The ADD/ADHD Person's Guide to Prepping for Study Abroad

Allie Wineland
August 28, 2018

The past few weeks between finishing my summer internship and work until now has felt kind of like a time warp. All my friends are back in classes and starting to gear up for football games and all the fun a new semester brings, while I am gearing up in my own way. Making packing lists, endless trips to the doctor’s office (more on that later), and frantic online shopping for things I realized I need to bring have been building up to me taking off for Rome.

Choosing to study abroad in college was a no-brainer for me. I have wanted to go to Italy long before I knew what study abroad was; and once I did, I knew that this was the method I wanted to experience it through. History and arts classes have always been my strong suit, so pursuing an Arts Management degree with a history (and music!) minor seemed natural and worthwhile. And lucky for me, they fit perfectly into the cultural folds of the Eternal City.

People keep asking if I am nervous for this semester, and I get strange looks when I say, “no.” I’m not sure yet if my typical ~ not nervous until literally the moment of ~ feeling will happen, or if I am just straight up excited. It has been a time getting prepped for this trip, though. The toughest part, I would say, was trying to figure out how to get enough of my prescription medications for my time abroad. I have ADD/ADHD and it has always been a pain to just get my monthly medications. For those with similar diagnoses, you know what I mean. For those without, it means returning to your diagnosing doctor once every three months to let them know that yes, your meds are still working fine and no, you are not abusing or selling them. Then a trip once a month to the pharmacy to fill that month’s script. It’s a pain in the behind that unfortunately is a necessary evil. Getting enough for almost five months abroad was even more of a nightmare. 

I knew going in to study abroad that this would be difficult, so being a high D person, I tried to research what I needed to do so I could get all the facts before jumping in. And I found… nothing. No guide, no tips, no blogs… Nothing. So, I decided to make one for all of you people out there who are also finding nothing.

***Please note that these may differ between countries, states, and insurance companies. Some countries don’t allow some ADD/ADHD medications, so check before you decide on where to travel! My best advice when prepping is to call your insurance and have them walk you through everything… twice. I have Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and live in Indiana, so these tips will be according that.

How to legally get your meds into Italy and still have your insurance cover it: 

The most important term you need to know is Vacation Override. This is what will nix that pesky “only 30 days allowed at a time” rule. When calling your insurance, tell them that you will be studying abroad for X days/months and you take X medication(s). Ask (and clarify) if your doctor needs to write individual prescriptions for each month or if they can write a 90-day or more prescription. I had some trouble with this one due to lack of clarity and communication between the pharmacy and insurance company. If they say your doctor can write one big prescription, the insurance company may have to fill out and process a waiver that allows the pharmacy to fill a larger prescription. I found it helpful to stay on the phone until the waiver is processed so that you know that you can pick up your medications. The Vacation Override may take up to two weeks to go through, so don’t dawdle when it comes to getting this done.

Now for working with your doctor… Depending on what your insurance says, have your doctor or psychiatrist write individual or a mass prescription(s): enough that you won’t be calling your mom to fill one for you and send it (bad idea in itself, as you’d have one heck of time getting it through Italian post customs). Along with the scripts, my doctor wrote a note to the pharmacy explaining that she is in fact writing this many prescriptions so you can have enough to study abroad. This was just another verification for the pharmacy that you are not trying to smuggle drugs or something. Speaking of smuggling drugs, another good idea is to have your doctor write a letter (in my case, to the General Consulate of Italy) explaining that you will be traveling with a lot of controlled medication, the reason why you are taking it, and that you are studying abroad. This is to help you through customs, so they know you aren’t, uhh, smuggling drugs.

Talking about this probably has some people fired up, since there are those who don’t believe in ADHD or treating it with medication. But helping to end stigmas is what I’m good at, so I hope this makes your medication gathering experience much smoother than mine was. Know that people will give you their opinion about it whether you ask for it or not, but if your medication is helping you, then that’s all that matters.

If you need accommodations, that part is easy. Contact your home university’s disability services and they should have some sort of form that you just fill out. They will send it to your study abroad organization, who will take it from there. IES Abroad has been wonderfully helpful, and I was actually tickled at how easy they made it for me. It is the first time someone has gone out of THEIR way to accommodate me, instead of having me jump through hoops like a circus lion just to get the things I need to be a productive student (and person, let’s be honest).

So, here’s to a smooth TSA and customs experience, and to all the adventures that lie ahead of me! One week feels like forever, but it’s a Monday, so before I know it Sunday will be here, and I’ll be handing my mom tissues in the airport as she sends me off. Ciao for now!

Allie Wineland

<p>Hi! My name is Allie Wineland and I am an Arts Management major (and History minor!) at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I was born in Indianapolis and love all kinds of art: performing, creating and experiencing. I am a huge history buff and love films. I have three pets: a corgi named Theo, Tamir the hamster, and Podrick, a betta fish. I am passionate about advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities and hope to incorporate that into my future career.</p>

2018 Fall
Home University:
Indiana University
Indianapolis, IN
Explore Blogs