It is important for program participants to begin planning for their international experience early. Adequate preparation can give peace of mind and ease the adjustment to a new environment. In addition to the information provided below, all program participants will receive an online pre-departure handbook outlining best practices for maintaining good health and safety. Additionally, all participants on credit-bearing programs must attend an on-campus, pre-departure orientation in which our professional staff will review topics related to health and safety.
All program participants are encouraged to visit the CDC's website before departure to educate themselves on healthcare issues they may encounter during their time abroad. Additionally, all students enrolled in UK Travel insurance should register through the AXA portal and familiarize themselves with how to use the site in case any medical needs arise while abroad. Instructions as to how to do this are listed below.
Self-Disclosure Form. All applicants are asked to complete a Self-Disclosure Form as part of the application process. The purpose of the Self-Disclosure Form is for the participant to note any health-related needs that the UK Education Abroad staff should be aware of so that appropriate support may be provided. The type and extent to which accommodations can be provided on-site and the availability of certain medications will vary by country and program. Therefore, it is important for all participants to work with the Education Abroad staff well before departure to ensure that any needs or accommodations can be met while abroad. (All EA application materials are kept confidential in accordance with FERPA.)
Immunizations. Students can choose from multiple campus resources when preparing to go abroad, including travel abroad health services from both University Health Service [PDF] and the University of Kentucky Health Care Travel Clinic. (Make sure to bring your vaccination history with you to your visit!) Generally, visitors to either clinic will need to pay for vaccines up front and file claims for reimbursement with their insurance company. It is essential that students work with their insurance company before their visit to be sure of what will and will not be covered.
University Health Service, located at the Kentucky Clinic on S. Limestone, offers country-specific counseling, physicals, vaccinations (including yellow fever), prescriptions and some insurance information to students. UHS recommends scheduling appointments at least 4-6 weeks prior to traveling. In order to avoid paying an office visit fee, students MUST visit UHS during the spring or fall term, while their student health fee is active.
The University of Kentucky Health Care Travel Clinic is located at UK HealthCare at Turfland, which is at 2195 Harrodsburg Road. The clinic offers services to meet the medical needs of anyone preparing to travel abroad. All visits are charged a $65 consultation fee, which is discounted for groups of two or more. The full-service travel clinic provides immunizations and country-specific medical advice, as well as post-travel screening and evaluation, upon request.
Medical Preparation. To make the most of their time abroad, participants need to manage existing and unanticipated health conditions in faraway places where finding a doctor and explaining their symptoms should not be left to chance. The AXA portal provides access to hundreds of pre-approved healthcare providers worldwide, as well as additional destination-specific health and safety information. Participants with pre-existing conditions are advised to contact AXA well in advance of their departure, as access to prescription drugs and treatment for specific healthcare concerns may be more difficult to access abroad than in the U.S. AXA should be able to work with participants to manage these concerns before students arrive on-site.
Participants are urged to register for the Mercer Campus Travel Assistance portal PRIOR TO DEPARTURE! (Please refer to this document for detailed instructions on how to log in). Additionally, it would be helpful to read this Medical Preparation Checklist, as it contains medical and health information designed to minimize risks to participants' health abroad.
Current Event & Local Conditions. Participants should familiarize themselves with current events in their destination region through local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations. Participants are strongly encouraged to visit the portal provided by AXA in coordination with Mercer Campus Travel’s Assistance to learn about safety issues in the area to which they will be traveling. (See previous paragraph to learn how to log in.) The U.S. Department of State web site also maintains a useful website with safety-related and other information. Additionally, the State Department has a “Smart Traveler” app that a traveler can use on a Smart Phone while abroad. Additionally, this app provides a link to enroll in the Department's free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so the State Department can better assist the traveler in an emergency.
Travel Documentation. Students should leave copies of their itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends so that participants can be contacted in case of an emergency. Participants should confirm that at least one family member has a passport to ensure that family member can travel abroad in the event of an emergency related to the student.
Adhering to Local Law. Laws vary from country to country, and anyone who visits a country will be held accountable to local law. Participants should take time to educate themselves about the laws of the countries in which they are visiting, as legal protection in most other areas of the world is not the same as that of the U.S., and ignorance of the law will not be accepted as an excuse. Participants are also subject to the rules and policies of any hosting institution. Additionally, even while abroad, UK students are expected to respect the UK Code of Student Conduct. Violation of local law, institutional rules and polices, or the Code of Student Conduct may result in expulsion from the program and thus, the loss of academic credit, financial aid and scholarships, and program fees.
Cultural Adjustment. Part of an education abroad experience is being immersed in a culture different from one’s own. This experience is often very rewarding and can promote greater independence, resourcefulness, and appreciation for things outside what's encountered in everyday life at home. It can also be stressful to encounter so many new or different experiences at once. It's important to understand that acclimating to a new environment will take time and that initial feelings wear off into a more balanced mind-set.
It will take some participants more time than others to get used to a new culture. Knowing this, participants should be patient and allow themselves to adapt naturally. Putting unrealistic expectations on oneself can lead to greater discomfort and increased stress. Participants should strive to get enough rest and exercise to lessen stress and to stay healthy. Keeping in touch with friends and family and continuing activities that are enjoyed are all ways to help one’s body and mind cope with the stress and discomfort of culture shock. However, “moderation” in communication with those back home, especially during the initial adjustment period, is recommended. Students need to participate in the “here and now” of the experience, and commitments to communicate with those back home at a certain time each day, for example, may take away from the ability to do that. Additionally, excessive communication can actually worsen homesickness and delay adjustment to the new environment. Prior to departure, students should work with those back home to set reasonable expectations as to communication.
Local Attitudes on Diversity. Participants should also attempt to understand regional and local attitudes on issues such as dress, alcohol consumption, religion, gender roles, sexual orientation and so on well before the start of their program. Please take a moment to review our brochure series on diversity issues and education abroad.
For additional resources on preparation, please consult:
UK Education Abroad Resources:
Education Abroad Resource Center (315 Bradley Hall)
Host Program Resources (e.g., UK Partner, UK Consortia)
Education Abroad Peer Ambassadors (available for walk-in appointments, 9-4 M-F)
UK Campus-wide Resources:
UK Counseling Center
UK Disability Resource Center
UK Office of LGBTQ Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of State: Students Abroad