The field of optometry and vision sciences is growing rapidly as health care systems all over the world are reaching the point where they are able to provide low cost solutions to eye problems that have previously had no cheap solution. This growth means that opportunities to study optometry abroad are on the rise, both service-based and learning focused, and plentiful in all corners of the globe. Add a study abroad experience to your education in optometry and vision sciences and see the world while helping others see theirs!
Why Study Abroad
Working in Optometry can be an incredibly lucrative career, especially in developed nations. However, it is the less fortunate developing nations that are currently seeing a huge need for professionals in vision services.
In the past, health care systems in developing nations have focused on what have been far more deadly health issues, such as malnutrition and communicable diseases. However, as these issues become slightly easier to manage and solutions for optical problems become cheaper, the focus is being shifted to address less life-threatening, yet sometimes more debilitating, diseases related to vision.
Optometry interventions don’t always directly save lives, but the improvements in quality of life that patients experience when vision problems are corrected is enormous. By restoring patients sight, optometrists allow them to once again become functioning members of their households and their communities.
Beyond the opportunities for direct, hands-on experience implementing interventions, more classical optometry study abroad programs are certainly available as well. Just as with any study abroad program, students studying optometry abroad will be provided with the chance to learn to adapt to new environments and work with people from other cultures, and of course gain a nice addition to their professional resume.
As mentioned above, the locations for optometry opportunities abroad are practically limitless. There will always be a need for medical professionals. Classic study abroad programs, which often include optometry related course offerings, are available through world class universities all over the globe; but these universities, and the high-quality programs each offers, will be most common in highly developed nations with successful health care sectors.
Specifically, European nations like Ireland and France, as well as nations on the other side of the world with exceptional health care systems, like Australia, Japan, or New Zealand, make great destinations for optometry study abroad.
For a more service-oriented study abroad experience, health care professionals and students are always needed in underserved, developing nations as well. Countries like India, Ghana, and Peru all represent possible destinations for service-learning related to optometry, but may not be able to provide the solid academic coursework of a full semester program. So these nations may be better for gaining practical experience with real patients through a more short term program, rather than the location for taking extensive science courses.
By far the most important aspect of the decision about where to study optometry abroad will simply be to decide which type of program you would like to pursue and what your goals are in studying abroad. Once you decide the type of program, it only takes a little searching to narrow down the most appropriate location for you.
Courses & Programs
The ways in which you can approach your search for optometry opportunities abroad are numerous to say the least. But there are definitely ways to narrow down your search.
For starters, full term study abroad programs that focus on health sciences are available all over the world. Essentially every major university in a developed country will offer several courses that can easily be applied to an undergraduate degree in optometry and vision sciences. But specifically be on the lookout for any courses that deal with methods of health care in the country you are studying abroad in. Differences in the ways we deliver healthcare to our citizens, even seemingly small ones, can result in very different outcomes. So any student hoping to work in optometry in the future will greatly benefit from learning about the ways in which healthcare is implemented in various countries and healthcare systems around the world.
In nearly any medical field, short-term volunteer programs are very common as well, with many organizations offering academic credit for service-learning programs. The shorter time frames of these types of programs make them excellent options for students who don’t have an entire semester to dedicate to an optometry study abroad program. Multiple organizations focus on optometry services and provide optometry opportunities abroad for students interested in volunteering in underserved nations.
Optometry specific service-learning programs can last anywhere from a week to several months, during which students can work hands-on in communities in developing nations all over the world. Optometry students may have the chance to complete a variety of tasks, such as administering basic eye exams, handing out personalized eyeglasses, and even observing surgical procedures performed by on-staff ophthalmologists. These types of optometry study abroad opportunities can provide an interesting alternative to traditional study abroad programs.
Clearly, the benefits of international programs in optometry or vision sciences are enormous. These types of study abroad programs allow students to expand their knowledge of the field beyond what is typically taught in a classroom, especially in the case of field-based learning components.
Furthermore, any kind of international experience is going to look great on a resume, something that can come in very handy in the highly competitive field of medicine. Add to that the knowledge that you are truly making a difference in the lives of others and you have all the reasons you need to embark on an optometry study abroad journey of your own!