Preparing to Study Abroad While in Eating Disorder Recovery

Man on a boat contemplating exposure-based therapy for eating disorders

Having the chance to study abroad while in college is the opportunity of a lifetime for many students. Typically, a university or college campus will offer study-abroad programs with partnering schools in different countries around the world, giving a student the chance to learn in a new culture for college credits.

Surveys of college students in the United States have found that just over 1.5 percent of individuals enrolled in higher education participate in study-abroad programs [1].

There are many rare opportunities involved with studying abroad, but what if you are in recovery from an eating disorder? How can you plan for the things that may be involved?

International Travel in Recovery

Before considering international travel for studying abroad, it is important to have a discussion with your treatment team and/or health professionals to determine your level of readiness.

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In some situations, you may not necessarily be in an appropriate place in your recovery if you are medically or psychiatrically unstable. Ideally, you should be at an outpatient level of care before considering the option of studying internationally.

If your treatment team has cleared you for international travel, you want to consider the various details of your program, including length of time, location, access to resources and healthcare if needed, support system, and more.

Other important factors to consider and prepare for include the accessibility of food during the study abroad term. Will you be living with a host family? Or will you be on your own and responsible for putting together all your own meals and snacks? While this may be something you are used to doing at home, taking care of these responsibilities while traveling internationally can be an entirely different challenge. It is also crucial to know where you can go for immediate help and support, should an emergency arise while you are abroad.

Maintaining Eating Disorder Recovery

Two college students that chose to study abroad

Ensuring that you are able to adequately maintain your eating disorder recovery should be your main priority when planning to study abroad. This will involve adequate preparation to ensure that you have the necessary resources for support and access to care if and when you might need it.

While you do not want to expect relapse, it is important to be for prepared for everything. Know what your options might be, should a need arise for you to have additional support and care during your study abroad semester. Consider having a built-in support system or form of accountability to regularly check in. By having these types of preparations completed ahead of your trip, you are working to support your recovery efforts while studying abroad.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: NAFSA, “Trends in US Studying Abroad”, Accessed 31 May 2017

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 10, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 10, 2017.
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