How to Prepare for Study Abroad

By Sarah Kohl, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Chartiers/McMurray Division



“Guess what Mom…I’m going to Brazil!”

Your daughter (or son) gushes with excitement as she recounts how she was chosen for a 2-month study abroad program at her school.

You’re thrilled for her; she’s worked hard to get into this program. But there is that nagging worry.  How will you help her get ready?

Your mind swirls with thoughts: Will she be safe? Does she need any shots? And why isn’t her college providing any information about the preparation?

What should you do? Fortunately there are lots of resources to help her (and you) prepare for the trip.


College Resources

Many colleges offer classes in preparing for study abroad experiences. Encourage her to attend. Ask her if she would be willing to share the information with you, just so that you could learn more about what she has chosen (and put your mind to rest).

Typically colleges won’t share much with you — that’s up to your daughter to do. It’s a bit frustrating when you are paying the bills to be left out. But think of this as a great opportunity for your daughter to become more responsible for her education and her health.


Internet Resources

There are many terrific websites to help your daughter prepare for this exciting opportunity:

Centers For Disease Control — The first place to check is the CDC traveler’s health page. {} Does your child need any immunizations? Hopefully all her vaccines, including the flu shot, are up-to-date. But maybe she needs a travel vaccine? The website also has links to informative articles about staying healthy, local diseases, and preventative measures.

State Department — Will she be safe? The U.S. State Department has a wonderful resource chock full of helpful tips, designed just for the student traveler. {} It’s particularly important to register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), just in case there is an emergency, so the State Department will know where she is and be ready to help if needed. {}


Travel Health & Evacuation Insurance

This is one of the most underused travel health aides. These inexpensive insurance policies protect you from the high cost of healthcare in the event that she gets sick or injured, and especially if she needs to come home.

Most health insurances don’t work abroad, and if they do, they require you to pay first and reimburse you afterwards. This becomes a big problem if an air ambulance is needed, with a typical cost of $30,000-50,00 upfront.

You can search Google for travel health insurance providers. They have simple forms and you pay only for the time she is traveling. {}


Healthcare Resources

What about staying healthy? Does she need vaccines or medications? Schedule an appointment with your daughter’s healthcare provider. The team at Pediatric Alliance is ready to help her by reviewing ‘routine’ vaccines, providing travel vaccines, and prescribing any needed travel medications.

Most importantly, we are ready to help your daughter learn how to manage her own health while away from the safety net of her family and American healthcare.  This is particularly important if your daughter has asthma, diabetes, food allergies or other health issues.

The pre-travel appointment will give you peace of mind knowing that your daughter is able to concentrate on her studies instead of worrying about her health when studying abroad.

What initially seemed so overwhelming is now manageable. Encourage your daughter to use all the helpful resources available to her so that she can have the best trip possible.


  • Start by enrolling in the college’s educational programs.
  • Augment this by researching the destination on the CDC traveler’s website to learn what is recommended to stay healthy.
  • Learn helpful safety tips from the State Department webpage for students abroad.
  • Address certain safety needs by enrolling in the STEP program.
  • Purchase Travel health insurance with evacuation. It provides that peace of mind: If anything were to happen, help is available.
  • Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your Pediatric Alliance provider. We are happy to help your daughter make sure she is equipped to mange her own health care while on her own.


Imagine the joy of being able to get caught up in the excitement of your daughter’s trip without that gnawing dread in your stomach. You can relax knowing that she will be safe and healthy because you have done your homework.



Read more about preparing yourself and your family for domestic and international travel at Dr. Kohl’s TravelReadyMD blog here.