Before you leave, you should be sure to have a complete physical examination. Your program may require you to do this. Some countries require proof of good health in order to be granted a visa. Other countries require certain vaccinations to enter the country. Some vaccinations must be given as much as 6 months in advance of your departure. All students should consult the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Homepage for further information about specific geographic health recommendations. The CDC can also be reached by calling toll-free 877-FYI-TRIP. The toll-free fax number for requesting information is 888-232-3299. (NOTE: Any information available by fax is also available on this web site.)
The Gettysburg College Health Center can answer many questions you have about preparing for a healthy program. You can contact the Health Center for an appointment by calling 337-6970.
If you currently take prescription medication, you will want to plan ahead for your semester abroad. Medication cannot be shipped to you from overseas.
Be sure to have your doctor in the U.S. write out any standard prescriptions which you use, citing the generic name and chemical composition of the medication. This includes your allergy medicine, gynecological prescriptions, etc. Oftentimes, medications have different names in other countries, but the generic name will help a doctor fill your prescription more easily, should you need more medication when you are abroad. You may also want to have your doctor prescribe substitute or alternate prescriptions in case your exact medication is not available overseas. You should also write down the generic name of your medication(s), as medical practitioners in other countries may not be familiar with brand names used in the US.
Some countries restrict certain medications entirely or limit the amount you can bring with you in-country. Be sure to confirm that your medication is allowed in country, and if so, how much you can have with you upon arrival. Additionally, be sure to always carry your medications in the official, labeled container you receive from the pharmacy.
Once you have met with your physician and obtained a prescription that will last for the duration of your stay abroad, contact both your pharmacy and insurance provider and alert them to your travel plans. Your pharmacy may need to verify the prescription with your physician, and in some cases special order your medication(s) so that it will be in stock just before you leave. When calling your insurance provider, ask for a “vacation override”. Once this override is put in place, you will be able to buy your prescription(s) at your normal monthly copay rate. If this is not done ahead of time, you may need to pay the out of pocket cost, which can be substantial. Be sure to make these arrangements at least two weeks before your departure, as the process can be complicated and lengthy.
People who have medical problems that are not easily recognized (diabetes, allergic reactions to antibiotics or bee stings, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.) might consider obtaining a medic alert identification tag. This tag is internationally recognized. Check with your doctor or hospital to see how to obtain one.
Health and Safety Information
Please take time to explore the links below. They provide a great deal of information on Health and Safety abroad. In addition, it is strongly recommended that students purchase Travel and Personal Property Insurance for their time abroad.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Traveler's Health
Health information on over 200 international travel destinations.
U.S. Department of State
Country-specific information on safety and security affecting American citizens abroad is provided by the State Department’s Consular Information Program.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
A free service provided by the U.S. government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP provides users with travel warnings and alerts, and allows users to receive routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Taking Medications Abroad
If you have a pre-existing medical condition for which you may require treatment or prescription medication while traveling, be sure to bring an adequate supply - in the original container - and a prescription with your physician's explanation of the condition and generic and brand names of the medication and dosage information.
Please note that some common prescription medications in the U.S. are illegal abroad. Check with the embassies of the countries you expect to visit to make sure that your prescription and over-the-counter medications are permissible. Carry all medications in your carry-on bag. If medical attention is required while in transit, please notify the nearest airline representative or airport employee as soon as possible.
Do not plan on sending medications abroad.
Be sure to maintain your usual dosage and pattern of taking your medication while you're abroad and ask your physician how to make adjustments due to time zone changes.
All study abroad participants should consult with a healthcare provider who specializes in travel medicine for accurate, up-to-date pre-travel advice. To find out what immunizations you may need, consult the Traveler's Health section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
It is preferable to plan to receive your immunizations well in advance of your departure. Many immunizations are given in stages. For example, you might require a series of shots over several months to acquire full coverage. Receiving your immunizations well in advance of departure also allows time for necessary treatment before your departure in the unlikely event you have an adverse reaction.
Additional information and International Certificates of Vaccination can be obtained from the World Health Organization. Be sure to let the health center or clinic know that you are inquiring about medical preparations for study abroad and advise what vaccinations you need when you make an appointment. Medical providers may need to order some vaccines and will need time to obtain them.
Some countries may require you to provide proof of your immunizations as part of the visa process or upon arrival. To supply this information, ask your physician to provide you with a list of shots you have received to date and other medical conditions. Carry this card with your passport while traveling.