Notre Dame travelers should carefully consider their personal health needs before traveling abroad. Most medical issues can be planned for and the information below can help you develop a personalized travel health plan to identify any issues and mitigate risk.
Pre-Departure Health Check Vaccinations Traveling with Medications International Health Insurance Medical Emergencies vs. Routine Medical Care Abroad Mental Health and Wellness Abroad Culture Adjustment Allergies and Dietary Restrictions Disabilities Food and Water Precautions Preventing Insect Bites Animal-borne Illness Extreme Heat and Sun Exposure
Prior to traveling abroad, check to ensure you are in the best health. Visit your doctor before travel if you have routine or chronic health conditions - especially those with lengthy stays, traveling to remote areas or developing countries, seeing physicians regularly, or on prescription medications. Consider making an appointment with the University Health Center (students) or Wellness Center (faculty and staff) for a pre-travel health check.
The CDC recommends being up-to-date on routine U.S. vaccines and obtaining all required vaccinations for your destination(s). Since many vaccines and preventative medicines must be started well in advance of travel (some require a series or spacing for protection), consider making an appointment with the University Health Center (students) or Wellness Center (faculty and staff) to understand any immunization recommendations or requirements for your destination(s).
- Review the CDC country information for travel health notices and vaccination requirements for your destination(s).
- Remember, some countries require travelers to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (yellow card or book), or other proof that they have had certain vaccinations before entering or transiting their country. Whether or not to obtain recommended vaccines or preventative medicines is a personal decision and should be made in consultation with a medical professional.
- Pack a copy of your immunization record in case of a health emergency.
- Share a copy of your immunization record with your emergency contact.
Certain prescribed and over-the-counter medications in the U.S. may not be available or may be illegal in other countries. Medications that are illegal may be confiscated by customs on arrival, if discovered, and there may be other serious consequences.
- For more information on traveling with medications, contact your health care provider or international health insurance provider. International health insurance providers like GeoBlue and On-Call International can provide the local language translations and brand names of your medications.
- If necessary, work with your physician to find an alternative before travel.
- Carry any necessary medication in your carry-on luggage. Try to bring enough for your entire time abroad, if possible. Sometimes insurance companies will only pay for a 30-day supply at a time, so be sure to discuss with your doctor if your trip abroad is longer than 30 days.
- Carry a letter from your physician that describes the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.
- Keep your medication in its original packaging and make sure the name on your passport matches your prescription case.
- Pack a copy of your prescriptions.
- Share a copy of your prescriptions with your emergency contact.
For more information on traveling with medications, please see the CDC.
- Pack a copy of your international health insurance card.
- Share a copy of your international health insurance card with your emergency contact.
All Notre Dame undergraduate students on Notre Dame-Sponsored International Travel are required to enroll in the university international medical assistance and insurance plan with GeoBlue insurance. Some undergraduate students traveling abroad will need to enroll with GeoBlue individually, while others traveling with university-sponsored programs should check with their program manager to determine if GeoBlue insurance is being purchased on their behalf.
Graduate and professional students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to obtain GeoBlue insurance coverage prior to traveling internationally on University-sponsored travel. Some graduate and professional programs may require GeoBlue insurance, so be sure to check with your program manager.
- Pre-departure phone consultations
- Appointment assistance, referrals and direct pay (arrange with GeoBlue ahead of time)
- Emergency treatments for accidents, illness and injuries
- Mental health services (counseling and therapy)
- Prescription medications
- Exclusions: scuba diving, sky diving, hang gliding, and bungee jumping
GeoBlue Contact Information:
- Inside the U.S.: +1-844-268-2686
- Outside the U.S.: +1-610-263-2847
- Undergraduate students are exempt from this requirement if they are traveling to their home country.
- The cost is $12-13 per week.
- Use this link and Notre Dame group access code: GQB-9847
- Your coverage dates should be your arrival and departure dates.
- Visit the GeoBlue website and download the app to learn about local health risks and to discover local medical providers, facilities, and services at your destination.
- Watch this video about the GeoBlue app.
- Online and app-based content includes:
- Medicine Equivalent Database: contains 6,800+ drug brand names and their equivalent in the event you need to provide a specific drug name during your travels
- Medical translation: help with medical terms and phrases in other languages
- Search for doctors in specific locations by specialty, language, and facility
Many Notre Dame graduate and professional students who travel abroad on Notre Dame-Sponsored International Travel have AETNA insurance, the university-sponsored insurance plan available through University Health Services. However, other graduate and professional students may have a health insurance plan from outside of the university.
AETNA Benefits Include:
- Pre-departure information
- Appointment assistance and referrals
- Medicine replacement assistance
AETNA/On-Call International Contact Information:
- In the U.S. or Canada: +1-866-525-1956 (toll-free)
- From anywhere in the world: 1-603-328-1956 (collect calls accepted)
- It is important to understand what costs you are responsible for upfront should you need medical support when abroad and how to seek reimbursement upon return.
- Students with AETNA should contact UHS to confirm coverage with AETNA for their international destination(s) and activities and obtain additional coverage through GeoBlue insurance if needed. AETNA Travel Assistance is provided by On-Call International.
- Students with a health insurance plan from outside of the university should contact their health insurance provider to confirm coverage for their international destination(s) and activities and obtain additional coverage through GeoBlue insurance if needed.
Many benefit-eligible faculty and staff are covered under the university-sponsored insurance plan. However, some faculty and staff may have a health insurance plan from outside of the university.
- Understand what costs you are responsible for upfront should you need medical support when abroad and how to seek reimbursement upon return.
- Faculty and staff under the university-sponsored health insurance plan should review the information on the Benefits While Traveling Abroad webpage (Office of Human Resources) before travel.
- Faculty and staff under a health insurance plan from outside of the university should contact their health insurance provider to confirm coverage for their international destination(s) and activities and obtain additional coverage through GeoBlue insurance if needed.
Seeking medical assistance abroad for a medical emergency vs. routine medical care should be handled differently based on severity:
- Call the 911 equivalent.
- If you can, go to the nearest hospital and have a colleague or on-site staff person call your insurance provider as soon as possible.
- Also call NDSP and your program contact for awareness.
Non-Emergency Medical Needs
- Call your insurance provider for a referral and to see if it is possible to arrange an appointment for you in advance.
- If you need to pay out of pocket for services, keep your receipts for reimbursement upon your return.
Everyone is impacted by travel differently, and there may be challenges to maintaining good mental health and overall wellness.
You may be already managing a condition. Sometimes this might be your first time away from home for a long period, immersed in a new and unfamiliar culture. You may miss family and friends and comfortable routines, and this can lead to homesickness, stress and/or anxiety.
These feelings are normal and natural when adjusting to some place new.
- Speak to your past or current therapist/ counselor/ physician and develop a wellness plan.
- Make an appointment at the University Counseling Center (UCC) to discuss strategies on how to best manage mental health needs abroad. Appointments at UCC as early as possible since they fill up quickly during peak travel periods.
- Check out the UCC’s self-help tools (i.e. TAO).
- Contact your health insurance provider to find a provider at your destination in advance.
PLEASE NOTE: Indiana Law prohibits counselors from offering services to students while abroad.
- Schedule regular appointments in advance with a provider.
- If your symptoms are overwhelming and preventing you from taking care of yourself or meeting your academic responsibilities, ask for help.
Wellness Tips While Abroad
- Take regular breaks to exercise or hang out with friends.
- Eat well and get enough sleep.
- Create a routine and try to stick to it.
- Get involved in your new community by joining clubs or common interest groups.
- Stay in touch with friends and family.
- Reach out to your on-site program coordinator or trusted local contact for help.
Culture shock or cultural adjustment can happen anywhere – even in English-speaking countries. Moreover, the cultural adjustment spectrum can range from cultural surprise to complete culture shock and elsewhere in-between.
- Cultural Surprise
- Culture Exploration
- Culture Stress
- Culture Adjustment
- Culture Fatigue
- Culture Shock
Tips for Adjusting to a New Culture
- Examine your expectations
- Expect things to be different
- Understand that things may be out of your control
- Try out different strategies to adjust
- Listen and observe
- Ask questions, seek clarification
- Keep an open mind
- Get involved in the community
- Explore your surroundings
- Interact with local students
- Reflect on your experiences as you go
- Express yourself: Journal, blog, take photos
- Remember you aren’t the only one feeling this way
Do you have any allergies? If yes, what are your reactions if exposed? How likely will it be to encounter these allergies at your destination? What steps will you take to minimize the risk of exposure and/or plan for treatment?
Do you have any dietary restrictions? How will you accommodate these restrictions abroad? Can you accommodate these restrictions at your destination? Are there any items you should plan to carry with you?
- Make your allergies and dietary restrictions known at your destination, preferably in advance of arrival.
- Learn how to say and write down your allergies and/or dietary restrictions in the local language.
- Not these on your emergency contact card in the event of an emergency.
If you usually receive accommodations coordinated through the Sara Bea Learning Center for Students with Disabilities, please ask them to share details of these accommodations with Notre Dame International so that arrangements can be made for you to have suitable support while abroad.
If you are not already working with the Sara Bea Center but think that you may need this additional support, please contact Notre Dame International to discuss your situation as early in the semester as feasible. We also recommend reviewing the CDC information, advice, and reference material on traveling internationally with a disability.
There is a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country. It may be advisable to drink bottled water only, especially on short trips. Always wash your hands with soap before eating, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Drink only water from a verified safe source. Avoid ice unless you know it has been made with clean water.
- Confirm you can brush your teeth with water from the faucet or if you must use bottled water.
- Vegetarian food is often safer than meat. Avoid shellfish, salads, ice cream, and un-peelable fruits and vegetables.
- Choose thoroughly cooked meals that are served hot from popular outlets. Avoid buffets.
- Avoid food sold by street vendors or other potentially unhygienic establishments.
- When you are feeling better, eat bland foods (i.e. plain rice, bread). Avoid grease and dairy.
- If you are worried, call your health insurance provider or emergency contact.
Insects, especially mosquitoes, ticks, and flies, spread disease. Since vaccines and preventative medicines are limited to only some diseases, consider the following if insect-borne illness is a concern at your destination(s):
Clothing and Fragrances
- Wear clothing that covers most of your body (long sleeves, long pants, socks). Wear socks and shoes that cover your entire foot. Tuck pant legs into socks for added protection. Stick to light colors as opposed to dark colors, which attract insects.
- Avoid walking in areas with tall grass. After walking through wooded areas, check yourself thoroughly for insects and bites.
- Avoid standing water, as these areas are mosquito breeding grounds.
- Certain times of day have increased risk of exposure, so be sure to research both the disease and destination for specific details.
- Insects are attracted to sweet odors. Avoid use of perfumes, scented soaps, deodorants and shampoos in risk areas.
Insect Repellents and Nets
- Apply insect repellent (20-35% DEET) to exposed skin. Reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Consider treating clothing with an insecticide. These are available as both soaks and sprays, and usually last through several washings. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- In high risk areas, use stronger “knock down” insect spray in sleeping quarters.
- Obtain a room with air conditioning, if possible. If not available, ensure your room has window screens. If neither are available, use a Permethrin-impregnated mosquito net. Be sure to read the handling instructions and tuck the net under the mattress for complete protection.
For more information, please review CDC information and advice on avoiding insect bites.
If possible, avoid stray and/or wild animals. Scratches and bites can cause infections and, more seriously, rabies. Consider the rabies vaccination for destinations where this is a concern. Please note that the rabies vaccination is not readily available worldwide.
If bitten, scratched or licked (on broken skin) by an animal:
- Immediately cleanse the wound with soap and water and a povidone-iodine solution, if available.
- Seek medical advice and notify local health authorities immediately to assess the need for rabies post-exposure vaccination, even if you have had pre-exposure vaccination.
For more information, please review CDC information and advice for being safe around animals.
Traveling in hot climates can make you sick, especially if you are not accustomed to the heat. Remember to do the following:
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing, a hat, and sunscreen.
- Try to schedule outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.
- Rest often, and try to stay in the shade when outdoors.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.