By: Eva Kristinova (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)
By this point you surely realize how incredibly fun it can be to study abroad. But let’s be real, it might not always be. All the same, know that if you ever find yourself in a less welcoming, stressful, or (God forbid) emergency medical situation, there are places you can go and seek help from. Here are some insights for what to do if you find yourself in need in Toulouse.
Physical and mental health support and advice
The best place to look for support and advice related to anything to do with health is the University Medical Centre. All you need to do is call the office number, and you can be professionally assessed by a nurse directly on the phone. She usually asks you about the issue and offers advice right away, but if you deem it necessary, she can also set up an appointment with a specialist depending on your needs. This is usually quick, even the same day. The centre provides generalist medical services, but also has nutritionist, gynecology, or mental health specialists. You might think it quite daunting to pick up the phone or even talk to someone in a foreign situation, but there is no need to worry, even when it comes to the language barrier. If you don’t speak French, it’s no big deal – most specialists also speak English and/or Spanish.
For most purposes, the University Medical Centre should be your go-to, however there might also be times when you find yourself in a situation requiring urgent medical care and cannot wait for an appointment, or when the issue cannot be resolved over the phone. In that case, I recommend going straight to the nearest walk-in emergency clinic (Urgences in French). These can be isolated clinics or part of larger hospitals. For such a visit, you will need to bring your identity card (usually a passport) and medical insurance card. In these situations it’s much easier if you can speak French so that the doctor can ask questions and examine you without any barriers, however, most places in big cities like Toulouse will also have professionals who speak English.
If you find that you cannot get to an emergency clinic on your own, here are the necessary emergency numbers you can call (not just medical):
112 (European number for all emergencies)
15 (Medical emergencies)
18 (Fire brigade)
114 (Number for people with impaired hearing)
A note on insurance
In terms of the documents you will need in these places, thankfully, the University Medical Centre doesn’t require anything besides your student card. For walk-in emergency clinics or hospitals, you will need an identification card of some sort, whether it is a country-issued ID card (EU) or a passport. In addition, you will need an insurance card. Note that although UoM insurance covers you for some incidents, it might not cover you for everything in France. Likewise with an EU-issued insurance card from another country. To avoid paying for the clinics services, I suggest you get a carte vitale (French medical card) as soon as you arrive in France. This can be obtained on request at the local mairie if you already have an EU insurance card. Alternatively you will need to apply for it ahead of time, the same way you would for visa and social security in France, and pick it up when you arrive.
Social security: https://www.securite-sociale.fr/accueil
Carte vitale: https://www.ameli.fr/assure/remboursements/etre-bien-rembourse/carte-vitale
Needless to say, I hope you won’t need to use any of the above information, but it never hurts to be prepared.