Going abroad with a long term condition/illness?

I have hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) & I am wondering if anyone has any experience of doing a year abroad with a long term health condition? Like, medication, problems etc.? Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

This question was asked on 20th June 2015 and has been read 2156 times.

  • Hannah Roberts · 7 years ago


    I've just come back from my year abroad. I suffer from chronic migraine and manage it mostly with medication. First thing I would say is if your home uni isn't aware of your condition, you should tell them for a number of reasons - 1) it may be that your condition ends up affecting your year abroad and they need to be aware in case you have to leave for medical reasons (even if you don't think that this will happen, it can. I never thought my condition would affect me in a million years but I ended up having to leave Italy early because of it) 2) it can affect your insurance policy with them 3) they can provide you with access to a university occupational therapist (again, even if you've never seen one in your life, it's a good idea to, especially if your uni has one because they can give you lots of good advice about what to do about your medication etc - without my occupational therapist I wouldn't have been half as prepared as I was!) If you don't have access to that, however, it's not the end of the world. The most important thing is that if you take medication, you need to sort this out in advance of you starting your year abroad. Organise an appointment with your GP and explain to them what's happening and that you're concerned about what to do with your prescription while you're there (posting it to another country is never ever a good idea). If you've been on the medication for a while, they're usually happy to give you a 3 month prescription (this is the maximum the NHS will usually allow) so that you don't have to keep coming home for it. If they absolutely won't let you have that amount, then (this probably isn't entirely ethical but whatever) try and stockpile more medication before you go, so for example getting a prescription sooner than you need to just so you've got a larger supply that'll last you longer. I wouldn't recommend changing doctors or trying to get a GP in your host country, because it's just not worth the hassle, medications in other countries can be ridiculously expensive (something I pay £8.40 on the NHS for is £70 in Italy!) and they might not even use your type of medication at all, so it won't be available to you. Another good idea is, if you've got people visiting you, if you can't get home get someone to pick up your prescription for you (if it's not on a repeat prescription, try and get one so you can order it without having to go into the doctors) and bring it out to you.

    I think this part depends on what uni you're at but honestly one of the best things to do is keep your uni informed of your medical condition. If anything changes, they need to know, because if you don't tell them things - say for example if your condition starts to worsen and you just suddenly return home without going through the proper channels - it can have a big effect on your degree. Have a list before you go of the people you should email if you do get into difficulty with it. I had to come back from Italy because my migraines were getting too bad and wouldn't stop, and the uni were okay with it because they'd been made aware of my condition before I'd left Italy. Just make sure they are aware it may be a possibility for you (however small). 

    As far as actually functioning with a medical condition, you just need to look after yourself in the same way as you would in your home country. The way it'll affect your YA depends on what triggers your condition, so for me travelling is a massive migraine trigger (not great on a YA really!) but even though I ended up suffering a bit some days, I still travelled a lot because I didn't want to waste the experience and I'm glad I didn't let it get in the way of too much - I think sometimes it can be worth the pain. At the same time though, there were days where I couldn't do anything and felt terrible and had to miss out on a few things. Don't feel under pressure if you're having a bad day with it and need to have a bit of time to recover and don't feel like you've failed if you need to go home for a bit of respite. You know your condition so you'll know what the best way to handle it is, I'm sure! The main thing to remember is to sort everything before you depart and have a plan for the year so you know what you're doing - don't try and sort medical things last minute because it doesn't always run smoothly and may take more doctors appointments or phone calls or forms than you expect.

    The most important thing to know is that you can still have an amazing YA even if you have a long term condition (it's worth me saying that the reason I left was only in the last month, because of some building work under my flat that made my migraines unbearable because of the noise - everything else was fine!) Good luck and make the most of your good days!

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