When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system has a freak out and white blood cells start attacking the body’s tissues. However, I’ve never allowed my disease to take control of what I wanted to do in life. Exhibit A: Studying abroad in Costa Rica. That being said, there was a lot of preparation and work that went into planning my time abroad to ensure that I could maintain my health while still being able to enjoy my time in a different country. The process I went through is something I’d like to call “The Rx to Studying Abroad”.
One of the first things I did (before even choosing a program) was check the US CDC website to read about required vaccinations and certain precautions I may need to take while in Costa Rica. Luckily, there aren’t many serious health precautions in San José or Costa Rica as a whole, but this information is extremely helpful when you need to go in and talk to your doctor or healthcare specialist. Speaking of which, I had to set up multiple appointments with my rheumatologist at least 5 months in advance of leaving to tell them where I was going, start the process of getting all of the prescriptions I would need, and see what other steps they suggested I take before I left and while abroad to stay healthy. I even checked in with my program to let them know about my condition and see what kind of healthcare would be available to me in San José if something were to happen. Luckily, my program has health insurance built into the cost and they let my host family know about my condition before I arrived.
Now that I’m here, I realize how extremely important it is to check in with yourself. That sounds really cheesy but it’s the truth. Do it. Try it now! I mean, I know my body better than anyone and how I feel from moment to moment and I’m sure you do too. For that reason, it’s important (with any medical condition) to be honest with yourself, never push yourself past your limits (seriously…don’t do it), and keep everyone around you in the loop, including your doctor back home, your family, your program, and, sometimes, your teachers. I don’t believe any study abroad experience should be diminished in any way because of a medical condition. Taking the time to think ahead, prepare, and check in with myself has helped make this experience even more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined. Oh, and I climbed up a volcano. No big deal.
¡Que tenga buena salud y pura vida!
Written by Sami Head, Social Media Journalist