Never Walk Barefoot on An Airplane (and Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Study Abroad)

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College Study Abroad

Living abroad – even for a short while – will introduce you to a host of unfamiliar conditions. Depending on where you’re jetting off to, you might find the tap water isn’t potable, the mosquitos carry viruses, sun exposure is greater, or other health nuances.

Here are some practical tips to consider no matter where you’re studying or interning abroad:

Pack the essentials

Bug repellant and sunscreen are a must (unless you’re heading abroad during your host country’s winter). Otherwise, expect to encounter a variety of bugs and plenty of sun exposure. Even on cloudy days, you can get sunburned. Traveling with a first aid kit is also wise and definitely worth the precious real estate in your luggage. If you don’t have the room to spare, remember you can always buy these essentials abroad.

Never walk barefoot on an airplane

There are plenty of reasons to keep your shoes on during your flight and they all involve the same underlying message: aircraft floors are filthy. Between flights, cabin crew members have roughly 20 minutes to prepare the plane for its next departure. As you can imagine, this doesn’t give them much time for a deep clean. Walking around the plane without shoes – especially the bathroom – is a risk not worth taking. From athlete’s foot to unnamable fungi, you don’t want to bring it abroad.

Research the local conditions 

How will you deal with tap water you can’t drink? To avoid contracting water-borne illnesses, the safest option is to stick with bottled water – just be certain the seal isn’t broken before you open it. Alternatively, consider picking up a travel water purifier, mini water filters, or purification tablets to clean your tap water. Check with CIEE onsite staff to see what they recommend.

Meet hand sanitizer, your new best friend

Germs are everywhere. That toilet you just flushed? Check. The doorknob you twisted open? You bet. The hand strap you’re holding on the subway? Germs, germs, and more germs! Pack hand sanitizer with you at all times and use it copiously throughout the day to keep germs at bay and help prevent illness. You’re welcome!

Even if it tastes finger licking’ good, avoid putting your hands in your mouth

In fact, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth because they’re all fertile environments for bacteria and viruses to grow. Your hands often encounter dirty surfaces throughout the day. Wash your hands generously, especially before each meal.

Don’t be embarrassed if you do get sick

You’re human. Even when you do your best to stay healthy, you could still end up catching the flu, spraining an ankle, etc. Speak up when you need help. CIEE staff is there to support you, including arranging medical attention if needed.

Now that you know how to stay healthy abroad, explore programs!