Advice for College Students Studying Abroad, and Their Parents

Any student with a medical problem, of course, should bring along relevant records, should ask about the availability of specialists if they’re needed, and should perhaps see if a home doctor would be willing to be called by a foreign doctor if problems arise.

A student who needs academic accommodations should make sure that those are arranged for the new setting. And a student who has benefited from regularly seeing a counselor should find out what will be available abroad, and if the counselor works in the college health system, should consider getting a specific referral and introduction.

Anyone on prescription medications, especially for mental health indications, should think through carefully the complexities of bringing an adequate supply, and should not take for granted that the same products will be available abroad. For example, medications for attention deficit hyperactivity may not be available for people over 18 in European countries.

I promise, none of these questions will be surprising or new to any college or university health system in a school that regularly sends students abroad.

And then — yes, you knew it was coming — there’s the alcohol issue. Many American students feel, rightly, that they get lumped into a cliché of too-much-drinking, especially by the European press. But it is also true that for some, being in a place where they are suddenly of legal drinking age presents temptations. It’s worth a conversation about drinking as an adult, in accordance with your family values and standards.

It’s also true that any city with many foreign students is likely to foster a certain number of not necessarily savory establishments catering in particular to those students. These are often the places where the ill-intentioned and the predatory hang out, looking for victims.

And remember — you know this, but I have to remind you — that after age 18, your child is entitled to full medical confidentiality under HIPAA. It’s up to you to discuss, ahead of time, how much you want to be in the loop if there are illnesses and problems, because it will be up to your child to contact you directly, when the time comes, or to give permission.