Being diagnosed with a disease has been a weird blessing in my life. It helped me figure out what I what to do for a career and it’s even led me to be part of an amazing nonprofit organization. But being sick has also given me limitations from living out some of the things I dreamt of doing my entire life.
One example my disease held me back from was studying abroad. Many college students study abroad for a semester; all of my best friends are abroad right now and I’m left to live vicariously through them. Now I know that there’s ways students with physical ailments can spend time overseas, but it’s not easy. I’ve been through it.
I had the opportunity to spend the summer of 2014 in London with my friend and her parents. I had the time of my life and there isn’t a day I don’t think about my incredible experience. Having a disease and preparing for such a big trip took a lot of effort, though.
If you have been diagnosed with a physical disability and want to study abroad, here’s my advice to prepare for your journey out of the country:
- Get your doctor’s approval. Obviously this one is a given, but it’s most important! Since my immune system is suppressed from the meds I take, I wasn’t allowed to leave the country for a while in order to protect my body from picking up weird viruses, etc. As my health improved, my wishes came true! Your doctors may give you some limitations that you won’t like to hear, but don’t complain; you’re lucky they’re letting you leave the country!
- Go to a country that can provide for you. It’s important that you go somewhere where medicine can be received in case of an emergency. Luckily London is filled with hospitals and great doctors, so that supported my doctor’s decision to let me travel.
- Have a hospital and doctor in mind in case of an emergency. My doctors made me research a hospital and doctor that could provide for me if I were to get sick while abroad. This may seem like a lot of work and that your chances of getting sick are low- I thought the same thing but actually ended up getting sick. It was such a relief knowing where to go and who to go to in a foreign country!
- Bring back-ups to your back-up meds. You never know what could happen, so it’s never a bad thing to be over-prepared, right?
- Have your doctor prescribe you an emergency antibiotic. I was prescribed a Z-Pak (Azithromycin) that treats a wide variety of bacterial infections. You’re in a foreign country, who knows what you could pick up. Again, it’s better to be over-prepared.
- Have a buddy system. It’s not a bad idea to have someone you’re traveling with be able to explain your conditions if you are unable to in an emergency.
- Be cautious of food! Other countries have different food regulations than we do in the U.S. I got terrible food poisoning from chicken while in London, I was more miserable than I was when first diagnosed with my kidney disease!
I hope that these seven tips help you prepare for your trip abroad if you do plan on traveling. Everyone deserves an unforgettable experience like I have!
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