Study abroad

Hi there!

So I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but the college I’m going to has a very strict schedule for pre meds and there’s not a lot of time for me to study abroad (I can’t take any of my pre med reqs or any of the classes for my major abroad).

So I thought abt doing a summer abroad instead but then my college doesnt have summer opportunities so they said I have to do it through an outside program, and I can’t get any aid from my college. I’m going to college on a full scholarship (basically a mix of an external scholarship and my decent FA package) so I can’t pay for an external study abroad program…

I also really wanna do something that’s health related… like go to Costa Rica or some Latin American country and help out in hospitals or shadow doctors there or volunteer or do something, even if it’s not taking classes for credit.

So are there any health related study abroad opportunities that are not related to colleges? any advice…

Also wondering if u can do a study abroad program with other colleges? I don’t really like the (limited) options my college offers

Even if your college doesn’t allow it, you should NEVER take any med school pre-reqs abroad because those courses may not meet med school admission requirements/standards. And the restriction on taking major coursework at any college other than your home school is pretty much universal.

There are any number of health-care related service abroad programs for college students. They are of varying quality and none I know of are free. For fee-based programs, you’ll need to be able to pay the cost of the program, plus usually the cost of your travel (airline tickets, sometimes land transportation to the service site). Can you pay several thousand $$ for a service trip?

Have you checked to see if your faith community offers any service trips abroad? Those may be less expensive or may involve fund-raising activities to help defray your trip costs.

You should be aware that there are number of issues surrounding healthcare service trips (often referred to as voluntourism by med school adcomms) and 50% of adcomm officers have expressed “serious concerns” about these types of programs during an annual survey.

A number of adcomms have expressed ethical concerns about these programs that go beyond the potential for students to act outside their scope of training during clinical activities, including the the displacement of paid local workers by student volunteers, the diversion of critical local resources to visitors, and the encouragement of a culture of dependence.

[#instagramming Africa:The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism](

[7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on “Service Trips” and Voluntourism](

Not saying you can’t do a medical service trip, but be extremely cautious about which program(s) you get involved with.

If you really want to work with the medically underserved, there are areas in the US that are poorer and have less access to healthcare and other critical services (like safe drinking water, public sanitation and electricity) and than most parts of Central America or Africa. The Sioux Reservation In ND and the Navajo Reservation in NM & AZ.

Now if you want to just take coursework abroad or so some international travel--that's a different issue. 

There are study abroad programs that are offered by several colleges or independent programs that are open to all students, but it's extremely unlikely your home school will allow you to use your FA to pay for classes take from an unaffiliated program. Can you pay for your travel and education expenses OOP?  TANSAAFL

Probably your best option would be to delay taking your gen ed requirements and take those through an approved study abroad program affiliated with your college.

Can’t you wait until you got into med school? My D’s med school has school sponsored medical study abroad in summer. They have programs in Asia, Africa, South America and Israel.

@WayOutWestMom That’s some great information - thank you! I understand why adcomms might view those trips as concerning (It might be the same case as how undergrad college admissions officers view summer programs that cost a lot).

I guess I just really wanted to study abroad overall, so if it’s not a health related thing, I’m fine with taking classes at a college in another country. The study abroad website sucks for my college, and I really want to do something in London but I couldn’t find many options that were open. For example, for fall 2017, there were only like 5-6 programs and most of them were art related (and not even in London, but nearby). Are there study abroad programs that each college accepts?

Also, why is my college saying that studying abroad in the summer is not covered in the college’s financial aid plan. Here’s what it says exactly.

“Many students choose to study abroad in the summer. This is an independent activity; students are not registered at the College and financial aid is not available.”

Are there any programs like DukeEngage outside of Duke?

Based on my D’s university information which I have reviewed, this is what I would like to say.

  1. Study abroad in each school is going to differ. But there are so many flavors of offering. Full semester vs Summer, the school's own extension centers vs affiliation with other schools, tuition covered by tuition aid vs not allowed, etc etc.
  2. It is hard to know where to find the info and get clarifications until you get used to your college site navigation and mostly you may need to login with your credentials.

As suggested by other posts, do some GE course just for fun. But some times it may not coincide with your specific city and specific time frame expectations. In general just for summer rather than full semester especially if you are interested in pre-med and need to do some courses during the study abroad semester.

Along the lines of artloversplus, my school (in partnership with several others) participates in a full on exchange program with a japanese medical school where you can go spend 4 weeks there with free housing and a food stipend. That’s on top of summer programs and other global health type programs. I also have friends who have arranged their own electives at hospitals in Israel and India.

Your best option is to directly contact the study abroad coordinator at your school. If the web site is not clear, they are the best place to go for information that is applicable to you. Every school sets their own rules, so you can’t go by anyone else’s experience at other schools. Even as to whether or not they accept credit for programs from other colleges - some will, some won’t, some will but not for courses in your major - you really need to know your school’s policies.

Study abroad for pre-med is extremely difficult even at schools with very liberal policies for studying abroad. It may not be in the cards for you right now - but look at traveling abroad as a goal once you’ve completed your education.

Why isn’t it covered? Because:

  1. Very few, if any, colleges allow school-based grants to be used to pay for summer classes. You may be able to use part of your federal loan to pay for summer coursework–but if you do the portion you use will be deducted from your aid for the adjacent semester (either prior or following, depending on how your college divides up its terms).

You need to read the terms of your scholarship/grant carefully. Most institutional aid only covers a set number of terms (usually 8) or only offers a fixed amount of $$$. Using any of those funds for summer programs/coursework will reduce the amount of aid available to you to pay for the rest of your college education. (Summer will count as 1 of your funded 8 semesters.)

  1. Your institutional aid $$ will not be going to your college, but to another university or program. Colleges are not in the business of subsidizing other colleges.

It appears that if you want to do a study abroad, you’re going to need to find an outside funding source to pay for it.

BTW, even if your college allowed you to use your FA to pay your tuition at a study abroad, you’s still have travel costs and some living expenses to pay. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. TANSTAAFL.

And I want to third what artslover and IWBB said--if you want to do clinical training abroad, there'll be opportunities available during med school. D1 & D2's med school has electives in South & Central America, Kenya, Mexico. There's even a wilderness medicine elective to go work at base camp on  Mt Everest.

And not to say after you got your physician license, you can join " Doctor Without Boarders" and travel the world with a noble cause.

Right now, you should hunker down and do your premed well, whenever you have time do those medical ECs, or prepare the MCAT so you have a better chance when application time.

And If you like Costa Rica, with medical license, you can join my cousins, Danny and Grace, accomplished plastic surgeon and dermatologist for more than 30 years, with three offices in CT, for two weeks a year, went to the impoverished areas in Costa Rica to volunteer their time.

The key for Grace’s success was she got a full ride scholarship with stipend to go to NYU medical school. She worked hard for that, I hope you will too.

Ha ha

The legendary Grace, who got admitted to Harvard and Yale but did not go. She took a full ride scholarship to attend NYU med school, money was from a local doctor who established a scholarship that will give to someone local who got into NYU med school.

thank you all for the responses! So I guess junior year would be the best year to do a study abroad if I can’t do it during the summer. I have an amazing scholarship for the next 4 years so I dont have to pay at all for my undergraduate education, which is why I don’t wanna use any money to go study abroad if i can do it during the year!

Also… I’ve noticed some schools say that 1 year of physics is enough but some say that 2 years is better. What should I aim for? Bc if I do 2 years of physics then (as a science major) I’ll end up having to take 3 science classes per semester which is a lot…

If you’re going to be a science major, you’re probably going to have multiple semesters where you’ll be taking 3 sciences & math per semester if you want to graduate in 4 years. It’s just the way it is.

I strongly suggest you use a spreadsheet and the course catalog from your college and lay out a proposed schedule for each of your 4 years of undergrad. You need to take all your major classes and all your all med school pre-reqs (perhaps even psych, sociology and composition) at your home college.

BTW, get used to the work load. Med school is the equivalent of taking 24-32 credits of science classes each semester.

I totally agree with WOWM regarding the med school workload, the 24-32 credits of science classes quote is pertain to the first two years of med school curriculum, starting MS3, the rotation starts, its from 6am to 6pm full time in a hospital. In addition, you have to prepare shelf tests and writing reports, the work load is like 16 hours per day. Some times its 6 days a week.

Now, after graduation, Residency is even more work intense. Depends on specialty, you could work 18 hours+ per shift for the first year, they call it intern. Basically, you have no time to sleep, some times no time to eat. A surgery could take 11 hours without rest.

If you are not up to this kind of work load, stay out of medicine.

It should be possible for you to study abroad for a semester (hence using your scholarship) if you plan carefully and apply to med school Spring Senior year. That’d leave you Spring junior year or (more likely) Fall senior year to study abroad.
Look at ALL the study abroad programs, even those not in countries you’re interested in. Look at their course offerings and what they give credit for. Try to find the program(s) that’s better for science. If none involve science, look at programs that offer “cognate” classes that med schools appreciate such as statistics/biostatistics, ethics/philosophy, etc. Some European countries may allow you to audit some “sophomore” med school classes (no grade).
Any college in Europe will give you easy access to other European countries (people in Paris can go to London for the day during Boxing Day Sales. Lots of high-speed trains go everywhere and EasyJet or RyanAir take you wherever for really cheap.) In short, don’t focus on London, focus on the best academic fit.
What destinations and universities are offered?

Pre-meds who plan to go directly from undergrad to med school (no gap years) cannot go abroad during senior year. Med school interviews begin in late August and continue through March. Unless the OP is willing and able to fly back to the US on short notice to attend an interview, going abroad senior year is very bad idea.

In fact, many pre-meds take lighter courseloads (and no lab classes because those are tough to make up) senior year to accommodate interviews.

^that’s why I suggested OP apply Spring senior year. It’d leave more time to take all the classes needed, prepare for the MCAT, AND study abroad. As long as study abroad is covered by the full ride scholarship, it’d be a waste not to take advantage of it, especially since OP wants to go. In addition, the experience of being in a totally different environment would be very useful cognitively and for interviews. After senior year, the glide year is useful to recharge batteries before the long haul of med school, making money, and not having to juggle interviews alongside classes. Since most med school students did not apply junior year, I don’t see the necessity of applying junior year and depriving oneself of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will also be handy professionally. Med school admissions are like a marathon, it’s better to be careful and steady than quickly - hare and turtle. :slight_smile:

Ah again thank u! SO I never wanted to take a gap year, but mainly bc my mom is very against it. We’re immigrants and she always wanted me to be a doctor but I was always fine with it bc I’ve always loved science (and both chem and bio are my best subjects - i’ve taken 3 years of it during high school through the IB program)
And I never wanted to do a gap year myself bc why waste another year, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw some cool things that ppl do during their gap year (I don’t want to get a normal boring job though) and it will definitely make my college life easier and allow me to go abroad as well… but my mom will never let me. so i think im going to try to not plan to apply senior year, but if by sophomore year, I realize that I really want to/should, then I’ll have that talk with my mom.