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How to Study Abroad with Type 1 Diabetes

May 25, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Ben_Hicks.pngWords by Benjamin Hicks, a CAPA London alum and business administration major from the University of Florida. 

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Living life with Type 1 Diabetes presents some troubles of its own. The disease can act as a deterrent which makes everyday tasks such as eating, sports and sleep more difficult. Managing diabetes is a constant act of balancing doses with your food and activity level, so deciding to study abroad for a Type 1 Diabetic is a big commitment. You’re exposing yourself to a new environment where you're surrounded by strangers and breaking the routine that you’ve become accustomed to.

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A routine is important for diabetics because your insulin is dependent on your activities for the day. Studying abroad or even traveling in general will disrupt this routine and present you with new challenges. Planning ahead makes your time abroad a bit easier. There will be factors you don’t prepare for (the tempting pastry shop on the corner, walking home with a friend rather than your usual transportation, etc.) but if your diabetes has taught you anything, it's how to adapt.

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There are lots of resources online dedicated to making your journey easier (links below), and I found these extremely helpful while getting ready to leave. Your trip’s outcome will be determined by how effectively you plan and pack. The more work you put in at home, the less you’ll have to do abroad.

A few tips I would reiterate are:

  • Over-pack. Seriously, do it. The extra bottle of strips, the bag of syringes, etc. Bringing supplies is much easier and cheaper than having to purchase in your host country!
  • Keep track of your supplies daily.
  • Expect and be ready for the highs and lows just as if you were at home.
  • Don’t be intimidated.

It can seem very overwhelming to plan for such a long time away from home, but there are many people who do it. No one knows your disease better than you do.

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Photo: Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs, Amsterdam

I was planning for a 2-month trip to London, which made my experience a  bit simpler than if I had chosen a different destination. I knew there were reliable hospitals, doctors, and supplies in the immediate area, which is a peace of mind that each student may not have. Getting to know your area ahead of time will also make your arrival smoother, especially if you need help right away. Lost luggage can and does happen, which is another reason it's important to keep your supplies in carry-on bags only. Be sure to get a note from your doctor explaining your medication. Know where it will be stored during your travels, both during flight and at your residence.

All in all, daily life with diabetes will always be a challenge. However, it shouldn’t diminish your desire to travel or try new things. It can be tempting to let your diabetes overshadow your experience, but just as back home, it is up to you how to control it.

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Topics: Health Abroad