New experiences, friendships and cultures influence the life of exchange students in many positive ways. The excitement and change of environment can also expose them to numerous risks, for example, being infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
During their semester abroad the emotions and feelings of students towards other people are amplified. This can lead to a less clear judgement of actions and result in somewhat irrational behavior in many aspects of the student’s life. Knowing that the time they have with someone is limited can cause students to “live for the moment”, potentially forgetting necessary health precautions, which can lead to STDs.
Another reason for complications related to sexually transmitted infections is the very busy schedule exchange students have. They divide their time between lots of social events, classes and catching up on lost sleep. So even if they start to suspect a health problem, it is possible that they won’t waste time on a doctor’s appointment.
The inevitable embarrassment behind the reason for an emergency meeting with a gynecologist or a urologist is another big issue for exchange students who believe they may be suffering from an STD. Even in their own country, it is possible that students won’t go and see a doctor in this case. But is far more difficult to trust a medic who probably doesn’t speak your own language or at least a decent level of English with such a personal problem.
What can students do?
Carlos Rey, manager of Unidad Medica Angloamericana, a bilingual clinic in Madrid, said that 65% of the exchange students they see are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Aside from using the proper precautions when engaging in sexual activity, exchange students should try and resist the pressures of living in this new, exciting environment. They should try and act as close as possible to their typical behaviour at home.
If an exchange student suspects that they may have been infected with an STD, they should go to see a doctor to confirm or deny their suspicions as soon as possible. Usually, information about English speaking doctors is provided by universities and NGOs that work with exchange students.
In this case it is important to remember that medical specialists are actually there to help and they are sworn to keep a patient’s information private. And even though for the patient (exchange student) these health issues seem embarrassing, doctors are very used to them and mostly likely deal with them everyday.
If you are in the Madrid area and you need medical services, you can contact Unidad Medica Angloamericana.