How (and Why) to Study Abroad as a Medical & Health Student
Learn what studying overseas can do for your health career, get advice for choosing a program, explore scholarships and other financing options, and access a comprehensive list of “must-do’s” before you begin your adventure abroad.
Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.
It might be your roommate, your best friend, your significant other. They tell you about studying abroad in Florence or Madrid, how they gained 20 pounds from the gelato alone or how they learned to siesta after plates and plates of the best paella they’ve ever had. It all sounds amazing, and now you’re convinced that you need to study abroad, too. But should food and fun drive such a big decision, or should something else?
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finer things of foreign cultures, but if you’re in the medical and healthcare field, studying abroad means opportunity: the chance to develop language skills to communicate better with patients, to learn about customs that can turn a nervous patient into a comfortable one, and to create a network of students and professionals in other countries who can help you grow both personally and professionally. And with such a massive opportunity at your fingertips, you need to plan carefully.
The Value of Studying Abroad
Studying abroad diversifies a medical or health student’s experience by exposing them to professional environments in new healthcare systems. By working with medical and health professionals, patients, and other students abroad, U.S. students can gain a valuable understanding of culturally driven norms, multicultural medical environments, and build upon their existing skill set.
Training and life experience abroad can also bolster young professionals’ resumes. According to a study conducted in 2019 by the Institute for International Education of Students, 64% of employers reported that international educational experiences make students more attractive job candidates. In the table that follows, we offer a list of benefits that focus on the education, professional, personal, and cultural aspects of studying in the health and medical fields outside of the U.S.
Experience different educational delivery styles: Medical students abroad may be able to secure new research or volunteer opportunities. Many learners take advantage of shadowing opportunities that expose them to healthcare processes in a medical system that is structured differently than the U.S.
Grad school application booster: A student’s experience abroad lets a college or university admissions team that the applicant is interested in and capable of expanding their horizons. Graduate school often works well for independent students who are open to new ideas and generally curious about the world. A successful tenure abroad can help to highlight these characteristics for a prospective student.
Encounter challenges: One certainty is that studying abroad presents medical and health students with new scenarios and challenges. Both academically and professionally, a study abroad program forces students to adjust to their surroundings, learn small-group and profession-wide norms for professionals in this area of the world, and more.
Hands-on experience: While medical and health students in the U.S. enjoy hands-on training in domestic scenarios, study abroad programs place learners in new environments with different equipment, daily processes, and types of patients. Students benefit greatly from hands-on learning outside of their comfort zones.
Resume booster: Employers look favorably upon a prospective employee’s time abroad because it shows that the applicant will go the extra mile to challenge themselves and learn something new. Studying overseas is challenging on personal, academic, social, and cultural levels and demands that students rise to the occasion to get the most out of those experiences. Employers generally value these characteristics, especially for new hires.
Learn how to interact with professionals from different cultural backgrounds: students around the world are studying for medical and health degrees outside of the U.S. Whether a professional is trained in New York City, Milan, Madrid, or Oslo, they are all medical or health professionals and equal colleagues. With increasingly connected business- and health-related ventures, today’s young students can benefit from interactions with students and professionals from other cultural backgrounds.
Build your network: Being able to interact and work with students and professionals from other parts of the world can often allow young students to build their professional networks exponentially. As with professionals in most lines of work, workers in the medical and health field can benefit substantially from personal and professional connections both domestically and abroad.
Growth and independence: A recent study conducted by the Institute for International Education of Students reports that 95% of students who studied abroad felt that the experience helped them mature and positively impacted their general worldview. The same study also reveals that 98% of these students better understood their own cultural backgrounds and biases after studying abroad.
Develop adaptation skills: Studying abroad increases students’ adaptability in professional settings as well as social scenarios. As shown by folklorists and other academics who study social interaction, being able to adapt to new situations, sometimes referred to as social or linguistic code switching, is key to successful and meaningful participation in today’s ever-growing multicultural world.
Meet new people/friends: When studying abroad, medical and health students also develop personal relationships that enrich their daily lives. More than half of students who study abroad continued to maintain friendships they made while outside the U.S.
Grow confident in your field: By engaging with diverse professional and social situations abroad, learners typically experience an increase in their self-confidence and general sense of comfort. Students who experience new educational and social scenarios reduce the number of unpredictable scenarios both in and outside of their work.
Learn/improve a foreign language: While this may be one of the more obvious advantages to studying abroad, it is also one of the most useful skills for young professionals in today’s job market. Bilingual or multilingual professionals are in high demand, and full immersion in a new cultural scenario is often the best learning scenario for language acquisition.
Cross-cultural exposure leads to cultural competence: While a student’s time abroad take place over a short time, such as 6-12 months, it offers them unique opportunities to experience a new cultural climate. Every step toward cultural competence, no matter how limited, is beneficial in today’s increasingly connected and diverse cultural landscape.
Medical and health students who can relate to their colleagues, clients, or patients on deeper levels often enjoy their work and have positive lasting effects on those around them.
In the sections above, we covered some of the intangible benefits medical and health students can gain from education abroad. Below, we consider some career paths commonly taken by medical and health students and the ways in which a study abroad experience positively impacts a student’s trajectory.
Gaining a Professional Edge
For some medical and health fields, such as global health, experience abroad is essential to training. In other career paths, medical and health students may learn skills that can set them apart from others, making them a unique applicant and a multifaceted, adaptable professional for hire. Language skills, cultural sensitivity, constantly facing new situations, and working with diverse populations all can be experienced overseas and applied to healthcare situations back home. Here’s a more detailed look at some of the tools that medical and health students can develop while studying outside the U.S.
Language Development for the Workplace
Medical and health professionals need top-notch communication skills to provide the best care and service to patients and clients. Additionally, professionals at all levels, from administration and management positions to support staff and assistants, depend on clear communication between colleagues to carry out daily processes and business operations. Students who study abroad have a great opportunity to acquire and develop these skills, especially when treating or working with non-native English speakers, or those who speak no English at all.
Today’s top employers understand the value of communication in healthcare and often seek prospective employees that have bi- or multi-lingual abilities. A study abroad program can offer students some of the best environments to learn second languages in conversational contexts.
Cultural Sensitivity for the Workplace
Patients in the U.S. come from a variety of races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations. While you may think all patients should be treated the same in a medical and health environment, certain accommodations for some can lead to improved patient experiences and outcomes. For example, a Muslim patient may feel more comfortable in a room that faces Mecca, and a Jewish patient may need access to various kosher food options. Of course, students can learn these things while studying and working in the United States, but immersion in cultures abroad can make students more skilled in recognizing and applying patient needs to care experiences.
Increased Career Opportunities
By working directly with medical or health colleagues and professionals in face-to-face contexts, students can increase the number of employment options available to them when they enter the job market. Young professionals today can gain an enormous edge by developing an international network, especially with individuals with whom they have worked in-person.
Some of today’s health-related careers and how each benefits from studying and working abroad.
Study Abroad Benefits
Global health students often focus on health challenges and solutions on a more macro scale. This can include biostatistics, epidemiology, and health systems in developing countries. In a global or international public health degree program, studying abroad gives students an opportunity for real-world, in-person experience that can inform research and learn how local challenges can shape larger-scale healthcare issues.
Study Abroad Benefits
Pre-med students who study abroad can gain valuable experience in healthcare internships or service-learning opportunities. Some medical students study abroad to gain multicultural experience, bolster their resume, and avoid burning out during their tenure in medical school. When applying for jobs, doctors with study abroad experience are more likely to be eligible for positions with non-traditional roles or tasks, challenging patients or community dynamics, or that require a culturally sensitive healthcare professional.
Study Abroad Benefits
Nursing students who study abroad can improve their cultural competence, language skills, and understanding of global health issues. They can also learn how to better navigate new or foreign healthcare systems. Upon entering the job market, nursing professionals with these skills in hand may be able to take on more complex roles in the healthcare system in the U.S. or abroad.
Study Abroad Benefits
For learners studying healthcare administration, international internships at non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations such as the United Nations, and international development organizations can round out a young professional’s resume and open numerous doors to full-time employment. This may be most evident in developing countries where healthcare systems may still be structurally young.
Study Abroad Benefits
Medical researchers benefit from study abroad programs because of the diverse environments and skilled individuals to which they gain access. While studying abroad, aspiring medical researchers can work in a variety of laboratory settings, work one-on-one with professors and medical doctors who are experts in their field, and develop valuable contacts for potential employment.
Study Abroad Benefits
Study abroad students in veterinary or vet tech programs can take advantage of opportunities to help endangered or uncommon animals that are traditionally unavailable to learners in the U.S. Students can obtain positions in laboratories clinics, farms, and ranches and receive excellent hands-on work experience. These situations can serve as distinguishing markers when newly graduated veterinarians apply for positions.
Study Abroad Benefits
Massage therapy students can explore a variety of therapy styles, theories, and approaches employed by massage experts around the globe. Depending on the program, those who study abroad may be able to earn a massage certificate in a specialized area while enrolled. By studying different approaches to massage therapy, students improve their overall understanding of the power of touch and show potential employers they are willing to go the extra mile and think outside the box to ultimately improve the level of care they can provide for clients.
Study Abroad Benefits
In most cases, aspiring certified medical interpreters must possess linguistic proficiency in English and complete at least 40 hours of medical interpreting training. Understanding English is an important skill, but medical translators today can benefit from full immersion programs and internships abroad. A recent study by the Association of International Educators shows that nearly 40% of U.S. companies would benefit greatly employing more internationally competent personnel. The medical field also benefits from bilingual and multilingual translators.
Study Abroad Benefits
With the increasing demand of public health professionals, many students choose to study abroad to further develop their skill set and studying areas around the globe. Many public health majors can engage in shadowing opportunities and internships at International hospitals. Studies abroad for public health students allow them to gain different perspectives on epidemiology, infectious diseases, healthcare systems, public health and sociology, and cultural influences on public works. As a result of this diverse education and hands-on experience, public health students position themselves for a variety of careers upon entering the job market.
Study Abroad Benefits
Aid workers come from a variety of backgrounds, including medicine, health studies, engineering, environmental studies, linguistics, and more. Jobs for these individuals often exist in conflict zones, poor countries, and locations with gravely at-risk populations. Study abroad programs for aspiring aid workers often provide cross-cultural experiences and international networking opportunities that can lead to fulfilling careers.
Study Abroad Benefits
Dental students can take part in a variety of study abroad volunteer and for-credit programs to learn more about oral healthcare and healthcare systems in countries around the world. Many opportunities for dental students exist in rural and at-risk communities where access to oral health care is minimal. These experiences help students gain valuable hands-on experience, learn more about healthcare outside of the U.S., and better prepare them for careers with diverse populations.
Study Abroad Benefits
Nutrition students often enjoy studying abroad to learn the nutrition, exercise, and physical health beliefs and practices of people in other countries. Many study abroad students in this area explore global food nutrition and security, food sovereignty, obesity, human crisis, sustainability, and the relationship between communities and their food supply. A more well-rounded, global understanding of nutrition, health, and cultural foodways better prepares learners for a variety of careers in the field.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program
While the number of study abroad programs grows each year, this doesn’t mean it’s easier for students to find the best one for them. They need to do extensive research, create a list of potential candidates, identify the pros and cons of each, and see how everything meshes with their educational and career goals. Easier said than done. If this sounds like you, here’s what you need to know if you have study abroad on your to-do list.
Research Program Basics
A study abroad program may sound great on the surface, but if the credits you earn abroad won’t apply to your degree, it’s all for not. Before you think about where you want to go and when you want to get there, research the following points for EACH study abroad program you’re considering.
Programmatic licensure or accreditation
Medical and health students interested in studying abroad can rest assured that a program will be worth their time if associated school, institution, or organization possesses licensure or accreditation from a reputable body. One of the ways that students can ensure that they are working with a credible entity is to follow the guidance of advisors and professors at their schools.
Many colleges and universities maintain partnerships with other institutions around the globe. One of the primary reasons for these connections is to provide students with international learning experiences. Students should contact their home department or, if available, their school’s department of international studies for more information.
Most students wish to obtain transferable credits while studying abroad. Learners should check with their academic department and school registrar before taking the leap into a program abroad.
Students must closely examine the total cost of their chosen venture. It is important to consider all of the major categories of expenditures that students incur while overseas, including travel costs, tuition expenses, travel insurance, and housing.
Financial aid options
Medical and health students interested in studying abroad may be able to secure funding for their trip by way of need- or merit-based scholarships.
Specialty or partnership
Some programs offer programs for students who study particular areas of the field or have an interest in studying abroad in a particular country. These options vary between schools and require students to conduct some research on their options in advance. A student’s school may have a partnership with another college, university, or institution that directly benefits students in medical or health studies.
Pick Your Style and Duration
Study abroad for medical and health students exists in several forms. A student’s choice of a certain program type depends on things such as intended time commitment, available funding, and desired location. In the list that follows, we offer detailed descriptions of each applicable study abroad scenario for medical and health students and include important factors to consider for each.
For many medical and health students, a one semester or full-year study abroad program is an excellent choice. In these scenarios, students have ample time to take advantage of the resources available to them, both academically and culturally. Full-year students can spend more time learning essential skills for their careers and developing professional relationships with medical or health professionals. An advanced skill set and expansive professional network often lead to valuable career options upon graduation. The University College in Dublin, Ireland, offers year-long study abroad programs for learners in the health sciences, nutrition, and nursing.
The duration of the summer/winter semester study abroad program can be appealing because of its two- to three-month commitment. Among the shorter tenures available to medical and health students, the summer/winter option gives students enough time to get a full experience, both academically and personally, while abroad. These sessions are also less of a financial and time commitment than other arrangements and keep learners from missing full semesters of school work at home. Czech Hospital Placements offers summer opportunities for medical and health students in the Czech Republic.
Some colleges and universities in other countries offer distance students in the U.S. to take classes online, with no in-person obligations. Online study abroad programs may not be available for all medical and health students, especially for those interested in professions that require hands-on training. Online study abroad programs for careers in health studies are more likely to exist than those focused on medicine, but it depends on the program and the student’s interests. The duration of online study abroad programs varies and can last several weeks or months at a time. Located in the European Union, the College of Remote and Offshore Medicine Foundation offers online training and resources for medical students. The college also features operational locations in Africa and Asia.
Health and medical students can take advantage of a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. In most cases, learners earn academic credit toward their degrees while providing valuable services for at-risk populations, remote communities with little access to resources, and more. These programs often afford students the opportunity to learn and work in a unique environment, often without the comforts or resources commonly found in hospitals, clinics, care centers, or dedicated health facilities. Volunteer programs can last for weeks or months at a time and depends largely on the location and hosting organization or facility. AfricaImpact offers many volunteering options for medical and health students and beyond.
These internships allow learners to work in part- or full-time positions abroad. Medical and health students can obtain these valuable training experiences through their departments or credible organizations in the field. Depending on the program or organization, students may be able to earn credit toward their degree for participating. Medical students can take advantage of this internship in the Philippines, for example.
These programs best serve students who are trying to find the least disruptive study abroad program, in terms of scheduling and overall time commitment. These sessions are usually one to eight weeks in duration and offer learners a glimpse into life as a student abroad. Depending on the program, students in this style of program typically each three to six credit hours toward their degree. Short intersession placements are available all around the globe, include this HIV/AIDS project in Africa.
Medical and health students can also receive unique training abroad by participating in professional exchange programs. The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations Provides access to professional exchange programs dedicated to learners across the medical field. This program has a history of placing medical and health students in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the eastern Mediterranean region. Exchange options can also come through a student’s own college or university. Exchange programs typically last at least one semester. Many students choose to spend a year abroad while earning credits for their degree.
Choose Your Destination Carefully
Choosing a destination for a study abroad program is exciting and challenging. It can be a chance to study in your dream location, but that may not be what’s best for your education and career. For example, if you have an interest in joining the medical community’s fight against HIV/AIDS, it probably makes to choose a location where HIV/AIDS is prevalent, and not one based on weather or local cuisine. The following list breaks down several types of study abroad locations and how each can move your education or career forward.
Medical and health students may wish to attend a program in a developed nation, especially if they plan on working in state-of-the-art facilities, laboratories, or universities.
Study abroad programs in rural communities often allow students to play an important role by providing care, instruction, or resources to remote populations with non-optimal access to medical or health professionals. More rural settings also allow medical and health professionals to wear multiple hats and learn a variety of skills in the process.
Students may wish to study at advanced facilities because of the advanced technology and access to resources. Advanced facilities may also employ experts in the field with whom medical and health students can build professional relationships.
Students may wish to seek out and study with experts abroad in their specialized area of the medical or health field. While experts are not always accessible in study abroad programs or other learning scenarios, a student’s college or university can help them make an effort to locate and apply to these positions.
If a student’s research is dependent upon a major factor such as environmental conditions, learners need to seek out study abroad programs in those areas. For example, if a medical or health student is studying the effects of radiation or the body’s reaction to sub-zero temperatures, their search for programs can narrow quickly.
Some study abroad opportunities, such as the Semester at Sea program, offer medical and health students opportunities to visit several geographical locations over the course of their enrollment. This can be advantageous for learners interested in comparative studies or diversifying their educational experiences while away from home.
Find Housing that Works for You
While students all have different needs, many agree that comfortable housing options while enrolled in a study abroad program can significantly contribute to the overall experience. Students planning on studying abroad should consider all of their housing options, what they can afford, and which lodging scenario will best meet their personal needs.
Host family (Homestay)
Staying with a host family can be a highly beneficial choice for new students abroad. Learners can locate housing through international student homestay programs that offer a hassle-free, streamlined process to securing safe housing abroad. Many students enjoy homestays because they are often affordable options and provide direct access to individuals or families who are familiar with the surroundings.
Dormitory (Student Housing)
Depending on the type of program a student enters, they may be able to secure affordable housing in dorms at a college or university. Alternatively, there may be local organizations not associated with a school that offers comparable housing. Many students enjoy dormitory living because it offers immersive experiences with other learners and the rooms typically come furnished.
If a medical or health student which is to secure a private residence while studying abroad, those options are available virtually anywhere. This may be the best option for students who prefer to live alone, often work or study at home, or simply need extra personal space. Private accommodations typically cost more than other housing options.
Paying for Your Program
Unless you secure a position in a fully funded program, studying abroad can be costly. In addition to typical school expenses you might encounter on a daily basis, studying abroad includes plane tickets, rent, food, daily travel expenses, entertainment, and more. To prepare, medical and health students need to give themselves ample time to prepare, save money, and create a budget.
One of the best ways to finance a trip abroad is to begin saving money well in advance of one’s departure. Students can take advantage of computer programs and smartphone apps that help them create budgets and spending restrictions. Additionally, some students may choose to use an online crowdsourcing sites, such as FundMyTravel, to help generate funds.
Since many study abroad students will be traveling light, it can also be advantageous to sell any old textbooks, school supplies, or other personal items that aren’t needed in the foreseeable future. Additionally, in preparation for a study abroad program, students can save money by unsubscribing to video streaming services, avoiding costly social events and nightlife, or moving in with a friend or family member to save on rent. Last but not least, aspiring study abroad students should spend a significant amount of time trying to locate scholarships to help offset the cost of their trip.
Medical and health students who wish to study abroad can look for funding both inside and outside of their university. Some scholarships are merit- or need-based, while others are reserved for students who study in a particular field. In the section that follows, we provide 20 applicable scholarships for learners trying to offset the cost of a study abroad program.
Funded by the Council on International Educational Exchange, this scholarship is intended for ethnic minority students who demonstrate Financial need. Applications must include an outline of academic achievements, a personal essay, and letters of recommendation.
Provided by the Council International Educational Exchange, this scholarship provides funding for study abroad students in health sciences, nursing, and public health. Applicants must be enrolled in a CIEE community and public health program.
Full coverage of program fees and travel costs for CIEE program
Offered up to 10 students per academic year, this fellowship allows minority students to participate in an intensive four-week, three-credit summer study abroad program. Applicants must submit letters of recommendation for consideration.
Offered by the Cultural Experiences Abroad Organization, this merit-based scholarship is for students interested in studying abroad who possess a 2.5 or higher GPA. Applications need to include a letter of recommendation and a personal essay.
The School of International Training offers awards for students to attend semester-long programs abroad. Applicants choose from programs in Argentina, Malaysia, and Senegal. Applicants must demonstrate financial need for consideration.
The Golden Key International Honour Society accepts applications from full-time or part-time undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate students currently enrolled in a study abroad program for this award. Applicants must be a Golden Key number to apply.
Offered by the Tortuga backpack company, this award is for students to offset the cost of tuition, room and board, travel, or books while studying abroad. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or student with a U.S. student visa.
The scholarship is open to recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree, master’s students, and doctoral candidates. Applicants may also be young professionals in law, business, or other professional fields. This award is for individuals who wish to live and learn for one academic year in a foreign country.
This award is for individuals who wish to study abroad and participate in humanitarian activities, including disease prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, and community and economic development. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited master’s program.
Scholarship recipients receive full funding, including flights, accommodations, and course fees, to study at any university in the United Kingdom. Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of work experience in their field.
This award offers full or partial funding for any college or university student pursuing a summer- or semester-long internship abroad. Only students pursuing semester-long scholarships can receive full funding.
Offered by the American Association of Teachers of Japanese, this award is for U.S. students who wish to study abroad in Japan during a full semester or full academic year. Recipients must submit a brief report about their studies while enrolled in the program.
Awarded by Delta Phi Alpha, this award is for students who wish to study abroad in a German speaking country. Applications must include a personal statement and a letter outlining the students plans to enroll in an accredited program.
This need-based award provides funding for students who wish to study in Asia. Funds may be used for travel expenses, living costs, local transportation, and books. Recipients must complete a service-learning project that relates to their field of study.
Funded by the U.S.-Japan Council, this award provides funding for a student in financial need. Recipients will study for one academic year in Japan. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Get Ready! A Study Abroad Checklist
Preparing to study abroad requires careful planning and a number of important steps. With so many topics to cover before departing, it’s always good to create a checklist to keep things organized and make sure you have everything they need. Here’s a detailed list to get you going:
Apply for a passport
Students need to make sure they have a valid passport in order to travel internationally. In most cases, it takes six to eight weeks to renew an expired passport.
Register for a student visa
Depending on the location, students may need to obtain a student visa to be allowed into the country and remain for the duration of their program. Learners may be able to receive assistance with the student visa process from their host organization or institution.
Register with U.S embassy
Students should take advantage of the U.S. government’s free travel registration. This creates a record of the student’s travel plans and allows the embassy to help students more easily in the case of an emergency.
Get necessary vaccinations & fill prescriptions
Along with the necessary vaccinations, students traveling abroad should refill medical prescriptions. Students can contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers for assistance with refilling prescriptions. It is best, however, for learners to take with them all of the medication they need for the duration of their enrollment abroad.
Read consular information report
The U.S. State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management offers an online consular information program. This includes travel warnings, safety and security concerns, and public conditions of areas abroad.
Familiarize yourself with cultural norms
It can be helpful for students traveling abroad to gain a general understanding of cultural norms in their destination. Students should locate credible sources for more information, including ethnographic articles or books written by cultural anthropologists or folklorists who have conducted research in the area.
Practice the language
International students can benefit greatly from being able to communicate in the local language. At the very least, it is good to know how to ask for directions, food, medical attention, and police officers. Smartphone apps such as Duolingo can help students develop a foundation understanding of the local language.
Travel locks and security
Students traveling abroad should acquire the necessary locks or related safety equipment to secure their belongings.
Create a budget
Students should learn about the local currency and applicable exchange rates. It is best to create a budget for the duration of the program and follow it diligently.
Research and pay for your flights
While looking for flights, students can use a flight tracking app to find the best prices. Learners also need to check with the institution or organization with whom they are studying to find the best travel routes and airports. Skyscanner is a popular flight tracking app.
Look into student ID/discount cards
If a student’s institution or organization offers student discounts, this can be an excellent way to save money and offset the cost of daily expenses such as local transportation and food.
Consider traveler’s insurance
Many insurance providers that offer student travel insurance feature 24/7 hotlines for emergency situations. Travel insurance also typically covers expenses incurred as a result lost baggage, missed flights, theft of belongings, and some illnesses.
Figure out cell phone plan
If students plan on having a cell phone while studying abroad, it is important to find a plan with coverage in the necessary locations before traveling. Some locations offer phone rental opportunities. In some cases, students use the international services provided by their current service provider.
Plan your wardrobe
Learners need to pack light and efficiently. Students with particular clothing needs, especially clothes related to schoolwork, fieldwork, or research, should prioritize those garments.
Test pack your baggage
Students should travel with bags they know well and trust. It is important that bags lock and have sturdy latches. Adding vinyl straps or belts around suitcases can add extra protection and keep one’s belongings from falling out in transit.
Make copies of important documents
While abroad, students may not have easy access to copy machines or a postal service. Travelers should make at least two copies of their important documents: one to leave at home in the U.S. and an extra copy as backups to the original copies they take with them.
Keep physical copies of emergency contacts
Many of us rely on our phone for important phone numbers and contact information. Students should make a physical list of all necessary phone numbers and contact information before traveling.
Look into travel safety apps
Today’s smartphone technology can offer many valuable tools for travelers. Various travel websites offer good tips and tricks for traveling smartphone users.
If students are accustomed to using a particular product, such as a certain type of sunscreen, contact lens solution, or hygiene product, they should be sure to take an ample supply with them. These products may not be available at their destination.
Bring a tool to stay in touch
Whether it is an iPad or laptop, or even a pen and paper with envelopes and the necessary postage, it is important to bring a tool to stay in touch with loved ones in the U.S.
Power supply and adaptors
Depending on the location, students may need a converter to plug in everyday items that need a charge. It is best to research this ahead of time to obtain the necessary adapters before traveling. Additionally, it can be helpful for learners to have back-up battery packs for their phones, computers, etc.
Google offers a free calling and texting service through its standard Gmail account. This service is not available on all devices but will work with at least laptops, iPads, smartphones. Students should set up a Gmail account before traveling.
Resources for Finding Study Abroad Programs
Medical and health students who wish to find additional resources should check with their institution’s study abroad office or home academic department. Additionally, a thoughtful google search can lead students to the homepages of accredited institutions and reputable organizations that offer study abroad programs in their field. Students researching study abroad programs should keep in mind that the best opportunities for their personal and academic needs may be located outside of the traditional university context. There are many organizations unrelated to academia that provide valuable training for study abroad learners. In the list below, we offer several online resources to point prospective study abroad students in the right direction.
https://www.aifs.com/ The American Institute for Foreign Study offers educational and cultural exchange programs around the globe.
https://www.goabroad.com/ GoAbroad.com provides features an advanced search engine to help students locate study abroad opportunities based on subject area, duration, and time commitment. The site includes information on volunteer, internship, and teaching opportunities for all subject areas.
https://www.gooverseas.com/ GoOverseas provides information on more than 16,000 study abroad programs and jobs. The site also includes over 35,000 reviews from users to help prospective study abroad students choose the best program for them.
https://usac.edu/ USAC’s online resources include information on study abroad opportunities and financial aid information.
https://studiesabroad.com/programfinder/ ISA’s site provides learners access to a useful program search engine and funding resources. The organization provides a wide variety of study abroad options including internships and volunteer opportunities.
Angela Myers is a freelance writer covering health, health tech, and education. Her work has appeared in Forbes Health, Healthline, and others. Before starting her writing career, she conducted award-winning research on how to better communicate about sexual violence prevention on college campuses. When not writing, she can be found doing yoga, running, or buying too many books.