoga, coloring in adult coloring books or mandalas are ways in which some students are able to reduce their stress load. Think about packing coloring books, mandalas, markers, or colored pencils in your carry on. There are free mindfulness apps that you can download before you leave at https://www.freemindfulness.org/download
- Try to maintain a reasonable schedule and diet. Changes in sleep and diet can have a significant effect on your emotional well-being, and traveling to a different culture often entails such changes.
- Make sure to bring a list of emergency contacts with you. This list could have contact information for all of your support resources (family members, friends, pharmacy, all treatment providers, etc.)
- Be aware of the attitudes towards varying health and wellness issues in the culture you are visiting. Whether you decide to be very private or very open about your own health and wellness issues, you can use this opportunity to learn about how different cultures think about mental well-being and overall wellness.
- Don’t be surprised if you experience strong emotional reactions to being in a very new and different place. It can feel very strange to be far from everyone you know and everything you are used to. You may feel anxious, or homesick, or frustrated, or fearful, or sad or self-conscious, in ways that are quite unlike your usual self. Such “culture shock” is often a normal and temporary reaction to new surroundings.
- If you feel you need some emotional support as you get adjusted, or you feel your emotional reactions are more severe than a normal adjustment phase, seek out the help of a someone who you know you can trust; a host parent, a teacher, professor, your program administrator or your therapist. Follow any wellness, self-care and/or emergency plans already in place.
- For comfort, bring a photo of a loved one with you, or a favorite object to remind you of home. Don’t bring anything that you couldn’t stand being lost or stolen. Consider keeping a journal.
- If you are in therapy and plan to spend enough time in one location abroad that you want to continue your therapy there, work in advance to locate a provider.
- A US-trained provider is preferable, for the continuity of your care and to minimize language problems. Your insurance company, your program abroad, the US embassy in that location, or your current therapist are good resources to ask for the names and contact information of local providers. You can also look into travel insurance to cover these services or emergency services. https://www.goodtherapy.org/therapists/countries
- It may helpful for your current therapist to be in touch with your therapist abroad, ask your current therapist if you need to sign a release before you go. You may be able to sign such a release even if you don’t yet know the name of your new therapist abroad.
- Carry with you the number of the local US embassy, your program director, a family member, and your current therapist, in case you need to reach someone in an emergency.
- If you are going to be abroad a significant amount of time and are not able to speak with your treatment provider over the phone, skype, facetime, etc. try to locate a provider abroad – a US-trained provider is preferable, for the continuity of your care and to minimize language problems. Your treatment provider, insurance company, program abroad, or the US embassy in that location, are good places to ask for the names and contact information of local providers.
Adjusting back to home campus
- Be kind to yourself as you are adjusting back to being in the US. (time differences, cultural adjustment, life on Pitzer’s campus, seeing family and friends after an extended absence, etc).
- Follow up with your care team for continued support
- Set up appointments with academic support team (writing center, academic coach, accommodations)
- Follow self-care and wellness plan for stress management and support.
Pitzer College Resources and Support
- Office of Student Affairs/Pitzer Academic Support Services, Scott Hall, 1050 N. Mills Avenue, 909.607.2821
- Study Abroad, West Hall, Suite Q100, 1050 N. Mills Avenue, Claremont, CA, 909.621.8104
- Campus safety, 150 E. 8th Street, Claremont, CA, 909.607.2000
- Monsour (After Hours-Protocols), Tranquada Student Services Center-1st Floor, 757 College Way, Claremont, CA, 909.621.8202
- Title IX, Broad Center, 1050 N. Mills Avenue, Claremont, CA, 909.607.2958
*Guide influenced by Xavier University and USF