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9 Tips for Studying Abroad With Chronic Pain

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This past January I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Here are a few tips I have come up with to help make studying abroad easier.

1. Make sure you have enough medicine to get you through the trip and for a few days afterwards.

The last thing you want is to run out of your medicine while on a trip, especially if you are out of the country. Make sure you have enough to make it through the trip and have some extra. I recommend the extras just in case your flight back home gets delayed or cancelled. There is no telling how the weather is going to be; there could be a freak snowstorm, thunder and lightning or high winds that will cause your flight to be delayed or cancelled.

2. Have a note from your doctor stating you need the prescriptions.

I carried a note with my medications from my doctor stating which prescriptions I needed and why I needed them. I never needed the note but it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when you are out of the country.

3. Carry a medical card with you everywhere you go.

This is something else I always carried with me and fortunately never needed. Any chronic illness is unpredictable; you can be fine one minute and not the next. I had a medical card that said my name, medical problems, medications and emergency contacts (including my doctor). If I had to go to the hospital while I was there, they would have been able to look at the card and do what they needed to do.

4. Always keep your medications on you.

Always keep your medications with you even if you don’t think you will need them. I carried mine in my backpack so I always had access to them because like I said earlier, chronic illnesses are unpredictable. The last thing you want is to be in a situation where you need your medicine but don’t have it.

5. Keep any medical supplies in your carry-on bag.

Although it doesn’t happen often, airports sometimes lose your luggage and you may not get it back for a while. Keep your medical supplies in your carry-on just in case this happens so you know you will have them with you if you find yourself in that situation.

6. Always have water and snacks with you.

I never left the hotel without filling up my water bottle and grabbing a few snacks. Being in a third world country, we were told not to drink the water so we always bought bottles of water and filled our reusable bottles at the hotel’s water cooler. This way, my sugar would not drop, I would be able to take my medications and I would be able to stay hydrated.

7. Wear comfortable shoes.

We did a lot of walking and hiking so I was glad I had my comfortable sneakers and hiking boots with me. I also brought flip-flops with me for when we went to the beach and went snorkeling. It would also be wise to bring waterproof shoes with you for when you’re in the water so you don’t have to worry about stepping on anything.

8. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you need a break.

If you need a break, tell someone. You don’t want to continue to push when you’re already hurting because it will get worse unless you take a break.

woman standing next to marker for zero degrees latitude in ecuador

9. Live in the moment, don’t hold back and have fun.

This is the most important tip. Do not let your illness hold you back. Live in the moment and have fun because that’s what you’re there for. Be safe and take care of yourself, but have fun, because these are often trips of a lifetime.

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Originally published: March 10, 2017
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