Healthy Travel

Many of the illnesses students encounter abroad are the same ones they encounter at home – the flu, the common cold, allergies, sinus infections, etc.  Adopting healthy habits such as frequent hand washing, taking vitamins, exercising regularly, ensuring you get adequate sleep, and limiting alcohol consumption can help you maintain good physical and mental health abroad.

Things to Know

Many students find that the unique stresses associated with living in an unfamiliar culture can result in short bouts of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, even if they have never before experienced these challenges. Ups-and-downs are a normal part of the process of adapting to a new environment and all students will experience these to some degree.  However, if you find that the stress of adjustment becomes excessive or persists over time, please seek help through your on-site contact or through one of the resources listed below.

Review these guidelines for maintaining your mental health abroad:

  • Know the phases of cultural adjustment and expect to feel uncomfortable and down sometimes. Homesickness is a natural feeling during study abroad.
  • Practice a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, exercising, and actively participating in program activities.
  • Continue the healthy coping strategies you regularly use when confronting stress at home (for example, reading, meditation, practicing your religion, connecting with friends or family, unplugging).
  • If you currently see a mental health provider or have in the past, we recommend that you visit with them specifically about your plans for studying abroad. Develop a plan to manage your health while abroad, including medications and/or therapy, as needed.
  • In consultation with your physician, develop a plan of action for continuing care while abroad including medications and/or therapy, as needed. And steps you will take if you experience a decline in your mental or emotional health.
  • If you will take prescription medication while abroad, check that it will be legal and available in your host country. Develop a plan for ensuring you will have an adequate supply while abroad.
  • Seek help if your emotional or mental health deteriorates.
  • Keep an eye out for friends who may be struggling.

If You Need Help:

  • On-site support - Many programs have on-site resources available to assist students who are experiencing difficulties during study abroad. Check with your host institution or program provider for local support.
  • Telus Health Student Support (THSS) –  All KU students have 24/7 access to multilingual mental health and wellbeing support provided by a licensed clinician by phone or chat. THSS also offers an on-demand content library covering a variety of health and wellbeing topics and virtual fitness classes.
  • AIG Travel Guard Global Assistance Services – AIG will provide referrals to mental health providers in your location abroad.
  • KU Study Abroad – Check in with your KU Study Abroad program coordinator for additional resources and support.

Additional Resources

Many common medications, including Adderall, Prozac, Ritalin, Xanax, Ativan and Sudafed are banned or controlled substances in certain countries abroad.  If you regularly take prescription pain medication, stimulants, steroids, sedatives or injectable medications you will need to research the drug laws in your destination country and ensure that the medication is legal for personal use abroad. 

In addition, you should consult your physician and insurance company to ensure you have an adequate supply of medication to cover you for the duration of your international travels.  If your insurance company will only cover a few months of your prescription at a time and this isn't enough for your term abroad, call the company to request an exception. A copy of your acceptance from the KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement or your program provider will often assist your appeal.

When traveling with prescription medications:

  • Keep medications in their original labeled bottles.
  • Travel with proper documentation such as written prescriptions for all medication you take abroad.
  • Travel with medications in your carry-on luggage.
  • Do not share your prescription medications with other people.
  • Do not have prescriptions mailed to you. If medications are lost or stolen, contact AIG Travel Guard and KU Study Abroad for assistance.
  • For assistance in determining if your medication is available in your destination country, contact AIG Travel Guard.

Additional Resources

All students traveling internationally are encouraged to complete a Travel Health Consultation from a clinician at Watkins Health Services Travel Clinic (this is required for students traveling to higher-risk locations).  The travel health consultation provides an excellent opportunity to discuss your personal health as well as conditions specific to your host country and to international travel.  Because several weeks may be required to complete an immunization series, travel health consultations should be scheduled a minimum of 6-8 weeks before departure.


To schedule your individual travel health consultation, call Watkins Health Services Travel Clinic at 785-864-9507.  Watkins Health Services Travel Health consultations are  free for students who have paid the required health fee for the current term. Immunizations or other tests required before travel are subject to additional charges. Students can visit with the Watkins Health Serivces business office to check pricing for recommended testing or immunizations and to enquire about insurance coverage for these items.  Visit the Watkins Health Services Travel Health site for additional details.

Should you prefer, you are also able to fulfill this requirement through an appointment with your personal physician.  Students electing this option must ensure the Travel Health Consultation Form (.pdf)  is signed by their personal physician and returned to Study Abroad & Global Engagement before they depart on their study abroad program (the Travel Health Consultation Form is not needed for students who meet with Watkins Health Services Travel Clinic). 

Learn more about Coronavirus and see updates on study abroad and university-affiliated international travel during COVID-19.