Tips for Taking Medication Abroad

One of the things I was really worried about before I moved to America was how I would transfer my prescriptions abroad. I don’t talk about it very much but I have a long-term back condition that makes me reliant on medication in order to do the things I want to do each day. Being on medication doesn’t have to be a big deal, it just helps to be prepared. Here are the steps I took before I came to Marist College:

1. Get a mandatory physical examination

These will set you back a little over £100 and are mandatory if you study in the state of New York. I had a medical form from Marist which I gave to my doctor who basically filled everything out, doing the checks as he went along. They measure things like heart-rate, temperature, height, weight and list pre-existing medical conditions, as well as the medications you are currently on. They also have to list all of the jabs and vaccinations you’ve had in the past (this bit is really important for them to let you study on campus).

2. Make a list of the medications you take, what they are for, and the dosage

This is what you will need when you go to the health centre or the doctor’s for the first time. One of the medications I’m on isn’t actually available in the US so I had to describe to the doctor what it does, and she was able to look it up and find out the US alternative to it (which is the same kind of drug, just a slightly different name). Doing this is so useful to the doctor in your new country as it helps them to provide you with a prescription with the same, or very similar, medications.

3. Have a back-up plan

I’m not sure if this sort of behaviour should be encouraged or not, but for me it was so useful. Most medication lasts for a year or two and you can always check the expiration date on the box. In the few months before I moved to America I started hoarding putting aside medication until I had a little supply that was enough to last me until I could get myself set up with a new doctor. Once I got to campus, it was actually really easy to get sorted and I did it really early on so I still have a little stash in my desk in case I ever run out. It may sound overly cautious but when you rely on daily medications, having a back-up plan really puts your mind at rest.

4. Plan in advance

At the end of the semester I will be travelling for 5 weeks before returning to the UK. Prescriptions can be a little complicated when travelling so I went to see my doctor early. She wrote a prescription for the next month, and she also wrote me a spare one to take with me when I go travelling around the US. I’m not sure about the complexities of crossing state-boarders with a prescription from New York but she said it could be difficult. To solve this, she wrote down full name and cell phone number to call or text at any time in case I need extra authorization for a prescription to be filled. You can’t get much better than that! And if there is still an issue, I still have a little supply that I spoke about in number three as a back up plan.


So travelling whilst on medication really doesn’t have to be that hard. Advance planning and always having a back up plan will put your mind at ease so you can concentrate on the important thing – having fun!

Sophie x

[Photos: Both taken on Valentine’s Day in Central Park, NYC – hence the rose petals]


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