Place des Vosges
Tuileries Garden

Health & Safety in Paris

Before Departure

Planning for a Healthy Abroad Experience

After acceptance into the Paris Institute of Creative Arts study abroad program, we encourage students to have a check up appointment with your doctor to insure you have no developing health issues. This will also offer a chance to prepare for your time abroad concerning any on-going health issues. If you currently take prescription medication of any kind, you may need to obtain a sufficient supply to cover your entire study abroad period (as you need a French doctor’s prescription to obtain new prescription drugs in France). Additionally, you can discuss any other on-going tactics your doctor may suggest for maintaining your optimal health condition while abroad. Some good questions to ask concerning your health-assessment:

  • Do I take any medication that will need to be prescribed and/or monitored while abroad?
  • Do I have any pre-existing medical or mental health issues that will need attention while abroad?
  • Do I have a health care plan or need help creating one for my medical or mental health needs while abroad?

Once you have reviewed any possible health concerns, it’s important to also think through the various social, emotional and physical adjustment issues that may be relevant for you. Consider the following:

  • Do well do I adapt to new situations and people?
  • How important is it for me to have structured daily routine?
  • Am I looking to create distance from problems or other students at school?
  • Will I be continuing a long-distance relationship or perhaps I’ve just ended a romantic relationship?
  • Have alcohol and/or drugs become regular part of my college experience?

Answers to questions like these will help you think through any physical and/or emotional issues that may accompany you on your travels. We suggest that you speak with your parents, others in your support system or your physician to help you address any concerns you might have. Your college health services and counseling centers are also available to help you plan for the treatment of any medical or mental health concerns while you are abroad. Planning for support, rather than ignoring the issues, will go a long way in helping you maintain your physical and emotional well being while studying abroad.


Many students who study abroad each year have prescription medication that they take along with them. From contraceptives and allergy medications, to antidepressants and ADHD medications, prescriptions have become a part of our everyday life. Therefore, it is critical to plan ahead for your medication needs BEFORE you leave North America.

Begin by speaking with your doctor about any and all medications that you take regularly. Determine if you will be able to take an adequate supply of medication with you, or if you will need access to a pharmacy or prescription provider during your time abroad. The U.S. State Department suggests that you “bring an extra quantity (of medication) with you and pack it in your carry-on luggage. We strongly encourage you to keep it in its original container to avoid potential problems at customs. In fact, you should check with the local embassy to make sure the medication is acceptable to carry into the country. Some countries may consider your prescription medication to be illegal.”

We recommend that students pack copies of their doctor’s written prescriptions (including brand names and generic names) and letter from at-home doctor if regular medical care is needed. Keep in mind that beginning a new academic experience in foreign country is typically not a good time to discontinue medical prescriptions, so plan ahead.

Medical Insurance

Proof of comprehensive medical and mental health coverage is required for participation in the Paris Institute of Creative Arts study abroad program. If you are individually insured, or insured through your parents or your educational institution, check with your individual health care provider for information about the limits of your health coverage.

Unfortunately, many U.S. medical insurance plans do not cover individuals when they travel out of the country, so it is important to know if you are covered for a study abroad program. If you are, be sure to look carefully at the details of your coverage. Since all medical bills incurred during study abroad will be your responsibility, it is important to know the extent of your medical coverage in advance, including coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation benefits. If your current health insurance does not cover study abroad in France, you will need to purchase additional coverage.

All students in the Paris Institute of Creative Arts will be required to enroll in a Study Abroad Health Insurance Plan. Please be sure that you have the necessary health insurance coverage in place for when you return to the United States or should you be travelling abroad beyond the designated dates. This policy will not provide any coverage for the student upon his/her return to the United States.

Disability and Study Abroad

The Access Abroad Web site at the University of Minnesota is an excellent source of information for students with disabilities who are thinking about studying abroad. Here are some of their Quick Tips:

  • Disclose your disability needs to the program early, so appropriate arrangements can be made in advance.
  • Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way—learn about what types of accommodations are typically provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating disability.
  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.
  • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country – look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.

Useful Resources

Access Abroad
Council on International Educational Exchange
Mobility International USA
National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange

LGBTQ Students

LGBTQ life exists in every corner of the world, but the degree to which individuals are free to express their identity varies widely from country to country. As with other facets of the study abroad experience, being aware of cultural norms and laws is essential for a safe, productive international experience.

When considering a study abroad location, take time to ask program administrators questions about the local culture:

  • How conducive is the local host culture to outward expression of LGBTQ sexuality?
  • Are there any culture-specific sexuality or gender issues that you need to be aware of?
  • How does the local culture respond to varied sexual identities and gender expressions?
  • Do local laws protect or prohibit specific gender expressions and sexual identities?
  • Is there a culture of violence or tolerance toward LGBTQ individuals in the host country?

Knowing the culture of a region will not only help you select a study abroad program, but will also assist you in managing the inevitable culture shock that comes with each international experience.

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)Knowledge Series suggests:

“As in any cross-cultural situation, it pays to observe, be sensitive to local customs, and express yourself appropriately and respectfully. If you come to the experience with your own sexual politics and a desire to actively challenge local cultural norms, that could complicate your interactions with people both inside and outside the classroom. Be true to yourself, but stay open to every learning opportunity.”

Health Tips

There are so many things to remember and consider as you plan for your experience abroad, here are some tips to remember about the basics of staying healthy:

  • Get enough rest. Recovering from jet lag can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Help yourself out by establishing a regular sleep/wake schedule and try to stick with it throughout your trip.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major travel issue that can cause serious complications. Make sure you drink plenty of water (in France the tap water is safe to drink) or other non-caffeinated/non-carbonated fluid each day.
  • Eat wisely. Paris has many and varied options. Try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet to keep you in top form and so less vulnerable to illness.
  • Be physically active. Making sure you get physical exercise each day, whether it’s walking to explore Paris or dancing at a nightclub, will help you balance the intellectual and emotional demands of your new experience. Paris is a wonderful city for walking with so much beauty to be discovered throughout the city.
  • Manage your stress. Transitioning to a new culture, with all the excitement of a new language, new people, new surroundings, on top of an academic workload can be overwhelming. Take time to relax and unwind each day. Allow yourself to experience the ups and downs of emotional adjustment and be sure to connect regularly with classmates for support.
  • French pharmacies are very complete, although some drugs which are sold over the counter in North American require a doctor’s prescription in France. You may wish to include some of the following:
  • Regular medications
  • Contraceptives
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Pain reliever

Other PICA pages which may interest you: