Centre for International Experience

Mental Health & Wellness

Mental Health & Wellness

The stress of travelling and the sleep deprivation that comes from changing time zones can trigger mental health issues. If you are currently seeing a counsellor it is recommended that you talk to them about your upcoming trip and talk to the Centre for International Experience to get extra support for your mental health and wellbeing. Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Centre for International Experience are able to work collaboratively with both university and non-university services to make a wide range of relevant resources available to you. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about mental health and wellness.

Health Insurance

It is important for you to ensure that you have adequate health and medical insurance coverage during your time overseas. In order to make a knowledgeable decision about your health insurance needs, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the health care facilities, costs associated with health care and the potential health risks of the location you are travelling to. Remember that hospitals and health care workers may refuse to provide medical care without sufficient funds or security of funds available. Health care can be extremely costly; good health insurance protects you and your family from both lack of proper care in case of an emergency and excessive debt in the wake of one. Canadian supplementary health insurance plans require that you be covered by a provincial government health plan or the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) as a basic or primary plan. Students should consult with their primary insurance plan (provincial Ministry of Health) and make arrangements to ensure that coverage is extended while you are overseas, as discussed in the section above.


When purchasing health insurance, consider the following: 

  • Is there a booklet explaining the coverage in detail?
  • Does the plan include hospitalization coverage for accidents and illnesses while abroad?
  • Does it cover you for pre-existing medical conditions?
  • Are any of the activities that you plan for your sojourn not covered by the plan? (e.g., travelling outside your host country, engaging in high risk activities like rock climbing, etc.)
  • Are emotional and/or psychological issues covered?
  • What is the maximum amount of coverage that is provided?
  • Are there deductibles? If so, what are they? Will the plan include emergency room expenses? Is the coverage sufficient?
  • What is the coverage for medical evacuation? Is the coverage sufficient? If you would likely be evacuate to the United States, is the plan valid for expenses incurred while in the US?
  • In the event of death, what is the coverage for repatriation? Is it sufficient?
  • Will they cover the costs involved in transporting you home if you are ill? If necessary, will they cover the costs of a medical care provider to travel with you?
  • What information does the insurance company need prior to payment?
  • Is there a 24-hour contact number in English (with translation services for health care providers in the host country)?
  • Does the plan cover visits to the doctor or medication prescribed while abroad?
  • Is dental coverage provided?
  • Is local emergency transport to a hospital covered?
  • What are the procedures for filing a claim? How long does it take to get reimbursed after filing a claim?
  • When does the plan begin and end? Can you easily extend coverage? Can extensions be made while overseas?
  • Does the plan enable you to have continuous coverage before, during and after you go abroad? What is the maximum amount of coverage?
  • Does the plan assume it is the primary or secondary carrier? If it is the secondary carrier, when does coverage begin?
  • What is not covered by your plan? What are the insurance policy exclusions? Does this effect you?
  • Are their any exclusions that limit your coverage during your sojourn? (i.e., ensure all regions and countries of travel are covered)


For the plan(s) you select, it is important that you know in advance how to access your plan should a medical emergency arise. Review it carefully and consider the following:

  • What is the process for enrolling in the plan?
  • Can you extend the coverage should you choose to travel longer? Can this be done abroad?
  • If you find it necessary to use your insurance, what do you show as proof of worldwide coverage?
  • If you obtain medical assistance while abroad, when and how should you inform the insurance agency?
  • If you need to pay up front (some locations will require this), what will you do?
  • What documentation of expenses is required (most companies will accept only original documents, not copies or faxes)? Does the bill need to be in English and the amount of the charges in Canadian dollars?


Understand your policy, know how their system works and know how bills are reimbursed. Carry details of your insurance with you. Tell a friend or relative at home, in addition to a travelling companion, about how to contact your insurer.

Coverage may be based on your having provincial coverage or UHIP. If so, carry your provincial or UHIP number with you.

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OHIP Extension

If you have a valid Ontario Health Card, you are entitled to certain benefits when you are outside of Canada.  While abroad, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers only emergency health services.  The amount paid by OHIP is very limited and may be insufficient to cover the whole cost of the services provided to you. OHIP will pay for health services outside of Canada, only if the patient gets written authorization from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care before the treatment is given.


To ensure that you are eligible for continuous OHIP coverage during an extended absence (i.e., 212 days or more within a 365 day period) for study, work, missionary work, vacation or other reason, you will need to submit an application to OHIP prior to your departure. Please contact your local OHIP office for more details.

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Health Risks

It is essential to familiarize yourself with the site specific dangers of your new host culture (or even an area that you are just passing through).  The Department of Foreign Affairs offers excellent Travel Reports on-line. 


Are there any existing medical warnings for the area? Does the area have any specific geographical problems? What type of medical facilities are available to you?


Consider your own mental and physical health state? Remember that travel regardless of the destination will always involve strain and stress. One should consult with their doctor to discuss how existing conditions may be effected by your overseas experience.


To find out more about Canadians and their place in the world, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs web site.


The Centre for Infectious Disease also provides an excellent resource for travellers going overseas.
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Sex and Dating

While travelling overseas, you may choose to date and engage in sexual activities. It is important to remember, however, that the etiquette and culture surrounding dating may vary significantly. Misunderstanding a cultural cue regarding dating at home, at worse, will cause embarrassment. In other cultures, it can put you at jeopardy or cause loss of face and harm to others. Be sure that your actions and theirs are not misidentified.


Remember that there is no international standard for the quality of condoms. If there is even the remotest chance that you will be sexually active, bring a condom.

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No one expects to get an STD or get AIDS. If you are sexually active, you run the chance of contracting an STD or HIV/AIDS. While HIV/ AIDS is more prevalent in certain countries of the world, practicing safe sex continues to drastically reduce your chances of acquiring it. HIV cannot be contracted through common contact; sharing water, drinking from the same glass, hugging a person infected, sneezing.
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