Conversations on Studying Abroad

How to Make A Semester Abroad Possible When Living With a Chronic Illness

Jan 22, 2019 10:09:00 AM / by Elizabeth Westermeyer

In her first post, Lizzy opens up about her reasons for studying abroad and the steps she took to make it possible to accommodate her cystic fibrosis. She did her research and prepared ahead of time to be an informed traveler and find solutions that worked best for her medically. Read on to see how Lizzy traveled all the way to Sydney without a hitch!

On my list of requirements for potential colleges, amongst many others like having a smaller-sized student body and a drivable distance to home, it was a must to have the option of study abroad. One of the reasons I chose Providence College was because they offered the help and resources to make this dream of mine come true. I knew I wanted to travel to somewhere warm with easy access to the water and that was English-speaking, so Australia was the move! CAPA’s tolerating team based in Boston has answered every single of my silly questions and has made it so that when I arrive I know I will have the support system I need, from academics to doctors. They also give the opportunity to complete an internship which was important to me, as I hope to not only grow personally and as a student but in the professional setting in a foreign country.

The availability of modern healthcare and the ability to communicate how I am feeling without a language barrier is crucial for me because I have a chronic illness called cystic fibrosis. Making studying abroad in Australia become a reality is a personal achievement of mine because not only did I have to keep up academically, but I had to make sure to keep up with my health regimen to be able to stay healthy while I’m across the world. The 15-hour flight while breathing in recycled air AND during flu season heightens the need for boosted health. Traveling with a health complication is, well, complicated, but just because you need to take a couple extra Airborne and pack two more bags doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

Passport PicReady to study abroad in Sydney! Passport? Check. Foreign currency? Check.
A sense of adventure? Check!

There was the usual preparation like saying farewell to friends, getting foreign currency, looking up the weather to check what clothes to pack, choosing classes, eating all my favorite home-cooked meals made by my mom, etc... (Quick city tip: bring reusable grocery bags for when you have to carry your groceries back from the store). There were also the extra necessary steps like getting all my medications for the semester, contacting a CF center in Sydney to supply me with my refrigerated medicine while there, and buying an oxygen concentrator to use while I fly. With the help of my supportive parents and myself, we started preparing even prior to me applying to CAPA to make sure that my health was always the priority, which it should be for anyone. You can’t make the journey without taking care of yourself first.

To prevent any delays at the airport and getting asked to step aside by TSA for the weird, unfamiliar looking machines and medications that were in my bags (it has happened before), I double and triple checked their guidelines that you can find here. Always be an informed traveler because you run the risk of ruining your travel plans for overlooked mistakes. Medications don’t count towards the amount of luggage you’re allowed on, so there is no need to worry about packing less because of what medicine you need to take with you. I had a total of two checked bags, two medicine carry-on bags, my oxygen concentrator, and a backpack. Australia only allows three months supply of medications, so just enough to last the semester. Make sure to have all of the documents you need including prescriptions and original medicine packaging, and in my case, a note from my doctor saying what condition I have and that I needed to fly with supplemental oxygen.

LuggageBefore you fly with your medication, check the TSA website for up-to-date regulations and tips.

I timed my flights so that my layover in LAX would give me enough time to do my treatment in the airport before I got on the second leg of the trip. If you ever need a comfortable and safe place to sit and recharge or even grab a bite to eat, American Airlines offers day passes to their Admiral Lounge where I decided to place my bags and do my routine in a private room there. The “wellness room” was just what I needed because it was clean, and had electrical outlets and running hot water.

Meds at AirportI timed my flights and layovers so that I could get my treatments done during my journey.

What I thought was going to be the longest 5-hour layover ended up being the perfect amount of time for me to get all my medications done and grab something to eat. The plane dinner and breakfast wasn’t the start of the foodie journey that I expect in Sydney, so I decided to play it safe.

PlaneOn my flight to Sydney.

From JFK to LAX, we flew over the Grand Canyon which was a spectacular aerial view. It got me even more excited for all of the new places I am going to discover in Australia. Another quick tip: don’t continuously check the flight progress on the monitor in front of you because it will only make time go by slower. Download music, watch the movies they offer, sleep, read, eat...anything but that!

I am grateful for the smooth trip to the land down under, and cannot wait to share my future experiences during my semester abroad! Thanks for reading!

Thanks, Lizzy!

Lizzy Westermeyer


Lizzy Westermeyer is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Business Management major at Providence College, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

Lizzy's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations