Mental Wellness While Away

Dear students who are looking to take care of their mental wellness, we are here to applaud you and support your needs! Some students might feel like their mental health might inhibit their ability to handle participating in a study abroad or away program, or might feel that they may become burdened with mental health issues while they are gone. If you are a student with current mental health needs or a student concerned with the implications that participating in a study abroad or away program might have on your mental health, please know that you are not alone and that you have support both before you go and while you are away.


Therapy and Counseling

If you are a student currently receiving assistance for your mental wellness and are considering participating in a study abroad or away program, you should speak to your professional mental health care provider about studying away. If you are a student not yet receiving support or assistance for your mental wellness needs yet, consider reaching out to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)  here at UCSC. You can prepare for your time away by beginning counseling sessions either on-campus or getting a referral for an off-campus therapist. You can decide with your current mental-health care provider if you should continue seeking support while on your study abroad or away and begin a plan to search for therapists in the local area while you will be living away. If you choose to continue seeking support while away, you can request that your current health care provider offer a report to your next therapist so you can continue receiving treatment. 

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Health Insurance

Per the Affordable Health Care Act, all people permanently residing in the U.S. must have domestic health insurance, even while they are out of the country. If you don’t have domestic health insurance, you may be charged a fee. You must continue receiving coverage either by UC SHIP or a private health care provider. This insurance will cover you only while you are in the U.S., though it is required by federal law to have it even while away from the country. 

International Health Insurance

While you will have a domestic health care coverage plan, you will also have an international health care plan. You have the option of receiving the one provided to you by UCSC Study Abroad, your program provider or seek your own by another third-party provider. All other health care needs not met by the international health care coverage must be paid out of pocket. You should check to see what mental health services may or may not be covered and from there make a decision about what other support you may need to cover your mental wellness. Do note that your international health care will only cover your health care needs while outside of the U.S.

Types of International Health Insurance Based by Program Provider

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Study Abroad or Away Doesn’t Have to be International: Programs in the U.S. 

If you feel that international experience would be unaccommodating to your mental wellness needs, do know that there are also study abroad or away programs in the U.S. to choose from. Such programs include those designed for all UC Students during the academic year: UCDC, UC Sacramento,  UC Ecology and Natural Reserves Program, and the UC Intercampus Visitor Program. UCSC offers USA Exchanges at universities in the U.S. There are also UC Summer Away options offered in the U.S. And lastly, there are some Independent Programs in the U.S. as well, including Spanish Studies Abroad in Puerto Rico, IES Abroad Summer Internship in New York City, CIS Abroad in Hawaii, and CIEE Summer Global Internships in Boston,  San Francisco, and New York. You should definitely check them out!

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Considerations for Mental Wellness When Choosing a Program

Location

  • Where do I want to go? 
  • Will the location serve my mental health needs?

Distance

  • How will I feel being far away from my loved ones?
  • In case of an emergency, will I have the people that I need around for the support I seek? 

Time difference

  • What will the time difference be between where I will be staying and back home?
  • How will I be able to stay in communication with my loved ones and/or mental health care provider?

Weather

  • What will the weather be like during my study abroad or away?
  • If I know that weather plays a particular role in my mental wellness, does where I am looking to go offer the weather conditions that I need in order to thrive?
  • If weather conditions might inhibit my mental wellness while there, what are some ways I can seek extra support under these weather conditions?

Activities

  • What extracurricular activities will be expected of me during my study abroad or away program? 
  • How might these activities affect my mental wellness?

Medications

  • Is the medication I need to support myself legal in my study abroad or away destination?
  • What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have this medication taken with me? 
  • What do I need to have my doctor or health care provider prescribe me with enough medication to last me for my study abroad or away program? 
  • What are my options if I need more of the same medication? 
  • Where and how should I pack this medication?

Identities

  • How might my identities be perceived while away? 
  • How might this affect my everyday interactions with others? How might this affect my mental wellness?

Dietary Needs

  • What are the dietary norms in my study abroad or away location? 
  • If I have particular dietary restrictions or needs, how will that be perceived and supported?
  • Will I have the foods I need in order to sustain my mental wellness and overall well being? 

Cultural Differences

  • How will my pursuit of mental wellness be perceived while away? 
  • What are some cultural differences or factors that might affect my mental wellness?

Local Issues in the Study Abroad or Away Location

  • What are the current events in my study abroad or away locations that I should be aware of?
  • Based on my identities, will I feel safe and have the mental wellness support I need in my study abroad or away location?

Local Issues Back Home

  • How will issues occurring at home affect me while I am away? 
  • Who can I reach out to talk about these issues with?

Housing 

  • Will I be placed in a housing situation that will meet my accommodation needs? 
  • Will I be allowed to find my own housing situation? If so, will I have assistance in searching for housing?
  • If I will be placed with a host family, will they be understanding of my mental wellness and/ or accommodation needs? What can I do if they are not?

Host Institution 

  • Will the host institution accommodate my mental wellness needs? 
  • What will the learning experience and learning expectations be like?
  • What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have staff and professors recognize my accommodation needs?
  • Does the host institution have a disability resource center or a counseling and psychological services center?
  • Are there any organizations or clubs or resources as to where I can find community with my mental wellness needs?

Counseling and Medical Services

  • Does the health insurance I receive while I’m away cover additional counseling and medical services I may need?
  •  How can I continue my therapy sessions while away?
  • Where can I find a local therapist?
  • Where can I find a therapist in my dominant language?
  • What are my options for therapy and medical providers?
  • Does the host institution offer therapy sessions or medical services for their students at special rates? If so, do I qualify for these sessions or services?

Costs of additional accommodations and support

  • How will my financial aid packaging and DRC support accommodate these additional costs, or are they expected to be paid out of pocket?
  • Are there additional resources such as aid, grants, or scholarships I should look into to help fund these additional costs? 

Service animals

  • How does this country view service animals?
  • What are the protocols needed to have my service animal come with me?
  • Is it possible to have my service animal be recognized as one while away?
  • If possible, will my service animal be allowed on the host institution grounds?
  • If possible, what are the protocol and paperwork needed to have my service animal recognized as such at the host institution?
  • Will I be guaranteed housing in a place where service animals are accepted, or will I have to find my own housing?
  • How will I get my service animal to adapt to a new environment?

These are just some of the many different concerns that may come up when you are beginning your study abroad or away journey. You may consider using all of these points when it comes to choosing a particular country or program you are interested in studying in. You can also speak to a UCSC Study Abroad Advisor to discuss these important subjects. 

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Student Perspectives

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