Studying Abroad with Diabetes

I am a college junior and am about to study in London for four months. I have so many questions and concerns and I was hoping that some of you out there may have some tips and experience concerning traveling and diabetes, getting medications abroad, keeping insulin and such cold while flying, dealing with time zone changes, living with host families and anything else that would help. I leave for my trip at the end of January and I am trying to collect as much information as possible.
Thanks for anything that you can contribute!

Hi! I really want to study abroad too, but I’m a little hesitant because of the whole diabetes thing… you’re brave! Lol! but yea, I moved from Hawaii to Utah this year for college and the time difference is 4 hours. My BS went CRAZY! It was always high, but after a few weeks of low-carbing and re-adjusting my insulin, I got it back under control. The weather affected my BS as well, so you’ll need to watch out for that too… just keep the diet simple when you get there until the numbers are safe then you can eat “normally” again… that’s IF your numbers are affected, you may be different. As far as traveling with medications on the plane- there’s a Playtex Fridge-on-the-go that I use for my pens and snacks and such. It’s a bit bulky… like the size of a lunchbox but flatter. Also, there’s bags called “cooler couture”. They’re kinna cute and they keep things cold throughout the day… but I guess you could google “insulated cooler purses” or something… =)
i hope this helps at least a little bit!

1-insulin+meter+supplies+snacks in hand
2-what insulin you take? Lantus? levemir? for the dfference in time zone
3-Arrange health insurance before you arrive
4-inform host family that you have diabetes

Have a nice time,London is so nice…Good luck

Thanks for you post!
i take Lantus and Humalog. i have been in contact with my doctor and such but known of them have any info regarding getting the insulin and such in London. it is getting pretty frustrating. mostly i just want to get a straight answer about whether or not i can go to a pharmacy in London and pick up insulin. or if it can be shipped to me by my family?

Hi Alice! Very exciting about studying abroad!

I have been studying abroad (in Hungary) for 5 years! Seriously.

So ask ANY questions. The biggest deal is getting supplies. Since you are going abroad for 4 months, I would suggest that you bring all the supplies that you need for that long.

Even if you insurance does not generally let you buy more than a month’s supply at once, you can get them to make an exception.

They have Lantus and Humalog there, but because you are not a part of the national health care system, it might be complicated to buy it there (in an emergency, I’m sure that you would get it).

I will tell you my method for dealing with time change later (I have already written it out, I just need to find it).

So my biggest recommendation is arrange to bring 6 months of supplies with you. Or even 8 months. Usually they recommend having twice as much. You can bring all that insulin and just keep it refrigerated. I recommend buying a Frio insulin pack which is a really simple way to keep insulin cool while you travel.

More later! I’m very excited for you!

Kailee, if you want to study abroad, don’t let diabetes stop you! It’s definitely possible!!!

Hi! I am a high school student and I am also thinking about studying abroad… did anyone who has done this have any problems bringing their insulin and supplies into the country? And how did insurance work while you were abroad? Those would be the only things stopping me from studying abroad and as soon as I can figure out how to deal with those problems I will be all set!

There is no problem to bring your own insulin and supplies into the country. I have done that often. I always carried a note from my doctor saying that I needed all the supplies, but I never even had to show it to anyone. I just told them that I have diabetes and these are my supplies. I would sometimes pack 1 year of supplies with me and it was no problem!!

About the insurance, it depends on the insurance plan that you have. My insurance company covered any expenses outside of the USA for 90 days. That was not enough. So what I did was to get all my supplies in the USA (I would order 6 months of supplies in advance-- I told them this was the simplest because I was a student and I always ordered them like that). I had a different insurance (like a travel insurance) that did not cover diabetes supplies, but would cover me if I got sick or needed to get a blood test. I even bought home A1c test kits and tested my own A1c and often didn’t need to see a doctor. If you have problems with your blood sugar, your doctor in the USA may be willing to help you by email or phone. I would ask them before you leave.

I also made sure to have the phone number of an endocrinologist in the country where I live… just in case.

Anyway, diabetes means extra planning, but it is all doable! Feel free to ask questions any time!!

thank you kristin for your comments! you are proving to be a wonderful resource and i really appreciate it!

i heard a rumor that it is against the law to ship insulin out of the US. Is that true? My mom already said that she would do it anyway if i ever needed anything but i wanted to find out if there was anything to it.

thank you!

Hmm… I don’t know about shipping insulin because I never tried it. My parents have mailed me pump supplies before. On the customs label, they wrote “art supplies” because they didn’t want me to have any problem. :slight_smile:

It’s probably easier to bring everything you need. I have flown with 10 vials of insulin before. At security, all I said was that I have type 1 diabetes and this is my insulin. They don’t know if that is the amount that I use in 1 week or in 1 year… so it wasn’t a issue to bring a year’s supply!

It’s also a good idea to find one diabetes doctor once you arrive-- just for emergencies. I found one here and he said that if I am ever stuck without insulin just to call him. They know that we NEED insulin and won’t worry about rules, etc. if you are in an emergency.

Hi Alice,
Insulin is only available with a valid prescription here in the UK (thanks to body builders abusing insulin as a muscle building steroid!!). It may be easier for you to just bring enough insulin with you for the 4 months you’ll be here (as Kailee said, there’s quite a few products available to keep insulin cool and you can always put it in your host family’s fridge once you’re over here). See this web page which has information on NHS treatment for overseas visitors:….

It might also be worth looking at this page which has info for students coming to study in the UK from overseas:


Thanks Sam! This is some great information. I had not even been to this site before!

I really appreciate your response. If anything else strikes your brain that I should keep in mind while I am over there, let me know! All information is appreciated.

Happy World Diabetes Day!

You might want to check with Amylia. She studied abroad in high school, I think in college, and lived abroad after for a while. Both in Europe and Asia.

Instead of trying to get insulin in London, I have 2 suggestions.

  1. Talk to your doctor about requesting a 4 month supply of insulin and supplies before your trip. Sometimes, depending on your insurance, you can get that approved.

  2. You can have someone pick up and mail you a package with all of your supplies in it. I went to Portugal for 2 months and had my mom mail everything to me in secure packaging. There were no problems and it was way easier than having to go around locating pharmacies in a foreign place.

Good Luck!