Talk with your program adviser about health needs and questions.
As you pull together your specific concerns, share them with your on campus education abroad (ed-abroad) adviser-the person to start with for advice on where to go and how to deal with special health issues, physical and mental. The conversations are confidential (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act-FERPA-only allows information sharing from such conversations on a "need-to-know" basis), so don't hesitate to voice any fears or worries about your health. Education abroad advisers are experienced professionals who can point you to programs and destinations that suit you-programs and destinations you might never find on your own. And if you have special health needs, they can direct you to the information you need about the local medical care, services, and self-help groups at a chosen destination.
Be open and honest about health on your application.
If you have any health issue, psychological or physical, be clear about it from the beginning. Many ed-abroad programs ask for health information once you have been accepted. This information request is not to exclude you but to be sure that they-and support people at your chosen destination-can provide what you need . For example, they need to know if you are allergic to some animal pets so you don't get placed with a family that has them. They need to know if you are undergoing psychological or any physical treatment that will affect you overseas, or if you routinely require certain types of medication. Many programs abroad require health examinations before you depart. Take advantage of that appointment with your primary health care provider and ask any questions you have about your health and your overseas destination. Being honest can be the best insurance policy.
IF YOU ARE A STUDENT WITH DISABILITIES,
Verify at the very start, even before the application process, that adequate facilities and personnel are in place and that your needs can be met at your study abroad destination. You can contact the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) at Mobility International USA (http://www.miusa.org), a nonprofit organization that provides international exchange resources and strategies for those with health or other questions related to disabilities, for information.
STEP 2: FIND EXPERTS + RESOURCES BEFORE YOU GO ABROAD
What do you need to know in health planning for your sojourn abroad? You need to know your own body and its special needs. And, you need to know where you're going and the special health issues (if any) in that region of the world.
Depending on where you go, health care practices and facilities may be similar to or very different from those you know at home. Some geographic regions present their own special health challenges that you must know about and plan for before you leave home. You also need to plan for other places you might travel, not just your primary destination.
Do a little research now, while still at home, for the information to have with you should you need it. No matter where you are traveling to, you need to think ahead.