All posts by Assist America - Travel Emergency Assistance

Our e-column on travel and health subjects written by our Travel Emergency Assistance partner.
Homesickness in College Students

How to Deal with Homesickness in College

One of the main causes of distress in students is homesickness. According to the UCLA Higher Education Institute, over 30% of college students experience low-level homesickness, and about 69% of first year college students experience severe homesickness.

Homesickness is more than the concept of missing home or missing family — it’s the feeling of longing and feeling out of place. Whether they’re nearby, out-of-state, or studying in a foreign country, college students are not only experiencing a new phase of life, but they’re also at a new school, in a new place.

Although it’s normal to feel homesick, wanting to enjoy a home-cooked meal with family or not wanting to deal with adult responsibilities and academic pressures may quickly make homesickness grow. Homesickness builds in waves and can turn into more serious mental health issues if not taken seriously.

Last year, Assist America worked on a severe case of homesickness, helping an 18-year-old student from Germany who was hospitalized after his homesickness transformed into serious depressive episodes.

In the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, the student had shown increased signs of homesickness, including mentioning that he wanted to go home, a decrease in the desire to participate in activities and social events, and suicidal thoughts.

After a while, his roommates told the university staff about his behavior, and he was later admitted to the hospital. Once he was stable, Assist America arranged for transportation supervised by a medical escort to take him back to Germany.

Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Some preventive measures can be taken by both parents and students to help overcome homesickness.

For Parents

  • You can help your child prepare for college life by visiting the campus ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with its surroundings.

  • In the years before college, consider sending your child to summer camps, activities, or to visit family away from home , so they can gradually learn to deal with separation anxiety.

  • Avoid expressing your own anxiety about your child leaving for college in front of them. Instead, talk optimistically and positively about their new experiences to come.

  • Encourage your child to find trusted friends and adults on campus. These relationships will help them build connections in their new community and ease the transition.

  • Consider sending little surprise care packages to your child. Include their favorite cookies or candies, a new book, gift cards to their favorite stores, a letter, and a funny family photo.

  • Make the most of technology. Staying in touch on the phone or through video chat is easier than ever and can help the whole family feel connected.

For Students

  • Stay engaged in campus activities. Many colleges organize welcome week events to help students get used to college culture.

  • Establish and stick to a daily routine, even if it’s difficult to stay on track with exams and events around every corner. Routines are good for dealing with stress and anxiety and will help you adjust to your new community and class schedule.

  • Feeling homesick is normal, as long as you can handle the situation. To help battle feelings of loneliness, keep a family picture on your study table, video-chat often, or go old-school and write letters to family and friends back home.

  • Find ways to reward yourself as you make gains in your new routine. For instance, after submitting an important assignment or taking a big exam, take some time to do something fun or treat yourself with something you like.

  • If campus is only a drive away, you and your parents and friends can plan a few weekends throughout the school year to visit each other on campus, at home, or to meet at a halfway-point.

  • When packing for college, take some of your favorite decorations from your room to make your new room feel more like home.

  • Know what services are available to you to help you cope with homesickness. Too often students don’t realize all the things their college has ready to help them with exactly these issues. Never shy away from seeking advice from a trusted adult on campus about these services. Or you can look into these services privately on your school’s website.

While Studying Abroad

  • Students who study abroad are even more likely to feel homesick since they have to adjust to a whole new culture and lifestyle, learn to speak a new language, and meet all new people from many backgrounds.

  • A challenge while studying abroad is knowing who you can ask questions and how and where to get help. Before leaving, create a reference list with the names, contact details, and roles of people that will be helpful during your stay. Once you arrive, be sure to add anyone important you meet to your list. 

  • Schools often have an international student department who will organize welcome events and get-togethers. Be sure to attend those activities, especially at the beginning of your time abroad.

  • Many international programs also have Facebook groups where former and new students can exchange tips and experiences. Joining these groups to make connections and prepare before leaving home.

  • Make friends with people from the same country as you. When you’re missing home, spend time together. Your shared experience of studying abroad can make you feel a little closer to home.

How Assist America Can Help

Assist America provides useful services that can reassure parents and students studying out-of-state or abroad.

For example, Assist America can help students find where and how they can refill certain prescriptions before they even leave home, so they can plan their departure with peace of mind.

Students who know they will need to see a doctor while away from home can call us or Assist America for referrals. Assist America also provides emergency trauma counseling for students on the phone, with referrals for follow-up sessions with specialists.

Finally, students going to a foreign country can use the Pre-Trip Information tool on Assist America’s website and the mobile app to familiarize themselves with their destination.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Essential Summer Safety Tips

Essential Summer Safety Tips

The summer season is finally here! But as we start to enjoy the outdoors and more adventurous activities, hospitals and urgent care facilities are bracing themselves for “trauma season” as they call it in the healthcare industry. 

Emergency rooms usually see injuries and traumas double in the summer compared to the winter months. The most common causes of injuries during the summer include car accidents, severe sunburns, water-sports injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and falls.

But many of these can easily be avoided by following these essential summer safety tips that will keep you and your family safe and healthy during the summer months.

WaterTo avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water or beverages high in electrolytes. Avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, both of which actually make your system lose water. Eat fruits and vegetables which contain a lot of water like grapefruits, peaches, eggplants, and spinach.

Sun ProtectionTo avoid sunburns, apply sunscreen with an at least SPF 30 and make sure you’re using a waterproof formula if you’re swimming. Stay in the shade from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., cover your skin, and wear a hat if you’re exposed. Keep children in the shade as much as possible.

Heat ProtectionTo avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke, don’t engage in physical activities during the hottest hours of the day. Get acclimated to the hot weather by slowly increasing the amount of time you spend outside.

Water SafetyTo avoid water-related injuries, always bring a buddy along while participating in water sports and follow the lifeguards’ instructions. Take time to get used to the difference in temperature between in and out of the water. Don’t drink alcohol before water activities.

Car SafetyTo reduce the risk of car accidents, make sure all your car maintenance is done before you leave on a trip. Allow plenty of time to arrive and try to drive during off-peak hours. Stop and take breaks every 100 miles or 2 hours, and if possible, take turns with a passenger.

 

Sometimes accidents, illnesses, and injuries cannot be avoided, even for the most careful traveler. If you find yourself injured or sick, remember that our travel emergency partner, Assist America is here to help. 

You can download the free Assist America Mobile App to access your membership details, membership ID card, list of services, or to call the 24/7 Operations Center with the tap of a button.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

5 Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Traveling is amazing! What’s not to love about discovering new places, meeting new people and trying new foods? But, traveling also means that your fitness, eating, and sleep habits are disrupted, which can affect your overall health. Assist America, our travel emergency assistance partner has tips for helping you stay healthy while traveling. 

  1. Adopt a Go-To Travel Exercise Routine.

To-Go Travel Routine

If you travel regularly, create an exercise routine that can easily be adapted to your environment and that you can commit to when you’re on-the-go. Your routine should be simple and short, with exercises you can do in a hotel room, a gym, a park, or even on a beach.

If you are a runner, make sure to pack your running gear with you. Running is a great way to discover a destination from a different angle.

If working out isn’t your thing, simply set aside 10 minutes in the morning to stretch before you start your day and another 5 minutes at night to wind down. It will help you relax and energize your body. 

  1. Choose Walking Over Cabs or Public Transportation.

Choose Walking

Whenever you can, choose to walk rather than hop in a cab, bus, or subway since walking is beneficial for your health. It helps improve circulation, sleep, and breathing. It also strengthens muscles, supports your joints, and can lead to weight loss. 

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Reusable water bottles are your best travel ally. Once you get through airport security check points, fill up your bottle at a nearby water fountain and make sure you keep drinking water on the plane.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, fill up before you leave your hotel room if it’s safe to drink the tap water at your destination. If it’s not, ask the hotel for unopened water bottles or buy some at a store nearby. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water at restaurants or even hanging out by the pool.

  1. Commit to One Healthy Meal a Day

One Healthy Meal a Day

While there’s nothing wrong with trying new foods and enjoying big meals, having several rich meals per day can be hard on your body.

If you’re staying at a rental or an apartment-hotel, take advantage of the kitchen by cooking simple meals depending on your schedule. If you’re going to be eating out a lot, opt for vegetarian dishes, choose grilled options over fried, try some fresh seafood, and look at the salad menu. 

  1. Sleep! 

Get Enough Sleep While Traveling

Changing time zones, walking all day, carrying suitcases, all of these can be harsh on your body and your energy. Just being away from your own bed can make it hard to fall asleep. Make sure to rest and to get plenty of sleep by blocking out the lights, reducing the noise, and turning your phone off.

 

If you incorporate these tips into your travel routine, we guarantee you will feel refreshed and full of energy to enjoy each of your trips to their fullest!

Spring Break with Assist America

Enjoy Spring Break with Peace of Mind Thanks to Assist America

The spring break travel season has arrived! Each year, more than 65 million Americans travel for spring break, and this number continues to grow year after year.

When planning our next trip, the last thing we want to think about is the risk of getting sick or injured and whether good medical care will be available at our destination. We bask in the sun on white-sand beaches, zipline in the jungle, ski in the mountains, camp in the woods, and explore new countries. But the truth is that when getting away from it all, we are usually also away from quality health care.

This is why we offer Emergency Travel Assistance Services, provided by our partner, Assist America. The Assist America program is designed to get you to the best possible care provider in the shortest possible time.

Let’s take a look at how this program works:

A college student from North Carolina was driving to meet his friends for spring break. While jet-skiing, he got into an accident with a sailboat and suffered multiple fractures and a severe concussion. The local hospital he was admitted to at the time of the incident was not capable of appropriately treating such serious injuries. Assist America was notified and evacuated the student via private jet ambulance to an excellent facility capable of treating his injuries. Once he was in stable condition and released from the facility, Assist America arranged and paid for a first class return trip home with a medical escort.

What happened to his car? Assist America looks at all the elements involved in any case. The travel assistance company arranged and paid for an agent to drive the vehicle to the student’s home, so that it would be available to him upon his return and recovery.

As a general rule, remember that Assist America provides the following services:

  • Medical referrals
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Hospital admission assistance
  • Medical monitoring
  • Medical or non-medical escorts
  • Compassionate visit
  • Care of minor children
  • Repatriation
  • Return of mortal remains
  • Prescription assistance
  • Lost luggage assistance
  • Language assistance
  • Return of vehicle
  • Legal referrals
  • Pre-trip planning

Travel Assistance plans are not all the same, and here are the reasons why we partner with Assist America to offer the right plan that works for our members:

  • With Assist America, members will not be charged for the services provided. Assist America pays for all of the services it arranges.
  • Members can travel anywhere in the world, from the most remote places to areas at risk, Assist America has no geographical exclusions.
  • While some plans have strict exclusions for pre-existing conditions, Assist America will not exclude a member because of past or existing health issues.
  • Members can be adventurous with peace-of-mind, knowing that Assist America will be there if needed, no matter what sport or activity members do.
  • Many plans have dollar limits on how much they will pay for a service, such as a medical evacuation – Assist America does not.

Make this year’s spring break memorable by having fun and helping yourself and your family stay safe and healthy. When leaving for your spring break vacation, remember to download the free Assist America Mobile App for Android and iPhone for immediate connection with Assist America’s 24/7 Operation Center and access to a wide range of services.

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App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

Your Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is among the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time of year, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23% compared to the rest of the year’s average. We can help your family have smooth travels with our ultimate guide to holiday travel with kids.

Traveling during such busy times is usually stressful, especially if you add children into the mix. Whether you’re planning a long drive to the grandparents or traveling across time zones this holiday season, these suggestions from Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.

Entertainment

  • Apps – Make sure you download kid-friendly apps before the journey.
  • Toys – Coloring books, finger puppets, stacking cups, magic markers, make-believe computer or phone, and sticker books are great options.
  • Games – Our favorites include Bananagrams, Spot It, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers, Melissa and Doug Travel Hangman, and Travel Blurt.
  • Headphone Splitters – Headphones splitters allow two kids to share a device. They’re very practical in situations where it’s inappropriate to use speakers, like on a plane.

Safety and Comfort

  • Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes – Kids get dirty very easily when traveling. Eliminate these germs fast by being prepared with wipes and sanitizer, and improve your chances of avoiding a holiday bug.
  • Child Locator – Busy airports and train stations can quickly turn into a nightmare if your child gets lost. Many companies offer small tracking devices and smartwatches to help you locate them quickly in such a situation.
  • Medicine and First Aid Kit – It’s very important to be able to attend to your child quickly when they’re hurt or sick. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave by putting together a first aid kit and packing must-have medicine.
  • Ease Ear Pain – During takeoff and landing, give your kids a gummy candy, chewy food, chewing gum (if they’re old enough), or a drink to get their jaw moving and ease their ear pain.
  • Temperature – Layers are essential for the comfort of your children, especially on the plane where it can often be cold.

Planning

  • Passports – Keep in mind, children’s passport expiration periods are different than adult passports. Make sure you renew them 6 months before you plan to travel.
  • Monitor What Your Children Pack – Chances are they’ll want to bring many unnecessary things, which will make traveling uncomfortable for everyone.
  • Carry-On Tips – Pack at least one extra outfit for each child in case an accident happens. If you lose your luggage, the extra outfits will also help you avoid buying new clothes for the entire family. In the meantime, remember that Assist America can help you locate and retrieve your lost luggage. Finally, plan on bringing snacks like granola bars, cheerios, individual cheese and crackers packs, applesauce, or individual hummus cups.
  • Bring Surprises – Children love surprises and unwrapping things, and an early holiday gift could be used as a reward for good behavior.

About Assist America

Our plans include Assist America, a unique global emergency assistance program. They serve more than 40 million members worldwide. Their services include medical and non-medical services, like medical evacuations and repatriations, prescription assistance, medical referral, lost luggage assistance, and pre-trip information. Visit AssistAmerica.com or download the Assist America Mobile App on the Apple App Store or Google Play to access a wide range of travel assistance services directly from your phone.