Student Support

Student health and wellbeing are paramount to their success on a study abroad program. While SIT Study Abroad experiences are challenging, exciting, and sometimes physically and mentally uncomfortable, we work very hard to make sure that student needs are met and that students are set up to succeed on our programs.  
Student support begins well before the program starts, and we encourage students to contact us with questions about their individual needs early on. This could range from questions about academic resources to social customs in the program location to dietary or health needs.

It is important for students to remember that many of the locations where we operate programs simply do not have the same infrastructure, resources, or technology available in the US. Some resources may be available at certain points during a program, but not in rural areas or while on excursion. Students should carefully read pre-departure materials and contact SIT with any questions in order to ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of student needs and program resources.

On the program, students must relate not only to the host community, but also to the SIT group. Students bring diversity of all sorts to the program, and may be confronted with different attitudes towards gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and socioeconomic class. SIT Study Abroad program staff provide opportunities to discuss these issues and encourage students to seek support whenever necessary, as these are some of the most important learning moments in the experience. 

Vegetarianism
Many students who participate in SIT Study Abroad programs are vegetarian by choice when at home. Sticking to a vegetarian diet abroad can be a challenge depending on the program location. In general, one should remember that it is the responsibility of the student to adapt to the culture they are in and to be prepared to remain flexible in many ways, including eating habits.

In most instances, when with the group, on excursions or eating on one's own, students find it is possible to follow a vegetarian diet. However, when living with homestay families, it is often difficult to remain a strict vegetarian. Examples of accommodations students have had to make include eating vegetables cooked in the same pot with meat, and taking meat on one's plate as a display of respect.

Other Special Dietary Needs
Students with special dietary needs have been accommodated on many programs, including those with peanut allergies, celiac disease, or diabetes. Even with the same diagnosed medical condition, student needs vary, and some programs may not be practical for some students. SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate student needs whenever possible.

LGBTQ Support
Within every culture and country, there are a variety of realities as they relate to sexuality. If you self-identify within the LGBTQ community, we encourage you to be in contact with SIT Study Abroad staff about the in-country realities for your program of choice. Safety and security is the top priority, and in some countries homosexuality may be illegal, so it is important to understand the realities and to prepare for the challenges that may be part of the experience. While students may be limited in their self-expression in the culture, the SIT Study Abroad program is a safe space for students to seek support. Academic directors have all been trained in diversity issues, and students should feel that they can discuss any questions, challenges, or thoughts with the AD. Resources are available prior to the program, and SIT staff in Brattleboro welcome any questions or concerns.

Mental Health
SIT Study Abroad programs offer exciting academic and personal challenges, including the experience of adapting to another culture. The cultural adjustment process requires psychological flexibility in the face of different customs, beliefs, and living conditions. These new situations may trigger “culture shock” while studying abroad, marked by symptoms such as sad mood, anxious thoughts, homesickness, and difficulties eating and sleeping, to name a few. Students who are currently managing a mental health condition are encouraged to discuss any concerns with their health professional and/or SIT Study Abroad Student Affairs. SIT’s medical review process is designed to support students in making the safest and most reasonable choices regarding their mental health; full disclosure on health forms is required to aid in this process.

Cultural views on mental health vary greatly around the world, as do the types of resources that are available. Some countries have a broad range of services, including access to Western-trained providers, while others have more limited options. SIT has identified counseling resources in-country, where available. However, students can best prepare for a positive study abroad experience by developing a set of healthy coping strategies that they can utilize while on the program.