Health Examination and Immunizations:
It is strongly recommended that you have a medical, dental, and eye exam prior to any travel, even if you consider yourself to be generally healthy. Make sure your immunizations are up to date, and bring a record of them with you to France. If you plan to travel outside of Western Europe (in Africa, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe) during your stay abroad, check with the Centers for Disease Control about health precautions recommended for travel in those areas.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, take supply of contact lenses sufficient for your stay, and an extra pair of glasses (if you have one). If you need or wish to purchase glasses or contact lenses in France and wish to be partially reimbursed by the French sécurité sociale, you will need to see an optometrist in Montpellier to obtain a prescription. If you know you will require medication while traveling abroad, obtain a full supply before you leave. Customs regulations do not permit shipping of medication. You should carry up-to-date prescriptions and/or a statement from your doctor, especially if you will be carrying insulin, a syringe or any narcotic drug. Keep all vital medicines in your carry-on to insure a constant supply if your luggage is lost or delayed. Use original prescription containers, marked with contents and use, for your own protection. Penalties for transporting illegal substances are severe. Don’t worry about bringing cold medicine or the like – you can find excellent over the counter medicine here.
University students may be required to have an official medical examination in France. This examination costs 58€ and may be required to obtain the attestation OFII. This administrative step appears to be in the process of being phased out for semester programs, but please budget accordingly.
Health Insurance for Students:
All students must have health insurance that will cover them in Montpellier and during their travels outside of Montpellier during the program.
You should expect to pay for medical expenses up front, and then submit claims and receipts to request reimbursement. If you have insurance from another source, such as your parents, ask whether the policy will cover you abroad; not all do work abroad, so don’t assume yours will.
All semester and year program students will be partially covered by the national health insurance called “sécurité sociale.” The cost of the French sécurité sociale is included in the year program fee and will cover up to 70% of nearly all medical visits (but note that it does not cover counseling or birth control at all). Reimbursements for medicine vary widely, depending on the medicine prescribed.
All students will be charged on a pay-as-you-go basis for any medical care required. You will have to pay for services as delivered and file any claim(s) with your American insurer upon return, or in Montpellier at one of the two student agencies for health insurance: the MEP or the LMDE.. Be sure to keep all records of medical treatment for this claims process.
Tips for Staying Healthy:
Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and make sure you have a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. Sleep at least 8 hours per night. Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour so you will be able to get up in the morning. If you always stay up late, you will create your own personal “jet lag” and throw off your biological clock. Exercise regularly, especially if you feel anxious or stressed. See a doctor right away if you have any medical concerns – don’t delay getting professional help.
Tips if You Get Sick in Montpellier:
All pharmacies carry over-the-counter medicines to treat minor ailments such as a cold, sore throat, cough, headache, stomach upset, cuts and scrapes, etc. Ask your local pharmacist for advice about treatment.
If you have symptoms that don’t respond to rest and over-the-counter treatments, or that leave you unable to keep down food or liquids (which can quickly lead to dehydration) see a doctor.
If you are sick over the weekend or at night, you can call SOS Médecins for emergency care. SOS Médecins is a group of doctors who are available 24 hours/day and they will come to your home.
Spending time beyond holiday/vacation in a foreign country presents many challenges. While culture shock is a very normal part of the experience, it is also important to know the signs of more serious problems. As explained in the book College of the Overwhelmed (Richard Kadison, M.D.), the primary symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression to watch out for are:
• Sleep changes (early morning wakening, waking through the night, or trouble getting out of bed in the morning can all be early warning signs of depression)
• Increase or decrease in appetite
• Loss of motivation
• Social withdrawal
• Loss of concentration
• Feelings of hopelessness or loss of self-esteem
• Loss of interest in activities that are usually pleasurable
• Intense worry without foundation for concern
• Small problems that feel overwhelming
• Physical symptoms of anxiety: rapid heart rate, upset stomach, feelings of panic, headaches, sweaty palms
Any of these symptoms by themselves may be passing signs of stress, but if they cluster and become more persistent, they should be cause for concern.
If you have received any counseling within the last year, or if you are aware of any conditions that may affect your experience as you deal with the challenges of studying abroad, consult with your counselor or other health care provider about what support you may need in Montpellier. It is better to make arrangements in advance than to wait until you are experiencing difficulties that may affect your work, your relationships with others, and your overall well-being.
Keep in mind that working with a new counselor may present challenges due to a change in style. If you think that this may be an issue for you, ask if your current counselor can continue to work with you while you are abroad.
A 45-minute session counseling session in Montpellier costs approximately €60, which cannot be reimbursed by the French national health insurance. However, this may be reimbursed by your US health insurance policy, so please check with your provider. This does represent a financial commitment up front, so you should plan ahead.
What do I do if I need to see a doctor in Montpellier?
• Call a doctor. Bring a French checkbook or at least €75 in cash with you (general doctor visits cost €25, specialists may cost €50 or more).
• If the doctor asks you if you are “couverte par la Sécurité Socialé”, he/she wants to know if you are covered by the French national health insurance. If so, he/she will give you a form you must fill out, sign and bring to the LMDE or MEP office (see below for instructions) in order to be partially reimbursedfor the cost of the office visit. If you are just visiting and don’t have health insurance, just ask for the form “feuille de soins” which is a receipt of payment. You may then submit it to your home insurance provider to see if you can be reimbursed.
The doctor says I need a blood test. Where do I go to get one?
• Go to any Laboratoire d’Analyses (there is one clearly indicated near the Place Albert Ier tram stop) with your prescription for the blood test. Ask your doctor if you need to be “à jeun”, meaning “on an empty stomach”. Blood tests are required if you wish to get a prescription from the gynecologist for oral contraceptives.
The doctor gave me a prescription for medicine. How do I get the medicine?
• Go to any pharmacy (look for a sign with a neon green cross) and present your prescription. You will pay for your medicine in full. Present the prescription that the doctor gave you to the pharmacist. The pharmacist will give you another form that you’ll attach to the doctor’s form in order to be partially reimbursed.
What if the doctor or pharmacist asks me for my “Carte Vitale ”?
• Just say that you are a foreign student and that you are covered by the securité sociale but do not have a “carte vitale” . The doctor or pharmacist will then give you a form to fill out instead of processing your reimbursement automatically with a “carte vitale.”
I’ve seen the doctor and gotten my medicine. Now how do I get reimbursed?
• Fill out both of the “Feuille de Soins” forms (one from the doctor and one from the pharmacy if it is for medicine that can be partially reimbursed. Take the stickers from the boxes of medicine and stick them on the pharmacy’s form if the pharmacist hasn’t already done so for you.
• If you are a student and covered by the French health insurance, bring your “feuille de soins” and your prescriptionsto the LMDE or MEP office. They are very helpful and will even help you fill out your forms if needed. Please see below the addresses of the LMDE and MEP offices, as well as the documents you will need to provide the LMDE or MEP in order to become eligible for the sécurité sociale .
6 boulevard Louis Blanc (next to tram stop “Louis Blanc”)
Open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm and on Friday from 9am to 4pm
20 avenue du Docteur Pezet (the street going from the tram stop “Saint Eloi” to Université Paul Valéry
Open Monday to Friday from 10:30am to 4:30pm
Required documents for the sécurité sociale:
• Your completed, signed forms (feuilles de soin) from the doctor and pharmacy
• Your prescription
• A R.I.B. (relevé d’identité bancaire) from your French bank (so you either need to open a bank account in Montpellier or use a friend’s RIB and ask him/her to reimburse you in cash)
• Your UPV student ID card
• A photocopy of your passport with visa
• A photocopy of your birth certificate . Your birth certificate does not need tp be translated into French if it is in English, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese. If it is in another language, please have it translated.
Sex and Relationships:
If you need to be tested for HIV or other STDs, which are just as common in France as they are in the U.S., there is a free screening service offered in Montpellier at the Hopital Saint Eloi, 2 avenue Emile-Bertin-Sans. It is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 9am to 4pm and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to noon. You don’t need to make an appointment and all tests are anonymous and confidential. For more info, call 04 67 33 69 50.
Gynecological Exams and Birth Control in France:
If applicable, please think through arrangements for birth control (prescriptions for pills can be easily obtained in France – you won’t be able to use your American prescription here) ahead of time. Whatever sorts of precautions (in terms of both careful behavior with respect to relationships and actual prophylactic measures) you would take at home should be taken in France as well. Exercise the same judgment and caution that you would at home.
If you wish to begin using oral contraceptives during your stay in Montpellier, you must make an appointment for a consultation with a gynecologist. She will expect that you have a basic knowledge of contraceptives and that you have already had a gynecological exam. If this is all new to you, you of course should explain that to her and make sure you ask questions because she will not “hold your hand” through the process. Doctors in France tend to be very efficient and take less time with their patients, so have your questions prepared in advance.
The basic gynecological exam in France is just like in the USA, but the “lead-up” to the actual exam will be different from what you are accustomed to. Nudity in France is not considered uncomfortable and the doctor will simply tell you to go to undress and go to the examining table after she has spoken with you about why you have come to see her. She will not give you a paper “dress” or sheet for before and during the exam. The exam itself won’t last long and is painless. You may also want to ask for a “frottis,” which is a pap smear (a cotton swab is used to take a sample of cervical cells for laboratory analysis). There is sometimes a tiny bit of discomfort with this part of the exam but it is really very quick.
She will require you to have a blood test done before giving you a prescription for the birth control pills. You can go to any “laboratoire d’analyses” (there is a clearly indicated lab near the Place Albert Ier tram stop, for example) to have your blood drawn and analyzed. When you get your results the next day, you go back to the gynecologist and she will give you the prescription for the pills. Oral contraceptives are NOT reimbursed by the French national health insurance. Do not expect to receive the forms from the pharmacy to be reimbursed. However, you can be reimbursed for the office visit, and your US insurance may cover the cost of the prescription.
Doctors, Specialists and Emergency Numbers in Montpellier
SAMU (Ambulance): 15
POMPIERS (Fire): 18
Regular doctor visits cost €23 but specialists may cost around €50 or more. House calls cost €55 and more after hours. You may pay by cash or French check. Make sure you keep receipts so you can be reimbursed by your American health insurance. Ask your doctor for a Sécurité Sociale reimbursement form “une feuille de soins” (normally he/she will give it to you automatically when you say that you do not have a “carte vitale”).
If you are ill at night or on a weekend, call SOS Médecins at 04 67 45 62 45. These doctors will make house calls and are a wonderful resource in an emergency. Count on paying €55 for a visit during the weekdays and up to 70€ for a night or weekend visit, so make sure you have the money in cash.