Living and studying abroad means encountering new environments and interacting with different cultures. Healthy traveling is, in part, a result of the preparation you do before you travel. Learning about local customs, and appreciating culturally appropriate behavior are important parts of this preparation. It is also about being observant, flexible, and creative while on your journey.
There are many things that you simply can’t control or plan for — you can’t always avoid getting sick, or getting an insect bite, or getting lost in an unfamiliar place. But being aware of your options and ready to respond to the challenges can help make your journey a safe and fulfilling experience.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides authoritative, comprehensive, and up-to-date information on Traveler’s Health, including country guides, advice on immunizations, illness, and injury abroad, and disease prevalence.
- TripPrep is a great source of information on destinations, infectious diseases, and general travel health & safety.
- The Health Information section of the Mayo Clinic’s website contains comprehensive information on hundreds of conditions, a symptom checker, and guides to drugs and supplements, tests, and procedures.
- You are encouraged to inform yourself of health risks specific to the countries you plan to visit. If you are going to a country with required immunizations, a travel clinic appointment is highly recommended and often required by the program sponsor.
- If you have prescription medications, you should carry the original prescription along with a letter from your doctor detailing the generic name, dosage, and purpose of the medication.
- If you find yourself in need of healthcare, ask your program director for help or, if you are traveling independently, call your travel assistance company (CISI/AXA for Carleton programs). Telemedicine is also a possibility through CISI.
Carleton complies with Minnesota law by reporting hospitalizations and deaths of Carleton students on programs abroad approved for academic credit. A report of all reported incidents for students attending institutions in Minnesota is available from the Minnesota State Office of Higher Education. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Carleton’s Office of Health Promotion curates a list of resources to support mental health and well-being.
Produced by the University of Michigan, the Resilient Traveling website presents specific strategies and skills that can be used to deal with common challenges of educational travel such as loneliness, culture shock, group conflict, and personal struggles.
This 26-minute video by Northfield’s own Dr. Henry Emmons teaches you how to build resilience. Originally produced for high school-level Rotary Youth Exchange, the same principles apply to college-level study abroad.
The Center for Global Education website presents strategies for maintaining strong mental and emotional health based on training materials developed for the US Peace Corps.
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) has some informative tips about flourishing while traveling for those with mental health conditions.
Set reasonable expectations. Many travelers set an exhilarating—and unsustainable—pace in the first few days of their visit. With the unrealistic expectations that often accompany trip planning, people are determined to squeeze the most out of every second of the day. Very often, this frenetic pace is beyond what you’re physically able to do. Take precautions to prevent anxiety, burnout, and exhaustion.
Beware that travel stress may trigger a variety of health-related problems, such as headache, indigestion, insomnia, irritability, hypersensitivity, and depression. Stress can also aggravate chronic problems, such as asthma, arthritis, digestive disorders, and muscle pain. Deal with stress by developing your coping skills. Learn to be more tolerant of yourself and of situations over which you have little control, like having appropriate clothing ready for bad weather.
Accept that an unforeseen change of plans is always possible when you travel. Learn to decompress when your body needs downtime. Relaxation can slow your breathing rate and heart rate, reduce muscle tension, and ease anxiety and frustration.
Be sure to get enough sleep. Sleeping well will help you to cope with stressors, stay alert to avoid accidents, and keep a strong immune system.
Develop a wellness plan to remind yourself of what you can do to remain emotionally strong while traveling. Consider developing a mindfulness practice as described below.
According to mindful.org, mindfulness is defined as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Travel and adapting to new environments can be stressful and mindfulness practices can be a useful antidote. The resources listed below were compiled by 2017 Carleton graduates Josh Pitofsky and Hettie Stern to help OCS students cultivate and practice mindfulness:
- Headspace: Information about meditation
- Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness & Compassion: Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses what mindfulness and meditation are really about: presence of heart.
- NYT VR App: Meditation using VR
- Videos from more resources: The four science-based keys to well-being
- Mindfulness Activities: 6 Mindfulness Exercises
- Walking Meditation: A Guide on How to Meditate
- 4-7-8 Breathing: Calming Breathing Exercise
Guided Meditation [Sorted by duration]
- Tara Brach Brief: 1-minute guided practice/short introduction to meditation
- Body and Sound: 3-minute guided meditation transcript
- Self-Compassion Break: 5-minute Self-Compassion Practice
- Meditation to Reduce Anxiety: 10-minute guided meditation
- UCLA Loving-Kindness: 10-minute loving kindness meditation
- Tara Brach Calming: 14-minute guided meditation focused on opening and calming
- Relaxation Video: 18-minute guided meditation focused on relaxation
- Muscle Relaxation: 19-minute guided muscle relaxation
- Tara Brach Vipassana: 20-minute guided practice
- Mindfulness of Breath: 28-minute guided meditation
- Long Body Scan: 45-minute guided body scan
- CALM (Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind) Guided Meditations: Offers a variety of guided meditation practices
- Vegetarian-friendly countries for study abroad
- Country Guides for Vegetarians: Resources by country (mostly Europe and the Middle East).
- Kahal Abroad: Resources on kosher eating in 12 world cities
- Kosher Travel: Regional resources for traveling kosher.
- Celiac Travel: Contains tips for traveling gluten-free as well as restaurant cards in 51 languages explaining the condition.
- VeryWell’s Celiac Disease Page: Has a celiac disease travel resource section with easy-to-digest explanations, tools, clinical information, and travel suggestions.
- The choices you make for food and drink are absolutely critical for keeping you healthy while you travel. Food and drinking water can be contaminated in some places. Accidental exposure to germs also can occur while you are swimming or when you are showering and brushing your teeth. You need to be sensitive in what you say about food and water that your hosts are providing. Make sure you stay safe without sounding overtly critical or dismissive.
- If you adhere to a special diet, be sure to inform your program directors, hosts, and anyone else who may plan meals for you. It is helpful to be very specific and tell people if your dietary restrictions are a medical necessity or a matter of preference. You should also consider how flexible you can be. For example, some students who are vegetarians at home eat meat when traveling. Often, students bring a supply of pre-packaged energy bars with them to supplement their diet, especially when their dietary restrictions cannot be reasonably accommodated. Research, planning, and communicating are all key factors to a successful trip.