I came down with a high fever at the beginning of winter break. I learned a lot from the experience, and I’d like to share some of my findings here. In this post, I’ll offer three tips for dealing with sickness while abroad.
1. Health Insurance
Health insurance is a worthwhile investment. In Japan’s case, all citizens and visa-holders, students included, are legally required to buy into the national healthcare plan, which covers 70% of personal medical expenses. A year of coverage at the student discount rate costs about ¥5,000 (approx. $50). To put this cost into perspective, my discount when I visited the hospital was about ¥20,000 (approx. $200). Hence, the benefit ($200) of health insurance outweighs the cost ($50) after only one visit to the hospital. Keep your health insurance card close at hand for when you need it!
2. Medical Vocabulary
Depending on your language ability, receiving medical attention in your host country might be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re new to the country and its language(s), there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. First, be proactive in learning medical vocabulary. Introductory language courses of course teach words and phrases that offer the most utility on a day-to-day basis: ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ etc…. Meanwhile, words like ‘symptom’ or ‘antibiotic,’ for instance, tend not to make it into textbooks until intermediate courses. But knowing these words can make the difference between getting the medical attention you need and being lost in translation. No matter your language ability, I suggest making a short list of words that you think would be useful at a hospital. Try to imagine a trip to hospital, and think of the words you would need to communicate your symptoms. Learning a few medical words in your host country’s language(s) will allow you to focus on getting better without the added trouble of overcoming language barriers
3. Finding your Local Hospital
We’re fortunate to have medical services on campus at U of T. If your host university doesn’t have a medical department, it’s important to know where your local hospital is, in case you need to make an emergency visit. In Japan’s case, most city halls at least offer English-language maps showing the locations of local hospitals.
Anyway, I hope these tips help! If anyone has other advice for (prospective) exchange students, please leave them in the comments below. Until next week, here’s Hisaishi Joe’s opening track to the classic yakuza film Hana-Bi: