Welcome summer!! And that also means, for you who are looking forward to leave our lovely Indonesia to study abroad starting from this fall, welcome to face a bunch of preparation activities before setting off for one, two, or even five years!
However, even the most outgoing person must be pretty nervous in overcoming this BIG transition – especially, if this is your first time living abroad. But before you even have a time to think about cultural nervousness, you might be worrying about a seemingly never ending list of documents that you’ll have to prepare right NOW. At this time, you might have overcome difficult choices offered in your LoAs and the stressful fundraising effort, so this article will guide you a step further than that: preparing your medical documents and grant contract. It might seem simple, but putting the hassle into your already packed daily schedule, you need to know some tricks! But bear in mind, I’m speaking from my Fulbright experience to study to the US, so the details might vary from country to country.
US Student Visa (in this case, J-1) and school enrollment require every student to take medical check-up as a part of the administrative process. This requirement is generally true for all developed countries – without a proof that you have fulfilled all medical requirements, you can’t go further. Luckily, if you’re a Fulbright grantee, the administrator (AMINEF) already has a really comprehensive step-to-step guidance on what you have to do. If you’re not a Fulbright grantee, I’ll give you the Fulbright cheat: you’ll be given a template of medical form which must be filled by authorized physician (doctor), and that’s basically mean you must make an appointment for general medical check-up and get a lot of vaccinations. This is an example of how the template looks like (by the way, it’s just one of the pages):
This will require sufficient amount of energy and time too complete, and it is better for you not to push in between office break times. I myself took 5 visits to 3 different medical institutions because the unavailability of vaccines or test required. The more visits you make, the more energy, time, and money wasted. So, to minimize it, here are some tips:
- Make sure you know what kind of medical treatment your visa requires and what your school requires. Some of them differ, i.e. a specific school will require Meningitis vaccines while your visa doesn’t, and you must satisfy both requirements;
- In medical requirement, your donor will normally provide a template of medical forms. Try to obtain both forms from your university and from your donor, and then compare it thoroughly. If there are any difference, ask your university whether it is possible to use your donor’s template and provide additional requirements separately;
- Research the availability of the required consultation / vaccination in the hospitals. Do phone call checking! Do not go showing up without knowing what the hospital has. Try to get the hospital with complete packages. The general medical requirements includes: (1) General medical check-up (including eye specialist, ear-nose-throat / THT specialis); (2) TB Skin Test; (3) MMR Vaccines (1-2 doses, vary to programs); (4) DPT Vaccines; and (5) Polio Vaccines.
- Medical check-up will usually takes 1 FULL day, generally available from morning until afternoon on Mondays-Thursdays, and close early on Fridays. My suggestion: call the hospital first to attempt to make an appointment (although sometimes it will not work!) and come very early (like 7.30 or 8 am on your intended day). If during the check certain specialist is absent and the hospital will tell you to come later, insist to be checked by other available doctors. They must have back-up doctors so all you need is persistence.
- Do not assume to get all vaccines in one visit. Your doctor will not give the permission, unless she/he is totally absent-minded. Injecting vaccines is injecting weakened alien virus to your body, and it consequently requires specific reaction until the body form its antibody. MMR will require 3-4 weeks before you can inject other vaccines, although some doctors might allow a shorter interval. You can take DPT and Polio altogether. Try to take TB Skin test in your neutral time, meaning do not take it altogether with any vaccines. Consult your doctor and try to make an appointment in advance for all the subsequent requirements.
- In some hospital, vaccines are only given in Pediatrician Clinic. And it’s a shame that some hospital administrator will confuse themselves in facing some adults asking for vaccines. If the administrator doesn’t understand, educate them. Tell them that it is a visa requirement, and it is confirmed that they can give such vaccines to adults.
- Price does matter! Do not go to expensive hospitals if you don’t really have budget; the price might hurt you. Ask the price precisely every time you call. However, the price might vary from city to city, for example a fellow of mine in Salatiga spent much less than me. Please note that higher price will not guarantee higher level of satisfaction. To give a sense of Jakarta’s total cost for medical requirements, spare IDR 1 million in minimum. General check-up costs approximately IDR 550k. MMR can cost IDR 350k, my TB Skin Test was IDR 650k (this is the kind of mistake where you just go to any hospital without checking the price, the normal price is approximately only IDR 300k-400k), Polio about IDR 50k, and DPT varies (the one that makes your body react with fever only for IDR 50k or a little bit more, but the ‘good reaction’ costs you IDR 150k). Please keep in mind that the price is not only for the vaccine. The price above including the doctor service, which in many case, much higher than the price of the vaccine itself.
- It is better to consider the hospital that has had experience with medical requirements for visa. First, the form will be in English. Second, you don’t have to waste your time dealing with confused receptionists/front desks. Some good hospitals are : Fatmawati Hospital (the administrative is chaotic, but it’s cheap) – however, they don’t have TB Skin Test; another one is MH Thamrin hospital which is also cheap, and most importantly opens on Saturdays!
- Check it yourself and give the completed medical form to your supervisor. Sometimes, if something is incorrect, you have to come back again!
- Keep all medical proofs for you to bring abroad with you later. Ask the doctor to remove the vaccine and the mantoux (TB Skin) test stickers and stick it to your medical form. Do not let them throw it away!
Preparing Your Grant Contract
In Fulbright, we call it Terms of Appointment: Academic Year (ToA AY). It should be easy – you will obtain it after or during Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO), before or after you give your medical forms. But, from a contracting party perspective, you really really need to pay attention to this:
- Your terms of installment (Grant payment date). This is holy important, IS negotiable, and indeed of the highest importance. Check your school deadline for tuition payment and make sure your donor make such installment before the deadline! Make sure you know the conditions imposed by your school for late payment: you can be charged with penalty, or your account can be suspended, etc. And make sure such payment arrangement will not put you into trouble. In Fulbright case, when you don’t have any shortfall, the donor will pay directly and your allowance will be supplied on a monthly basis. Also, if your on campus housing requirement requires payment in advance (of each semester), ensure you let your donor knows about this, so they will provide you the money in advance as well.
- Pay attention on the terms & conditions regarding insurance. The health insurance is mandatory, and if your school accepts insurance provided by your donor, then it’s nice for you and you can proceed forward waiving the school insurance which will be replaced by your donor’s. If not, then you have to find the insurance that meet your school requirement. Usually, you will end up taking your school insurance. It will be covered by your own expense.
So, that’s all that you need to know about preparing your medical documents and grant contract. Embrace yourself with a bunch of paperwork and vaccines. I hope you survive all of them without having to skip too much work time. Have fun!!
Image credit: http://pernambola.blogspot.com/ (title image), private collection (content images).