Cathy Lizak
Contributing writer
last updated 09/01/2022

How can you prepare medically for a study abroad trip?

Tips for safe travel as an international student


At this time of year, students from across America are preparing for the life changing experience of studying abroad. You will gain an international awareness and will make friendships that will last a lifetime as you begin your journey into the world’s interconnected global economy. Preparations you make for this semester abroad will help create a less stressful and more rewarding experience.

Students have been busy honing up on local customs, practicing foreign language, setting up bank accounts for ease in transferring money, modifying cell phone accounts to work in their destination countries, ensuring their passports are extended through their time abroad, checking with CDC for any needed vaccinations and the like. But an often missed but essential preparation is medical insurance that covers medical evacuation in the event of a major accident or illness.

When you're studying abroad, it's important to have the right insurance in place. Of course, you need medical insurance in case of an emergency. Medical insurance is something everyone is familiar with, but, what if you want to get back home to access the medical services and providers with whom you are familiar? Can you afford medical transportation? Do you know what types of medical transportation are available? What about trip cancellation insurance or lost baggage protection? How do you know which type of student travel insurance is right for you? In this blog post, we'll discuss the different types of coverage available and why they may be right for you.

Let's start with medical coverage. Before setting out on your trip, take the time to investigate what services are covered by your current stateside medical policy. If you are not satisfied with your coverage check with your travel abroad program. Because travel abroad programs often require medical coverage for participants, they usually have information on medical insurance plans that are offered through providers that work specifically with study abroad students. The university itself may offer a health insurance plan.

Lastly, you do have the option of purchasing supplemental international medical insurance through a travel insurance company. Whichever policy you choose, be sure to do your homework. Some medical insurance policies will only cover you in only the event of an accident, while others will not cover any expenses if you are outside of the United States. Be sure to investigate where you would go for minor medical issues and how much you should expect to pay. Be sure to have insurance cards and documents relating to insurance available at all times. Because of time zone differences, be sure to have 24/7 contact number with you at all times and try calling the number before you travel.

Now, let's look deeper into medical insurance. All medical insurance policies, whether it is your home plan, one purchased through your university study abroad program, or through an international travel insurance company, are designed to cover the cost of medical expenses. However, not all medical insurance policies include medical transportation in their coverage!

Even though, they state they provide evacuation, many insurance policies will cover the cost of medical transportation but only to the closest facility which can offer you adequate care. For example, lets suppose you have purchased a basic travel insurance policy with medical coverage and are abroad studying in Italy. While in Italy, you decide to go for run but fall and break your leg. Your expenses will be covered to get you to the closest medical facility in Italy that can take care of your needs. Your expenses at the medical facility should be covered as well. But, if as a result of the your injury you have a full leg cast and you need full time care, this care may not be covered. And, if you decide it best to return home to family and physicians who can care for you, this transport most likely will not be covered either.

In this particular situation, because of your full leg cast you will not be able to fly commercially with a nurse assisting you. The cost of such a service would cost about $25,000 from Rome, Italy to New York, New York. But, because of your cast, the only way to transport you home will be by air ambulance. The approximate cost of an air ambulance from Rome, Italy to New York, New York is $90,000.

The best way to protect yourself is to be sure that you have insurance to cover the cost of medical transportation back to your home. This coverage is offered by travel insurance providers, but typically only as an upgraded policy. This coverage is usually the most expensive trip insurance policy, but is worth the additional cost for peace of mind.

Finally, depending on your study abroad contract it may be prudent to purchase supplemental coverage for such things as trip cancellation or lost baggage. Trip cancellation coverage allows for reimbursement for the cost of your trip if you have to cancel due to a medical emergency prior to your trip. In the event of lost luggage, lost baggage coverage makes you eligible for monetary reimbursement for the lost luggage. These coverages are offered by travel insurance companies. Again, read each policy carefully as not every policy will contain these coverages.

Traveling abroad can be one of the best experiences of your life, but it’s important to be prepared for a anything. That’s why it’s critical to have the right medical and supplemental insurances in place before you go.

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