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Should you study abroad during your pre-medical years?

As a premed at most institutions, there is an option to study abroad. In this blog post, I will go into how spending time in a foreign country may or may not enrich your premedical experience as a whole.

Reasons to consider going abroad

  1. Cultural competency. Dealing with people from all walks of life is a skill that medical schools not only look for in applicants, but is essential to have as a future physician (or for anybody working in healthcare). By learning a new language and interacting with people to discover their unique perspectives, going abroad will definitely be worth your while.

  2. Change of pace. Spending 4 years at the same place for your undergraduate years can make one feel confined and limited in experience. While you will still be working towards your degree, depending on the program and/or location, studying abroad can be refreshing for one’s mental state by taking a ‘break’ from your home institution.

  3. Unique clinical experiences. While studying abroad, you may have time to participate in volunteering, shadowing, or scribing opportunities in a foreign country. This may expose you to unique patient populations and aspects of healthcare systems that do not necessarily apply to your home country. Overall, this would be a very exciting part of your premed story.

Reasons to NOT go abroad

  1. Additional degree requirements. I remember during undergrad that other natural science majors were dissuaded from going abroad due to the lack of an equivalent for certain laboratory classes required for our degree. In other words, students would have to take these challenging courses in addition to their thesis when they returned from traveling abroad. Be sure to check the requirements of your major accordingly

  2. Love for your home institution. The main reason why I decided to stay at Haverford was because I enjoyed the supportive community and learning experiences there. Remember, you only have 1 time to experience college, so spending a semester or two abroad is a decision that must be made carefully. However, I may be biased due to my love for the varsity squash team–they were my family for all 4 years of undergrad!

Therefore, there are certain pros and cons to going abroad that must be taken into consideration. At the end of the day, you should do what makes you feel fulfilled, and enjoy the friends you make along the way!

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