It was typical for Jennifer Smith* to meander through different wards of the nearby hospital in Ghana where she volunteered after the day’s classes. But on one less-than-typical day, in the children’s ward, she saw her post-college plans snap into focus where they had once been hazy.
Most recently, Linea spent a week in Kerala, India, observing a local community mental health team, which was coordinated through Linea’s mental health advocacy mentor.
“I had never been to a developing nation before, and I went in with my American mindset that perhaps there was something that I could teach them. Perhaps there was, but I learned so much from them.”
When traveling internationally, you may need electrical converters/adaptors for respiratory equipment. Also airline personnel may request detailed information about its operation and use. Know your settings and how to do basic setup and problem-solving, and learn other tips for traveling safely.
Once he made the decision to go, traveling from the United States to the United Kingdom for graduate study in technology policy seemed fairly straightforward for Paul Monroe – until it came time to figure out how two different health systems would cover the same (expensive!) treatments he used back home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Navigating local educational institutions, health care systems, or border customs are not always easy to understand. Differences in treatments, rules about importing medications, and varying definitions of disability can compound the confusion.
Dr. Jack Godwin has made international education his life mission. He is changing the assumption that it’s just about one study abroad experience as an undergraduate. Throughout his professional career as a university administrator, he has participated in the U.S. Department of State-sponsored J. William Fulbright Program to different countries every few years.
While an international experience is voluntary, he finds those who choose it to be most interesting.
In the cafeteria lunch line of the Cité Scolaire Albert Camus, I stood between two high school teachers and a small group of giggling junior high girls who recognized me as “elle,” or “her”— the American girl who was spending a year as an English language assistant. Shyly, one of the girls dared to test out her English skills, and tentatively offered a greeting, “Hello?”
With a deep-fried scorpion staring at me from the end of my chopsticks, I couldn't help but think how this delicacy in China would stump even my best diabetes doctors in the United States. How much insulin does my body require for a scorpion?!
In Italy, my friend Neika always did the haggling for me. Left to my own devices, the shopkeepers would have taken me for thousands. She was skilled at bargaining and probably the reason I came home with so many delightful souvenirs and jewelry from Venice.
It is not just with bargaining that I have trouble “putting myself out there.” Despite my tendency to shy away from things, I have always had very big plans for myself. Early in high school, I realized that I wanted to travel extensively, earn a PhD degree, and live an adventurous life.
Participants who receive funding for a personal assistant through Medicaid or other government support are not able to use that funding once outside their home country. Travel insurance companies typically do not pay for personal assistants for daily care overseas or durable medical equipment that is not related to a first occurrence of an illness or injury overseas.
Since these costs are unlikely to be covered for people with existing needs, exchange programs or institutions should work with a participant to cover the costs.
If you are a Medicaid recipient, you may be dropped from enrollment in the medical plans if you do not keep a U.S. state residence or address or if you lose your SSI eligibility (see our tipsheet on "SSI, SSDI & International Exchange" for more). Loss of enrollment creates a gap of coverage upon return home from traveling abroad, especially if the travel health insurance does not cover you in your home country.
Know what options exist or how to plan for health coverage while on an exchange program if you have pre-existing conditions or need ongoing medications and treatment while abroad.
Plans offered to international exchange participants for less than a year of coverage are not fully licensed products so changes to U.S. health laws through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) do not apply. These plans can increase costs, have pre-existing condition exclusions, or deny enrollment to an individual based on health status.
"I'll be away from family, away from the doctors, away from the security of my own surroundings. I truly have to find a way to 'survive' and know that I can do this alone," blogged Tracy Cherba in the time leading up to her departure for Peru, where she would soon be traveling with a group of her professional colleagues to volunteer in a Cross-Cultural Solutions program.
Use these at-a-glance tips for going abroad with specific chronic health or systemic health conditions, such as chronic fatigue to environmental sensitivities and more. Don't forget to browse our resource library for more detailed advice on many of these topics!
From health care coverage to stress-busters, prepare for issues that might arise when traveling with a chronic health condition.