Studying abroad when pursuing a major based in science can be challenging. However, since Pre-Physical Therapy isn’t typically an actual major, students eager to study physical therapy abroad usually have more flexibility in selecting courses. PT students frequently find that study abroad programs provide the perfect venue for completing elective courses especially. Physical Therapists also must understand the science of movement, be caring, nurturing, and patient individuals with a real passion for helping people. All of these are excellent characteristics to be gained from studying abroad.
Why Study PT Abroad
The skills you need to be a successful physical therapist are both emotional and scientific, and field experience in both are needed to develop your skills. Gaining experience or exposure to the health field in an international setting takes your learning to an even higher level, and it will help you feel even more equipped to fulfill the needs of your patients in the future.
Since transferring science credits can sometimes be challenging, physical therapy students will be happy to know that many prerequisites for PT programs include social and behavioral sciences, which are some of the most accessible subjects when it comes to study abroad programs. Certain physical therapy degree programs even have an international component built into them, since it is such a growing area of healthcare around the world, so some students won’t have much trouble fitting study abroad in to their studies.
Though studying abroad is available in almost every country in the world, there certain countries that remain the best places to study physical therapy abroad.
Costa Rica. As one the richest and most popular destinations for study abroad in Latin America, Costa Rica has one of the top, if not the top, healthcare systems in Latin America. It is a well developed, beautiful, and safe country. It also happens to be a very popular location for biology courses. Costa Rica puts a great amount of resources into the health of its natural environment as well as its people and communities. Studying physical therapy in Costa Rica will provide students with an interesting, diverse immersion experience into both community health and government run healthcare, as well as access to high standards of education abroad.
South Africa. Health sciences is one of the most popular areas for study abroad in South Africa. Medical resources are often stretched thin in South Africa, but the government is restructuring to increase access and quality. The country is developed and developing at the same time, but provides excellent higher education in either state, and that includes the chance to study physical therapy at some of the nation’s top universities.
United Kingdom. The U.K. in general is a popular area for health and behavioral sciences. Many students pursue graduate degrees in Psychology in England and Scotland is home to one of only three schools accredited by The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education outside of the United States. Physical therapy programs in the United Kingdom are well developed and well respected.
PT Courses Abroad
Since majors vary between pre-physical therapy students, study abroad courses available to PT students also vary based on location and academic institution. It can be helpful for PT students to reserve some general education requirements or elective classes for their study abroad experience, since these courses will be more flexible, not to mention fun, when you are faced with all the unique courses offered abroad.
Some of the best prerequisite courses to explore while studying abroad are Psychology, Nutrition, or Physics. Finding a psychology course abroad will be easy and since the psychological needs of physical therapy patients can be just as important as their physical needs, it is a valuable course for physical therapists. Physical therapy is unique in that much of the work is tangibly in the hands of the patient and their physical therapist, which requires a good deal of psychological understanding. On the other hand, physics, which is always required for physical therapy degree programs, is a highly accessible course to take abroad as well. The push of STEM courses is opening new doors all the time too. Students may also find opportunities to earn special certifications while studying physical therapy abroad.
It is important to discuss transferring credits with an advisor that specializes in pre-physical therapy before deciding on a study abroad program, because your courses may not even be able to transfer back to your undergraduate institution, which is the essential part of making study abroad beneficial to your degree. The requirements of perspective physical therapy schools will be very important, so you will also need to take into account if they will accept your credits from abroad as meeting the prerequisite requirements.
- Empathy & Understanding. Fulfilling the needs of your patients is all about seeing things from their point of view and being able to communicate effectively. These skills can be even more important in physical therapy than in other areas of health care, because therapists work very closely with patients and on a regular basis. You will need to assist them through movements and coach them through the most difficult time in their lives, which will be easier after you’ve experienced the inevitable challenges of living and studying abroad.
- New Approaches. Treatment plans are all about how therapists look at the issue. Studying physical therapy abroad will expose you to many different new or alternative methods of treatment.