“While my year abroad has had challenges I have been so lucky to see so many new countries and cities! I just got back from Finland where I got to experience a traditional Finnish sauna- spending time in a VERY hot sauna before jumping into a freezing lake. It may have been a little terrifying at first but just like my time abroad, it was incredible once I let myself enjoy it fully!" -Kira Nathan, alumn of the National Council of College Leaders
Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting experiences in college. It is an opportunity to learn about a new culture, and explore places that you have never visited before. Patients with IBD may feel like they can’t travel or study abroad due to limitations of their disease, like lifestyle, medication, and dietary needs. Although this can be daunting, it is important to know some useful tips that can make studying abroad a little less intimidating as you continue to manage your disease no matter where you are.
- Work with your doctor to schedule your medications around important travel dates. If you do need to take your medications abroad, talk to your doctor and healthcare team for suggestions on how you can get access, specifically biologics that require infusion.
- Consider the access to medication and doctors in the country you will use as a base! Discuss with your family and doctor the kind of and quality of medical treatment you will require while abroad to make sure you can be as healthy as possible to fully appreciate your new home.
- Know what foods you can and cannot eat. There are so many new foods to eat while abroad but it is also important to know where you can get foods that you tolerate well.
- Look into the bathroom access customs in the countries you visit! Sometimes there are public bathrooms that are free, and sometimes there may be bathrooms that require a small fee for use. Just as you may do at home, it’s important to know where the bathrooms are where you will be traveling.
- Find out if there are special vaccinations needed. Depending on the country you are traveling to, there may be additional vaccinations or medications needed to prevent infection.
But most importantly… HAVE FUN! Try new things and go on adventures! Take advantage of the incredible opportunity to explore!
Helpful tips as you prepare to study abroad with IBD:
- Prepare ahead of time by talking to your doctor about your travel plans
- Think about the medications you will need to take while you are away. There may be other resources that can assist you if you are taking medications through infusions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for help
- Always pack more than what you think you are going to need
- Write a list of your diet preferences and stick to those foods while abroad
- Manage stress by doing things that you enjoy
- Connect yourself with the nearest healthcare facility
- Be in contact with parents and family (keep them in the loop about how you are doing)
- Keep your lifestyle as routine as possible