Everything girls need to know about studying abroad in the Eastern hemisphere. Period.
There are very few areas of studying abroad that I haven’t researched, explored, or experienced. However, there’s one topic that I’ll never be able, or even really want to understand…girl stuff. But the reality is that it’s something girls need to take into consideration before heading abroad, and surprisingly, something that not too many people have covered in-depth. So with the help of The Study Abroad Blog’s first official guest blogger we present to you “The Girl’s Guide To Studying Abroad In Asia”.
This guest post is by Alexis Cobau.
Let’s get right into it:
GIRLS, BRING TAMPONS
I studied abroad in Harbin, China, and as far as I can tell tampons don’t exist in the Middle Kingdom, as I’m sure they don’t in many other places either. I had a friend who lived in Shanghai for a year, and she used feminine products she had brought from the states the entire time she was there. Not to say what you can buy in China is worse, but it’s definitely different.
In general, most girls in China seem to just use regular pads, and in most of your bigger supermarkets like CarreFour or Lotus, that’s all you’ll find. Apparently some of the Western run markets are known to have tampons, however, they’re relatively more expensive there, and those types of stores aren’t always the most conveniently located.
In short, feminine products are absolutely worth stocking up on before going to China. They’re lightweight, and although they might take up some space in your suitcase on your way there, you won’t have to worry about bringing them back home later on.
– A tip from Alexis: When packing, take them out of their original packaging and stow them anywhere you have oddly-shaped extra space.
I would also suggest that you bring the biggest bottle of Advil or Midol you can find for those times when you get cramps/headaches, etc. It might be pretty easy to get reputable, safe drugs like that in European countries, but when I was in China, I had to go to a hospital and have an actual appointment to get a prescription just for some Advil for my cramps.
It was a lot of hassle for an issue that could have been easily prevented if I had just brought some Ibuprofen along in my bag. If you can’t find Advil or Midol, and you’re not willing to go to the hospital, your only other option is a Chinese brand equivalent (if you can find that) or possibly some herbal solution.
Birth Control/Other Medications:
Most study abroad programs require that you have a physical before going abroad. Even if your program doesn’t, it’s obviously a good idea to see your doctor anyway. If you’re taking prescriptions at the time of your appointment, make sure to discuss the issue of getting your prescriptions abroad.
As long as your doctor approves (and your prescription isn’t a controlled substance) you should be able to buy a year’s worth of your prescription. However, your insurance isn’t likely to cover it, so your options are either to A) pay for your medication out of pocket or B) convince a pharmacist to call your insurance company and negotiate.
If you’re on the pill, you’ll want to talk to your gynecologist. They might have enough sample packs of your birth control to last the amount of time that you’re abroad, and may very well just give them to you for free. An important note on the birth control – if it isn’t possible to get a full year’s prescription, it is possible to get birth control in China at an international hospital. It might not be the same name brand, but they can still prescribe a birth control with a dosage equal to that of what you take at home.
It’s also a good idea to visit a travel clinic before you go abroad. Doctors at these clinics, as their name suggests, are medical professionals who specialize in consulting patients who are planning to travel abroad. In general, they’ll have advanced training in infectious disease and travel medicine, and will be more knowledgeable about any sort of international/regional health issues you will need to take into consideration (e.g. travel related diseases travel like malaria and yellow fever), pre- and post-travel immunizations, and general health and safety tips.
Something you’ll definitely thank me for when you finally get there:
Invest in some pocket-sized packs of tissues. Before you leave, buy a multi-pack of the pocket tissues at home, and always keep at least one pack in your carry-on, as well as a few in your purse. Many public bathrooms in China aren’t supplied with toilet paper…Ever.
You don’t want to get stuck in the bathroom on your train only to realize that there is no toilet paper, so make sure you regularly stock up (which is easy since nearly all convenience-type and department stores in China will carry little packets of tissues). On that note, bringing hand sanitizer is a good idea as well, since public bathrooms also usually lack soap.
And that’s part 1 of “The Girls Guide To Studying Abroad In Asia”. There’s no question that for girls, studying abroad in Asia comes with some added difficulty. However, with some preparation before you leave, they’re difficulties that you can easily overcome. Don’t forget to check out “The Girls Guide To Studying Abroad In Asia – Part 2“, which will be out at the beginning of next week!
As a rising high school senior, Alexis studied abroad in Harbin, China in the summer of 2010 on an NSLI-Y scholarship from the State Department.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below!
NOTE: If you are a girl who has in the past or is currently studying abroad in an Asian country other than China, we’d love to have you contribute your knowledge to “The Girls Guide To Studying Abroad In Asia”!
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you’d like to guest post for The Study Abroad Blog, check out the Guest Posting Guidelines page for details about how you can share your tips with the study abroad community.