How to deal with homesickness as an international student

November 10th, 2021 by Alexis Ponce

Homesickness can be defined as the feelings of sadness, anxiety or stress you may feel when you’re away from the people and places that are familiar to you.

After spending months surrounded by family and indoors, for the new international students that may be traveling for the first time to study abroad, homesickness is going to prove to be a greater challenge than pre-pandemic. 

Being away from your loved ones (family, friends or partners), your pets, and your traditions might be difficult when you find yourself in a different country and culture, and sometimes even a new language.Though I haven’t been an international student, I can relate to being homesick, having moved from my hometown to a big city, where the weather, rhythm of life, and the people were so different from what I was used to!

Here at International Student Insurance, we want to present to you some tips that might help you cope with feeling homesick while you adapt to the new place and people that surround you.

1. Allow yourself to feel sad and miss home for a bit

Yes, we understand that you might have to focus on your studies, particularly if you have a scholarship, but allowing yourself to express your emotions is a healthier way to cope than bottling everything up. I have found  a useful strategy to set a time during the day to cry or just feel sad, since letting your emotions out in a controlled environment will allow you to move on and focus on other important responsibilities throughout the day. Another way to cope is by journaling and putting your feelings in writing. You’ll realize that, as time passes, you will start feeling more at peace with the idea of being away from home!

2. Find a new favorite place in the host country

Sometimes the feelings of homesickness are not only attached to people, but also places that we enjoy visiting. We all have that one favorite spot in our cities; it could be places such as a coffee shop, library, or even a place where you can be close to nature, like the woods of the beach. For example, my favorite spot in my city is a cafeteria around the corner, where I like to go sometimes on Saturdays to have coffee and lunch, and usually bring a book with me.I find that being surrounded by a comforting environment can help you cope when you are feeling blue or homesick. Even though being in a foreign country can be overwhelming at first, think of the many places that you can discover and how exciting getting to try different foods or activities in a new place can be!

3. Practice self-care

Little acts of kindness towards oneself can make a big difference in your overall happiness and mood! Self-care may vary depending on the person. Activities such as cooking your favorite nutritious meal, taking a relaxing bath using your favorite products, or practicing meditation or yoga are examples of things you can do when you’re feeling sad and need to pamper yourself a little! 

Did you  know that exercising works wonders for your body when you’re feeling sad? When you exercise, your brain increases the production of serotonin, which improves your overall mood and increases your energy levels! Taking time to do things that make you happy can help you combat those feelings of homesickness.

4. Talk to new people

This might be easier for some than for others, but creating new bonds in the host country will help you alleviate the feelings of homesickness. Don’t forget that, the same as you, many other international students might be dealing with the same feelings of missing home and you should think of this as an opportunity to get to know different people and their cultures! You might also want to check if your university or college offers clubs or activities that you can engage in, since that would help you keep yourself busy and interact with more people that have interests or hobbies similar to yours. 

5. Keep in touch with your loved ones back home (but not too much!)

While calling your family once or twice a week when you’re away can ease the feelings of homesickness, calling them everyday might reinforce it! Therefore, it is recommended that you limit your contact with your loved ones while dealing with homesickness. Staying away from social media can also help with this, since you won’t be paying attention to what your friends or family are doing back in your home country. Instead, focus on exploring your new surroundings and meeting new people!

Feeling homesick when you first begin your international studies is completely normal and usually temporary. However, if you notice a change in your eating and sleeping habits and you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, you might be dealing with depression and depression isn’t something you want to ignore. If you’re feeling like this, talk to somebody! You’re not alone! Many universities offer free counseling for their students and there are also other resources that you can use. You may find some useful resources below:

Insurance Coverage for Organized, Adventure, and Recreational Sports

October 11th, 2021 by Leah Hammond

For the past two weeks, I’ve been visiting my sister, helping to take care of her after she suffered a season ending knee injury while playing in a high-level club ultimate frisbee tournament. This has been a challenging time for her – she can’t walk on her own and is having to take time off from her job as a physical therapist. As stressful as this has been, one thing she hasn’t had to worry about is the cost of her medical bills. From the initial MRI, outpatient surgery and anesthesia costs, to a wheelchair, follow-up appointments, and bi-weekly physical therapy appointments, she is thankful that she has an insurance plan that will cover these expenses. 

As an international student, it’s important that you have insurance in place to cover you in case the unexpected happens. If you’re someone who participates in sports, you are at a greater risk of getting hurt, so it’s even more important to make sure you have a plan that covers sports-related injuries. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different categories of sports – from organized sports, adventure sports, and recreational sports – and what insurance options are available to cover each situation! 

Organized Sports 

If you play sports through your high school, college, or university, or if the sport involves organized practices, games, or events, it would be considered an organized sport. Interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, and club sports are all considered organized sports. 

Health Insurance Options for Organized Sports 

Some schools may have health insurance coverage in place specifically for athletes that will cover them during practices and games, but this may not always be the case. If you partake in organized sports through your school or are involved in a club sport, you’ll want to make sure to confirm what coverage, if any, will be provided to you. 

Traditional travel insurance plans don’t commonly include coverage for organized sports, but many plans designed specifically for international students will either include this coverage or will allow you to add an optional rider to cover these kinds of sports, normally up to a maximum limit per injury. Below, you’ll see four different plan options that are offered at ISI that either include sports coverage or that allow you to add an optional rider to include coverage for organized sports. 

Student Secure Plan

ISI Protect Plan 

Student Health Advantage Plan 

Patriot Exchange Plan 

Coverage for Interscholastic, Intercollegiate, Intramural, and Club Sports can be added as an Optional Sports RiderIncludes coverage for School Sports Includes coverage for Interscholastic, Intercollegiate, Intramural, and Club Sports Coverage for Interscholastic Athletics, Intramural Sports and Club Sports can be added as an Optional Add-On Rider 
Smart: Not Covered
Budget: $3,000 maximum per injury 
Select and Elite: $5,000 maximum per injury
Economy: Not Covered
Economy Plus, Business Class and First Class: $5,000 per injury 
Standard and Platinum: $5,000 per injuryCovered up to the selected per injury/illness maximum 

It’s important to remember that semi-professional and professional sports, or any activity that is performed in a professional capacity or for any wage, reward, or profit would not be covered by these plans. 

Adventure Sports

Are you an adrenaline junkie who spends your weekends mountain climbing, bungee jumping, or skydiving? If so, you’ll want to make sure that you have a health insurance plan that includes coverage for adventure sports. 

Adventure sports are defined as activities undertaken for the purposes of recreation, an unusual experience, or excitement. These activities are typically undertaken outdoors and involve a medium degree of risk. Activities like bungee jumping, canyoning, zip lining, skydiving, and windsurfing are all considered to be adventure sports.

Health Insurance Options for Adventure Sports 

Generally, health insurance plans will include coverage for recreational sports and activities, but the policy wording will include a list of specific activities, mainly consisting of adventure sports, that won’t be covered by the plan. If you’re someone who likes to partake in adventure sports, you’ll want to make sure your health insurance plan would cover you in case you were to get injured during the activities that you enjoy. 

While some plans will include limited coverage for adventure sports, and others will exclude them all together, there are plan options available that allow you to add an adventure sports rider that will cover certain adventure sports. At ISI, we offer three different plan options that allow you to add a rider to your plan that will cover specific adventure sports. 

Patriot Travel Plan 

Patriot Exchange Plan 

Student Health Advantage Plan 


ISI Protect 

Sports Covered by the Adventure Sports Rider: 
abseiling; BMX; bobsledding; bungee jumping; canyoning; caving; hot air ballooning; jungle zip lining; parachuting; paragliding; parascending; rappelling; skydiving; spelunking; whitewater kayaking or whitewater rafting in water less than Class V difficulty; wildlife safaris; and windsurfing
Sports Covered by the Adventure Sports Rider: 
abseiling, BMX, bob-sledding, bungee jumping, canyoning, caving, hot air ballooning, kitesurfing and kiteboarding, mountaineering below 4,500 meters from ground level, zip lining, parachuting, paragliding, parascending, rappelling, scuba-diving or sub-aqua pursuits to a depth not to exceed 20 meters skydiving, spelunking, whitewater kayaking or whitewater rafting in water less than Class V difficult, wildlife safaris, windsurfing 
Lifetime Maximum
Age 0 to 49: $50,000
Age 50 to 59: $30,000
Age 60 to 64: $15,000
Lifetime Maximum 
Age 15 to 49: $50,000 
Age 50 to 59: $25,000 
Age 60 to 64: $10,000 

Please keep in mind that there are some adventure sports that won’t be covered, even if the adventure sports rider is added, so it’s important to review the plan wording or contact the insurance carrier prior to purchasing the plan to confirm if a specific activity would be covered. 

Recreational, Leisure, and Fitness Sports 

Even if you don’t play a sport for your school, or you’re not into high-risk adventure sports, you’ll still want to make sure you are covered if you like to participate in any recreational, leisure, or fitness sports. These kinds of activities are non-organized, non-contact, non-collision, and are solely for recreational, entertainment or fitness purposes. 

If you like to go for a run to destress, are a member at your local gym or participate in group fitness classes, or if you just like to play tennis with your friends for fun, you will want to have coverage for recreational, leisure, and fitness sports and activities. 

Health Insurance Options for Recreational, Leisure, and Fitness Sports 

The good news is that recreational, leisure, and fitness sports are normally included in the general medical benefits of most international student health insurance plans and travel medical insurance plans. As long as the activity does not involve regularly scheduled practice and/or games, is not considered an intercollegiate, interscholastic, intramural, or club sport, is not performed in a professional capacity or for any wage, reward, or profit, and is not related to any of the sports and activities listed in the general exclusions of the plan wording, recreational, leisure, and fitness sports would be covered the same as any other injury or illness covered by the plan. Most of the plans we offer at ISI include coverage for these activities, and some different options are highlighted below. 

Student Secure Plan

Atlas Travel Plan 

Student Health Advantage Plan 

Patriot Travel Plan 

Coverage for Recreational, Leisure, and Fitness Sports: 
Covered up to the Maximum Limit 

Whether you’re someone who plays for your school’s basketball team, likes to get your blood pumping with adventure sports, or just enjoys staying fit by going to the gym, it’s important to always make sure you are prepared in case the unexpected happens. When considering what health insurance plan is best for you, you will want to make sure you’re covered for whatever activities you participate in, so make sure to review the benefits and exclusions before purchasing a plan. If you have questions on specific activities that may or may not be covered, please contact us for assistance.

The 2021 Travel Video Contest is LIVE

September 23rd, 2021 by Natalie Holland

IT’S HERE!

Every year, our friends at InternationalStudent.com host a contest showcasing international students from around the world. This year marks the 16th annual Travel Video Contest, with a brand new theme: community. Share how “community” has impacted or influenced you and your international education pursuit. We encourage you to be creative and interpret the word “community” however you choose, but some examples might include your family or your community at home, your new community during your international education, or an online community.

In order to be eligible for the 2021 Travel Video Contest, you must be at least 18 years old and either currently studying outside of your home country or planning to study abroad in the future. You must also follow the rules and regulations closely and submit a contest entry form that includes a valid link to your video.

Not only is the Travel Video Contest an excellent opportunity to showcase your video skills on an international level, it’s also an opportunity to win one of four cash prizes.

This year’s prizes are as follows:

  • Grand Prize: $4,000
  • Second Place: $500
  • Third Place: $250
  • Viewers’ Choice Award: $1,000

The deadline for applications is 11:59 PM, EST on Tuesday, 13 October 2021. All you have to do for a chance to win $4,000 is submit your video! What will you do with your winnings? Head over to the official contest page to get the full contest theme and details. We can’t wait to see what you make!

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 13th, 2021 by Yessica Prato

Every year between September 15 and October 15, Hispanic Heritage month is observed in the United States. The Hispanic Heritage month celebrates traditions, cultures, and contributions from Hispanic and Latin American countries. Let’s dive into a bit of a history lesson as to the origins of this month and the importance of the celebration. 

The Origins

In the 1960’s, when the civil rights movement in the US was at its peak, Congress passed a legislation recognizing the Hispanic Heritage week. The dates were chosen as the kickoff coincided with several Independence Day celebrations from many Latin American nations. September 15 marks the Independence Day of countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. This is followed by Mexico’s independence day (September 16) and Chile’s independence day (September 18).

Fast forward to the 80’s, former President Reagan signed into law the extension of the original legislation to a month. The Hispanic Heritage Month would now wrap up with Dia de la Raza (day of the race) or Indigenous People’s day (known in the US as Columbus Day in some states). 

The Significance

As an international student, you know that when traveling to a different country, it’s important to immerse yourself in the culture of said country. That being said, the United States has long been a mix of many cultures and races, sometimes being referred to as a “melting pot” for the richness of diversity that the country offers. Additionally, according to the latest census date, the U.S. Hispanic population has increased almost 23% in the last 10 years and they have played a significant role in the growth of the population over the last decade. 

Latin America is made up of 33 countries and each of them have different customs and traditions that have been brought to the United States over the years. 

How can you be part of the celebration?

Hispanics and Latinos/as/x are well known for our vibrant culture and mouth watering gastronomy. We encourage you to explore the celebrations by grabbing a bite at a Latin American restaurant, visiting a museum, or partaking (responsibly and per CDC guidelines) in the celebrations near you. 

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Explained

September 13th, 2021 by Eric Bloodworth

The COVID-19 vaccine is a stepping stone which could be an instrumental step in bringing the Coronavirus pandemic to an end. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have come a long way since 2020 in developing a vaccine that can effectively combat COVID-19 in the United States. Recently, Pfizer has been granted full FDA approval for their inoculation instead of Emergency Use Authorization, which has spurred millions more Americans to get vaccinated. Emergency Use Authorization is a special status that the US government can grant to an unproven medication. Typically, receiving full FDA approval takes years and many trials. Full FDA approval means that enough data has been collected about a vaccine or medication, and has been tested thoroughly to make sure it is safe and effective for most people. 

The two most prominent vaccines here in the United States, Pfizer and Moderna, require two shots in order to be fully vaccinated. Once the first shot has been administered, Pfizer requires a 2nd shot after 14 days and Moderna requires a 2nd shot after 28 days to be considered fully vaccinated. Two weeks after the second shot, an individual is considered fully vaccinated with 99% efficacy, meaning that the vaccine will prevent and/or reduce symptoms of COVID-19 for 99% of vaccinated individuals. 

Recent studies have shown that 6 months after the second dose, the efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine drops to 84%, as the vaccine begins to wear off or is less effective against various strains. This has recently prompted Pfizer to recommend a booster shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fully vaccinated individuals with Pfizer or Moderna should get a booster jab 8 months after the second shot has been administered. Pfizer says that vaccine boosters should be available beginning on September 20th, 2021, and should be fully FDA approved, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Moderna, however, has stated that a booster 6 months after the 2nd shot will significantly increase antibodies. Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that Moderna’s booster shot may not be ready at the same time as Pfizer’s booster shot.

At this time, Johnson & Johnson have not stated that a booster shot is necessary, however the FDA and CDC are still collecting data on this. 

No matter which vaccine that you have, the CDC recommends that you socially distance and wear masks indoors in high risk areas. If you are looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, please check out the CDC’s Vaccine.gov

UPDATE: As of September 23rd, 2021, the FDA has only approved booster shots for individuals aged 65 and older and other high risk populations.

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/01/1033474298/moderna-fda-covid-19-booster-shot

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/05/pfizer-covid-booster-shots-likely-ready-sept-20-anthony-fauci-says.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-watchdog-studying-data-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-booster-dose-2021-09-06/

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/28/pfizers-ceo-says-covid-vaccine-effectiveness-drops-to-84percent-after-six-months.html

Staying Well-Fed while Studying Abroad

August 11th, 2021 by Melissa Madrigal

I was born in Mexico City and I was an international student in the United States for several years. I received my bachelor’s degree at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and it was a time of my life I will never forget. I know firsthand all of the amazing experiences that studying abroad has to offer; meeting new people, getting to know another culture, practicing a language… Every day is a new adventure and a learning experience. But I also know very well that it can have unexpected obstacles, including financial struggles and homesickness. 

Sadly, a very common and growing problem amongst international students is hunger due to food insecurity. Understanding food insecurity can help you and the people you care about identify and combat those negative circumstances. Read on to learn more about what you can do to fight food insecurity and find resources if you or someone you know are facing food insecurity. 

What is food security? 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (World Food Summit, 1996). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggested it is an “economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

Essentially, food insecurity exists when people do not have access to enough food but also when the food they DO have access to is not varied or healthy enough. This can look like skipping meals because there is not enough money to buy food, or it can be that the only restaurants and stores nearby are lacking fruits and vegetables, it can even be that the places that are affordable and close enough to households are fast food or gas stations. In some cities, people who do not have cars also struggle with food insecurity because food options are too far away for them to access.

How does it affect international/study abroad students?

According to many studies, about half of all college-level students experience food insecurity. This number is even larger among international students. Not having access to enough or the right food can affect students not just physically, in the form of hunger and exhaustion, but it can also affect them mentally. Being hungry can make students have a hard time with concentration, sleep, and even cause anxiety and depression. All of this is added to the normal stress of school, as well as a constant reminder of financial stress and it can contribute to feelings of shame and isolation. This is especially true right now that we are facing a global pandemic.

But please remember that you are not alone. There are many campus resources available to you to help with food, financial aid, and mental health. 

What are some resources for those affected by food insecurity?

Fortunately, there are ways to help combat food insecurity and help students and other individuals have access to the food they need. Many universities have campus pantries, where they provide students with free groceries and other necessities on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Many cities also have community pantries or fridges that allow students and community members to share and take food when it is needed. Lastly, there are food banks and soup kitchens, where you can both donate food and be provided with it. 

Below we have shared a list to help you find these resources near you*:

On-campus Pantries:

Florida International University https://studentaffairs.fiu.edu/health-and-fitness/student-health/healthy-living/on-campus-services/student-food-pantry/index.php https://studentaffairs.fiu.edu/get-support/student-food-pantry/index.php 
Broward College https://students.broward.edu/resources/seahawk-outreach/food-bank-directory.html  https://students.broward.edu/resources/seahawk-outreach/index.html 
University of South Florida https://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/student-health-services/services/feed-a-bull-food-pantry.aspx https://giving.usf.edu/where/institutes-centers/usf-food-pantries 
University of New Mexico https://loborespect.unm.edu/services/campus-lobo-food-pantry.html 
University of Chicagohttps://inclusion.uchicago.edu/studentsupport/food-security/ 
University of California- Berkeleyhttps://basicneeds.berkeley.edu/pantry 
University of Arizonahttps://campuspantry.arizona.edu 
University of Maryland http://campuspantry.umd.edu 
Michigan State Universityhttps://foodbank.msu.edu 
University of Kansashttps://foodforjayhawks.ku.edu/campus-cupboard 

Food banks and Soup kitchens:

In the United States – https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
https://www.wheelsforwishes.org/news/find-a-local-soup-kitchen/

New Mexico  https://www.rrfb.org 
https://www.nmfoodbanks.org

Texas https://www.centraltexasfoodbank.org 
http://www.feedingtexas.org 
https://ntfb.org

California https://www.cafoodbanks.org/our-members/ 
https://www.foodpantries.org/st/california

Illinois https://www.chicagosfoodbank.org
https://www.feedingillinois.org
https://www.foodpantries.org/st/illinois
https://dailybreadsoupkitchen.com

Massachusetts https://haleyhouse.org/what-we-do/food-programs/soup-kitchen/ 
https://www.foodpantries.org/st/massachusetts
https://www.gbfb.org
https://www.mass.gov/how-to/find-a-local-food-bank

New York https://www.foodbanknyc.org 
https://feedingnys.org
https://www.cityharvest.org

Florida https://www.feedingflorida.org/feeding-florida/florida-food-banks 
https://www.foodpantries.org/st/florida

Washington https://www.ballardfoodbank.org/ 

In Canada – https://www.foodbankscanada.ca 

In Australia – https://www.foodbank.org.au 

In the United Kingdom – https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/ 

In India – https://www.indiafoodbanking.org 

In Colombia – https://www.bancodealimentos.org.co 
https://abaco.org.co

In Mexico – https://sibiso.cdmx.gob.mx/comedores-sociales-que-permanecen-abiertos 
https://bamx.org.mx

What can I do to help reduce the effects on my community?

If you are fortunate enough to not be affected by food insecurity, you are in a position to help others who are; whether you are an international student or not, you can directly be part of the solution. Here are some ways you can help the efforts to end hunger:

  1. Volunteer at a food pantry, food bank, or soup kitchen.
  2. Donate money or food to food pantries and food banks.
  3. Reach out to restaurants and grocery stores about doing rescue programs for “Ugly food” or any surpluses they can donate.
  4. If your school or community doesn’t have one, start a campus pantry or community fridge. 
  5. Encourage your school to invest in food affordability and access as well as counseling for students experiencing food insecurity and/or situations of homelessness. 
  6. Volunteer at a farm or urban/community garden in your area.
  7. Contact your local and state representatives.
  8. Organize a food drive. 
  9. Support and fight for initiatives such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  10. Volunteer or start grocery delivery programs.
  11. Spread awareness about this topic! The more people know about it, the easier it will be to identify and fight against it.

If you know of any more resources not listed here or you want to share the amazing things you have experienced as an international student, please share them below. We would love to read them!

*Please keep in mind that this is not a definitive list — there are many more resources, but we wanted to provide a starting point.

Prescription Medications: Don’t be taken by surprise!

July 20th, 2021 by Yessica Prato

A few weeks ago, I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription that I’ve filled for months before. My insurance had changed recently so I had to fill the prescription under the new insurance. After the pharmacist got off the phone with this new insurance company, he advised me that there was an issue with the insurance and I needed to call them. When I contacted them, they informed me that they couldn’t authorize the prescription my primary care physician prescribed until my doctor could prove that I had tried other medications. I was shocked, in my mind why would an insurance company determine what medication I should be taking? Isn’t that the job of the doctor?

Even as an insurance agent, this took me by surprise and I had to do a bit of research on my own to understand why this was happening.

In the US, non-medical switching is a practice that insurance companies use. The way it works is, the insurance company will ask you to try a similar medication, most often the generic version of your current medication or a cheaper alternative first before authorizing the one your doctor may prescribe. In most cases, this may not be a big deal since you’re ultimately taking the same medication. It would be like taking Acetaminophen instead of its slightly more expensive brand medication Excedrin. Both are pain medications to manage severe migraines but one is generic and one is a brand.

However, in other instances, because this insurance company was new to me, they did not have my full medical history. Therefore, they did not know I had already tried generic medications before my doctor and I found the one that actually worked. If this has ever happened to you, here are a few actions you can take to get the decision reversed:

Speak to your doctor ASAP!

Contact your doctor and explain what is going on with your prescription. My primary care physician had to fill out some paperwork explaining that I had already tried other medications and share my medical records so I could fill my prescription. Had I not done that, I would have had to accept the generic prescription and it may not have worked as well as the one I had already been taking for months. If you have not tried other medications and your doctor feels confident that the generic version of the original prescription will work, you can give that one a try. 

Bottom line: Always contact your doctor since they know your medical history.

After you speak to your doctor

After your doctor submits the relevant paperwork, you must follow up with your insurance company to ensure they have everything they need to approve the correct medication. You may have to resubmit your prescription to your pharmacy once approval is given. It may seem like a lot of work but it’s important to advocate for yourself. You and your doctor have worked together to find the correct medication and know what works and what doesn’t work.

While you’re waiting

Sometimes, authorizations can take from 7 to 30 days depending on how fast your doctor can fill out and send paperwork, how fast the insurance company is able to process your claim, and how fast you can get the prescription resubmitted. Don’t panic! Many times, your doctor’s office can give you samples that they keep on stock until you’re able to fill a prescription. 

Filling your prescriptions

So you’ve done your due diligence, followed up with all the parties involved, waited patiently and now you are ready to fill your prescription. However, the work is not done yet. Depending on your insurance plan, your prescription may be covered with higher deductibles or copays if they are a brand prescription vs a generic prescription medication. Here are a few ways to manage the unexpected cost of prescriptions:

  1. Search for coupons: Many times, the manufacturer that made the medication offers coupons to help you offset the medication cost. This is especially true of newer prescription drugs. With a simple google search, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars.
  2.  RX discount cards: Whenever you’re at the pharmacy, you might have seen random cards on the counter. These are usually free prescription discount cards. They usually offer between 15-60% discounts on certain medications. Some examples of this are GoodRX, Singlecare, and WellRX
    • Note: Discount prescription cards are not insurance plans, but instead are discount programs designed to help decrease your out of pocket expenses.

Ultimately, we always recommend advocating for yourself and following your doctor’s advice before agreeing to switching medications. Doctors are trained professionals and have extensive knowledge of how medications interact with others and they also know you and your medical history. 

Why Taking A Breath Does More For Your Body than Just Breathing

June 28th, 2021 by Jennifer Frankel

Feeling stressed out? How many times have you heard, just breathe! In fact, when you look at many different relaxation techniques, whether it’s yoga or meditation, you will notice that there is a lot of focus on the types of breaths we take. In this blog we will talk about what research is finding when it comes to our breath and its connection to our emotions. We will also explore different breathing techniques as well as popular apps that might be helpful to incorporate into your lifestyle.

Pacemakers Explained

It turns out that there are two pacemaker cells in our body: one that is located in the heart and regulates our heartbeat and one that is in our brain that regulates our breath. The pacemaker in our heart cannot be controlled, it’s what we call involuntary, and it beats to its own rhythm. But the cluster of cells that regulate our breath are actually located in our brain, which sends signals to our spinal cord, over to our skeletal muscles, which then expands our lungs. Since these clusters of cells are in our brain, breathing can be voluntary or involuntary. You may find yourself breathing without thinking about it, but you can also take a deep breath or hold your breath when you want to. More and more studies that are coming out show that the breaths we take have a distinct effect on our emotions. 

Think about it. Why does hyperventilating make us anxious and why does breathing slowly make us calmer?

The Connection Between Breath & Emotions

Much of this is still being discovered, but findings go back to research done in 1991 when a study co-authored by Jack Feldman, a professor of neurology at UCLA, found a cluster of neurons in the brainstem that was thought to be the important mechanism for the respiratory rhythm in mammals, including humans.

By identifying these neurons, scientists then looked at how breath, emotions, and alertness all worked together – and indeed, found a link between these neurons and alertness. These studies showed that there was a link between breath and emotions, and explained why when we breathe rapidly we are anxious and when we breathe slowly we are calm.

Other studies continued to reinforce this idea, including a study done by Pierre Phillipot. Phillipot and his team found that different emotions are linked to specific respiratory patterns. In Phillipot’s study, he asked participants to generate an emotion such as sadness, fear, and happiness and they looked closely at the different respiration patterns. After looking at these patterns, they found that every emotion had a distinct breath pattern. There was even a follow up study that had a different group of participants come to the lab and they were instructed on how to breathe. These participants were then asked to report how they felt – and they reported the same emotional outcome that was observed in the original group!

All of this is to say, we can use our breath to control how we feel. It can serve as a powerful tool in our emotional wellness toolkit. 

Breathing Techniques

So how does one learn to do this? There are many different breathing techniques out there that you can try and practice. Finding a few that are easy to use throughout the day. 

Here are a few that we like:

Alternate nostril breathing

Also known as nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, this breathing technique is great for relaxation.You should avoid this if you are feeling sick or congested.

  1. Get comfortable and relax
  2. Exhale and use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril
  3. Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril with your right pinky and ring fingers
  4. Release your thumb and exhale out through your right nostril
  5. Inhale through your right nostril and then close this nostril
  6. Release your fingers to open your left nostril and exhale through this side
  7. Repeat up to 5 minutes and finish as you exhale on the left side
Resonant or coherent breathing

Resonant or coherent breathing is when you breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute (or inhaling and exhaling for 5 counts). 

  1. Get comfortable and relax
  2. Inhale for a count of 5
  3. Exhale for a count of 5
  4. Continue for a few minutes
Pursed lip breathing

This breathing technique can be practiced at any time and puts our attention on our breath.

  1. Get comfortable and relax
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts (keeping your mouth closed)
  3. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips (or puckered lips) for a count of 4.

For more information on why breath is so important and other breathing techniques, check out our video on how to destress through breath: emotional wellness for international students.

Breathing Apps

In addition to incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine, you can also look at downloading some apps that might also help to incorporate some of these exercises. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Breathwrk App

The Breathwrk app takes your goals into consideration and develops a collection of breathing exercises to work on. Whether you are looking to relax, feel energized, or alleviate stress, this app will walk you through each exercise and send you daily reminders. Many of the exercises are free, but there are some features that do require a subscription (there is a 7-day trial to see whether it will work for you!).

The breathe2 App

The breathe2 app is another breathing app which focuses on the benefits of breathing exercises, and can also be used to relieve stress, improve focus and concentration, meditation, etc. There are a number of breathing exercises that you will learn, and it will help you to define each breathing cycle including inhale, exhale, hold.

There are an abundance of really good apps that can help those people looking to incorporate breathing into their daily lives in a more guided way. If you have a favorite app, let us know in the comments below.

While breathing exercises and awareness can be an important tool to maintaining your emotional wellness, it is important to take a holistic approach. In addition to breathing exercise, you may want to consider your exercise, diet, sleep, and your overall outlook to continue to promote and maintain your wellness. 

For more, check out our emotional wellness page for international students.

COVID-19 Vaccine Preparation and What to Expect

May 18th, 2021 by Sally Mcleod

As summer approaches, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility has expanded to anyone in the United States 16 years of age and older. So now that eligibility has been granted, what does this mean for international students and what should you do now? 

There has been a lot of discussion and ambiguity around how much vaccines cost and who is eligible, but the good news is that more time has allowed for further clarification, and it’s all positive! This is great news for international students currently residing in the United States and for the country as a whole, as anyone residing in the US, foreign nationals included, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Even better, it’s completely free regardless of whether or not your insurance covers it! 

Where to sign up

The CDC, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, lists several ways for you to easily sign up to schedule your appointment! Visiting Vaccines.gov is a great place to start, as you can locate vaccination providers within your vicinity by typing in your zip code and selecting the type of vaccine you wish to receive. You also have the option to text the zip code in which you wish to receive your vaccine to 1-800-232-0233, or you can also speak to someone over the phone by calling the same number to assist in finding a vaccine administration site near you. 

Scheduling your appointment

Just as easy as it is to sign up, scheduling your appointment takes little effort. Whether you are getting vaccinated at a pharmacy, doctor’s office or larger vaccine location, you can most likely schedule your appointment online or over the phone and choose a time that works best for you. Depending on what you opt in for, you will receive a confirmation of your appointment and reminders via email, phone or text. 

What to expect when you arrive

When arriving for your appointment, you can expect to be kept at 6 foot distance between you and others, and you will be asked to wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth. You will receive information about the type of vaccine you are receiving and schedule your second vaccination appointment if you have opted for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. After you receive your vaccine, you will have your vaccination card filled out by your provider or staff member, that you will want to keep in a safe place to show that you have been vaccinated. If you are receiving a second vaccine, you will need to bring this card to your next appointment. 

After your injection, you will then be monitored and required to wait 15 minutes before leaving to ensure that you do not have any major side effects or health issues. If you’re lucky, there might even be stickers or buttons being given away as you leave showing that you have been vaccinated! Hooray! 

You’re vaccinated! Now what? 

To be considered fully vaccinated, it must be two weeks from the time in which you had your second vaccine if you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna and two weeks from a one shot vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Upon receiving your vaccine, you may notice some side effects while others may not have any. This is considered perfectly normal as your immune system is building up tolerance to the virus. Common side effects include soreness, reddening, or swelling of the arm from where the vaccine was injected and throughout your body you may feel tired and experience head and body aches, muscle pain, nausea or chills. You can expect this to subside within a few hours to a few days. 

Being fully vaccinated is a liberating feeling! You can begin to do things you maybe haven’t done since before the pandemic, such as socializing with friends and family that have also been vaccinated without masks or distancing. However, it’s important to continue to take precautions and continue to follow public guidelines as we still have much to learn. You can learn more by visiting the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention with detailed information on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What can I do or can’t do after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?

April 16th, 2021 by Alexis Ponce

It has been over one year since the Covid-19 virus became a worldwide pandemic and we were all required to isolate ourselves at home. Even though at some point the pandemic felt eternal, with the development of vaccines by different pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca and BioNTech,  life around the globe may start to return to normal within the next year.

At this moment, the Covid-19 vaccine is being administered for free by most governments. In the United States, for example, each state has developed a vaccination plan, starting with the populations that are a higher risk of complications if they were to get infected with the virus. If you’re inside the United States and you’d like to obtain more information about the vaccination plan in the state you’re currently residing in, please contact the Health Department of your state.

On March 8th, 2021, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) released recommendations for people who are fully  vaccinated on what they should and shouldn’t do, including:

Can I visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing?

The answer is YES, you can! 

Can I visit unvaccinated friends and family without wearing a mask indoors?

The answer is YES, you can. The CDC does, however, recommend you  visit at a single household and only if the people living there are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease, meaning their age group isn’t a risky population and they don’t have any health conditions that may put them at higher risk of complications arising from a COVID-19 infection. Keep in mind that the more households you visit, the higher risk of infection to you and  those close to you.

Can a fully vaccinated person refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure?

The answer is YES but only if the person does not develop symptoms of the disease after exposure.

Can fully vaccinated people travel within the United States and internationally?

YES! According to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated  can travel within the US and internationally, without the need of getting  a Covid test or quarantining before or after traveling.

Note: Since each person’s body responds differently to the vaccine, it might take longer for some people than others to create immunity to the virus, and if we also take into consideration that a great number of the population hasn’t been vaccinated yet (such as young adults and children) we recommend that you keep taking the following precautions:

  • Wear a mask covering your nose and mouth when you  are out in public. 
  • Maintain 6 feet of physical distance if you are visiting unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk for severe Covid-19.
  • Avoid medium or large sized crowds.
  • If you start showing symptoms of Covid-19, get tested immediately.

The Covid-19 pandemic might finally be reaching its end with the development of these vaccines, however, until enough people have received their full dose of the vaccine, we strongly encourage you to keep taking precautions.

Please visit our Covid-19 page if you’d like to read more useful information about how to stay safe during the lockdown

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