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Mental Health Abroad

(See also: Accessibility Abroad; as anyone with a diagnosed mental health condition may be eligible for disability accommodations support)
Students who have experienced mental health concerns can have healthy and rewarding experiences while studying abroad, but it is important to do an honest self-evaluation, have a coping plan, and plan in advance for support resources while on study abroad or away, as mental health supports can vary greatly from country to country and site to site.
Augsburg students who have experienced mental health issues and are considering study abroad are encouraged to meet with their mental health therapist or other provider, and/or with a therapist from the Center for Wellness and Counseling on campus.  A therapist can help you develop a coping and support plan for your time abroad. 

Steps to Take

  1. Ask Thoughtful Questions
  2. Research Your Host Country
  3. Identify Resources Available
  4. Discuss Your Study Abroad Plans


It is most helpful to reflect on these questions with support – talk it through with a supportive parent and/or trusted friend, as well as with your mental health care provider.
  • Have I been able to manage my mental health symptoms so that I have been able to successfully complete my academic coursework here at Augsburg?
  • Will my mental health symptoms possibly/likely increase as a result of studying abroad (for instance, due to transition stress, traveling stress, sleep issues from time changes, stress of cultural adjustment, or stress of being away from my usual supports)?
  • Do I think I will need to see a mental health counselor in person regularly while abroad?  Is this available at the sites I am considering? How can I find out?
  • Do I think I will need to have access to a physician or psychiatrist who can adjust my mental health medications while abroad?  (Note:  Even if you have been stable on your medications, the stress of study abroad might impact symptoms that would benefit by an adjustment to your medications.  Typically, your US provider will not provide these types of services while you are abroad.)
  • Will my mental health condition prevent me from participating in any excursions or activities?
  • How do I cope with my mental health and stay healthy while I am here at Augsburg?  Will I be able to continue these healthy coping strategies while on study abroad?  If not, will I be able to replace them with new coping strategies?
  • Have I experienced any safety issues due to my mental health in the past couple of years?  Will I have access to the supports I need if my safety issues should come up again while on my program?
  • If I have had a life-threatening mental health disorder, such as anorexia or a suicidal crisis, have I been stable for a significant length of time, and does my current therapist have any concerns about my studying off campus?
  • How will I plan ahead to manage my mental health before going abroad?  (Prioritizing your mental health in the months leading up to your study abroad program can help you have a better chance of coping with the transition.)
  • Will I disclose my mental health concerns to either my program or the Study Abroad Office? 
    • Health conditions and/or disability considerations are not factored into application decisions.  However, it is important that you think about these considerations early in the process, even before acceptance into the program.  Our first priority is to help you have a safe and positive experience abroad!
  • Will I disclose my mental health condition to my host family or roommates?  To my friends abroad?  If so, what would be most helpful for me to tell them, and ask of them in terms of support?
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  • Explore program options on our website, considering the questions listed above.
  • How are people with my mental health condition viewed in my host country?
  • Research the country that you plan on studying in, and identify if there are any special risk factors for your mental health (for example, if you are a person of color or identify as LGBTQIA, is it likely that the country you are thinking about studying in will be a less stressful, or more stressful environment in terms of overt racism, homophobia, and/or daily micro-aggressions).
  • If you are taking a prescription medication for your mental health, make sure to research how you will access this medication abroad. Start this process early!
    • First, talk with your prescribing physician well in advance about getting the supply you need for going abroad. You can also contact EIIA insurance to find out if your medication is available and/or covered while abroad. You will want to bring an adequate supply in the original container, and a prescription with your physician's explanation of the condition and the generic and brand names of the medication and dosage information.
    • Check with the embassies of the countries you expect to visit to make sure your medications are not illegal there. For more information visit Mobility International’s medications tip sheet.  Note that some ADHD medications are not legal in some countries. 
    • Do not plan on sending medications abroad since it will require customs paperwork and may be delayed in delivery.
    • Video: Prescription medication abroad.
  • Think about how you will answer questions about your mental health in the language of your host country. Look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
  • Research how to support yourself in dealing with any time difference and jet lag, in terms of when to take your medication (if you are taking a daily medication), and how to quickly get back on a normal sleep schedule (as a dysregulated sleep schedule can sometimes lead to an increase in mental health symptoms).  Discuss this with your medications provider.
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Identify Resources

CGEE Resources: On-Campus Resources for Augsburg Students:
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  • Discuss your study abroad plans with your current mental health provider (or with a counselor at the Center for Wellness & Counseling, if you do not have a current or recent provider).  Ask them to help you reflect on the questions noted above, and put together a wellness plan that you can use to manage your mental health while studying abroad. 
  • Discuss your study abroad plans with your Study Abroad Advisor and ask them about mental health resources available at the program locations you are considering.  To better help you prepare, please contact us as early as possible.
  • Talk to a Study Abroad Advisor about talking with returnee students who can tell you about their experiences traveling and living with a mental health issue while abroad. 
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