International Students

Adjusting to a new community and culture – and seeking care within a different health care system – can be challenging at first.

We want you to feel comfortable contacting us for any reason, and hope you will speak openly with your health care provider(s) about any questions or concerns you may have. Our staff is experienced serving students from all over the world, and is responsive to the diversity of cultures, beliefs, practices, and values represented by our international community.

If you have a concern you wish to discuss and don’t know where to start, please contact one of our Patient Advocates.

New international students

Please review our Especially for New Students page for information that applies to all new students – domestic and international.

Health care in the U.S.

In the United States – and in Ithaca – you will find five basic levels of care. Refer to the information below for an overview of how health care works in the United States, and to learn which level of care is most appropriate for which type of health concern.

  1. Primary care:

  • For most illnesses, injuries, and preventive health care, people usually go first to their “primary care provider” – similar to your family doctor or health practitioner at home.

  • For students, Cornell Health is your primary care provider, for both medical and mental health needs. For most of your needs, you should start with Cornell Health to get the most comprehensive and cost-effective care. [see all Services]

  2. Specialized care:

  • We provide some “specialty” medical services on campus, including physical therapy, nutrition, sexual health care, travel clinic services, laboratory and x-ray, allergy shots, and a full-service pharmacy.

  • If you need specialized care beyond the scope of what we offer – such as dental or vision care, dermatology, orthopedic care, obstetrics, or other services – we can refer you to a provider in the Ithaca area.

  3. After-hours urgent care

  4. Emergency care:

  • For life-threatening health problems – such as traumatic injuries, breathing problems, high fever, alcohol poisoning, mental health crises, etc. – you can go directly to the Emergency Department of Cayuga Medical Center, Ithaca’s hospital. Call 911 if you need immediate assistance, and a dispatcher will connect you with the police and/or an ambulance.

  • NOTE: An ambulance should only be used when emergency medical procedures may be required in route to the hospital. The fee charged for an ambulance may be several hundred dollars, and will be covered by health insurance only for a serious health problem. Visit Emergencies & After-Hours Care for information about other transportation options.

  5. Hospitalization

  • Cayuga Medical Center offers a variety of in-patient and out-patient services including surgery, behavioral and mental health services, child birth options and care for mothers and new babies, pediatric care for sick children, and a medical rehabilitation unit for people recovering from major trauma, head injury, and stroke.

  • Outpatient services are offered in two locations (the Medical Center and the Convenient Care Center) and include outpatient or same-day surgery, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation services, and diagnostic radiological testing, from routine x-rays to MRI.

Learn more about health care costs and health insurance below.

Counseling & support

In the U.S., emotional well-being is considered an important part of overall health care. That’s why our staff members collaborate to provide integrated medical and mental health care that supports both the body and the mind.

For some international students, speaking with a professional counselor may be a new experience – especially for those from cultures in which problems are usually worked out with the help of family members, friends, or religious/spiritual leaders. But at Cornell, about 20% of students use our counseling services each year – for a variety of problems, big and small. Seeking counseling doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re "crazy." It just means that you could use some help feeling better and making the most of your time at Cornell.

Counseling at Cornell Health is a safe, non-judgmental forum to talk with someone privately about any concern, including culture shock, home-sickness, sadness, and academic stress. Some students who are experiencing ongoing depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns – or neurological conditions such as ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) – may also benefit from medications prescribed through our psychiatry services.

Learn more:

  • Visit our Counseling & Psychiatry page to learn more about the full range of services we offer.
  • Refer to our Appointments page for information about getting care. The first step to connect with a counselor is to schedule a 15-minute “brief phone assessment” so we can learn about your needs, and answer any questions you have.
  • You can also stop by one of our Let’s Talk walk-in locations if you want to start with a short conversation or consultation with a counselor.
  • Many students find sharing with and learning from other international students to be helpful. Learn about our “International Student Support Group” on our Group Counseling page.
  • If you would prefer to connect with a trained student counselor, learn more about Cornell’s EARS peer-counseling service.
  • Our Health Topics section has helpful tips and information about staying mentally and physically healthy at Cornell.
  • More resources for emotional, social, and academic support are available on Cornell’s Caring Community website.

Health care costs & insurance  

Unlike countries with nationalized health care, fees are charged for all health services received in the U.S. The cost of health care tends to rise with the level of care provided – with “Primary Care” being the least expensive, and “Emergency Care” and “Hospitalization” being the most expensive (refer to chart above).

Having quality health insurance is essential to help cover these costs. As an international student, you are required to be enrolled in Cornell's Student Health Plan (SHP), enabling you to access nearly all primary, specialty, and counseling services at Cornell Health for a $10 visit copay (see our Cost for Service page for details). The plan also provides you with excellent coverage anywhere in the United States or abroad.

SHP does not cover most dental or vision care services. Such care can be very costly in the U.S., so you may want to consider enrolling in Cornell’s dental plan and/or vision plan if you anticipate needing these services.

Language translation assistance

Students who find it easier to talk about personal health concerns in their native language can use our telephone-based language translation service, which offers more than 200 languages. If you are interested in using the service, please call to schedule your appointment (607-255-5155) and request the service when you speak with one of our scheduling attendants.