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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

What to know (and do) about your Health in Indonesia

Hello students and parents,

As our Indonesia course gets closer and closer, we want to pass on some useful information that will help you as you shift into making your health a bigger-than-usual focus in your life.  Healthy habits are even more important when we are far from home. Health will be a regular part of our group’s conversation on the trip, and we will go into many details together in Java right after you arrive, but below are some things to know as you make your final preparations.

First off, as you pack, be aware that we have a comprehensive med bag, including: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin (for pain, fever, inflammation).  Pepto-Bismol and Imodium (for gastrointestinal [GI] issues). Nasal decongestant, cold medicine, motion-sickness medicine… And much more! There is no need for you to bring your own stash of the above medicines. If you do decide to, please note that the instructors will hold onto them throughout the duration of the trip.

For any prescription medicines, please remember to bring the prescription AND enough of the medication to last for the entire duration of your time away from home. Also, please try to bring the medication in its original bottle and have the directions, side effects, contraindications, and other relevant information.

Prepare Your Mindset About Health

  1. First and foremost, start practicing being more attentive to things you might normally take for granted, like what your body is telling you (e.g. “Oh yeah, I’ve been thirsty for a while and my ankle is feeling weird”).  Make more of a conscious note of what you’re physically feeling, and inspect anything that has changed or is unusual more carefully than you normally would. It helps you know yourself better and have a better idea about the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and body too.
  2. Also, be more aware of hygiene. Just (actually doing a good job of) washing your hands and remembering what you’ve touched makes a huge difference, and is a good habit to start now.  Be sure to keep nails clean and keep any minor scrapes clean. This tip is easy to make fun of in our daily life, but out traveling, it can often matter a lot more.
  3. Be okay with the possibility of getting sick. It happens all the time, for a wide range of reasons (sometimes even just being in a new environment).  Remind yourself that it won’t be the end of the world. You will have the support of several systems and well-trained, caring individuals while in Indonesia.  Build up your resilience, be aware of what helps you when you are feeling ill, and prepare yourself to communicate your health needs without holding back.

Prepare Your Body

  1. Be sure to have a variety of regular healthy exercise in your routine. I’m sure you are all thinking about the rugged travel, day hikes, and snorkeling we will do, but there will be benefits for the whole trip.  Just don’t overdo it and injure yourself.
  2. Sleep well. Treat yourself to this! Everything in your life will be pressuring you to stay up on those last nights at home, but try to plan ahead for the sake of making the most of the start of your time in Indonesia.  Especially in the last few days before flying overseas, having those extra hours of good sleep really makes a difference in your first experiences in-country and meeting the group (many of you may know, you can’t always rely on a good sleep on the airplane).

Other options

There are some things you can bring or start taking in advance, as an option. People have used and appreciated the items below in the past.  Feel free to bring:

  • Pro-biotics to keep a healthy gut and prevent GI issues
  • Vitamin C, Echinacea, or Airborne to boost your immune system (vitamin C is available in Indonesia)
  • Multi-vitamins, iron supplements for those who tend to have an iron deficiency, or other supplements (that said, we also make eating nutritious meals a priority)

Menstrual Hygiene

If you are someone who may menstruate on course, ensure that you have enough materials for three months of travel.  While you can purchase sanitary pads and tampons in country, they likely differ from those you are used to, so it is best to bring a big supply.  In addition, there are options that can reduce and eliminate waste. The Diva Cup and the Mooncup are great options, as are reusable sanitary pads. Past students have found that using Diva and Mooncups are easy to manage abroad, and are a great way to help feel more in control of our personal health and hygiene, and reduce the waste we are leaving behind.  A possible downside is that sometimes it may be a little challenging to find clean or boiling water to sanitize the cups. However, there will be certain times, like during rural home-stays, when disposing of menstrual waste can also be challenging and may require carrying used pads or tampons for up to a few weeks, so bringing reusable items may be logistically easier as well.

  • Thinx is also a really great company that makes underwear with sewn in sanitary pads. They are comfortable and easy to clean.
  • Two other great things to bring along are some extra zip-lock plastic bags, as there are times we may have to carry out menstruation waste, and an extra bandanna to help keep clean.


We hope the tips in this Yak are a great start for you and have you engaged in your own well-being.  You can refer to the Course Preparation Manual for more about your health (pp. 18-23, 43-45). Rita has offered her email ([email protected]) for additional questions related to menstrual hygiene if that is more comfortable than emailing questions to the Dragons office or another instructor. And as always, if there are any questions, please feel free to ask here on the Yak board!

Here’s to health,

Your Instructor Team.