Internships are almost mandatory for those pursuing careers in health sciences. Whether a student wants to use their education to go on to professional school or to enter the workforce, health internships are a universal experience that can quickly add professional know how to his or her repertoire. So if an internship is in your future anyway, why not make it a memory of a lifetime by applying for a health internship abroad! International health internships expose students to practices and systems they are likely unfamiliar with, better equipping them to deal with adversity in a future career and adding a shining star to their resume.
Why Intern Abroad
Students in the health sciences field are preparing themselves for a demanding professional career in which every bit of experience will likely come in handy, and an international health internship is a fantastic addition to any student’s professional practice. Add to that the possibility of using a health science degree to move on to professional schools in fields such as medicine, dentistry, and physical therapy, and you have every reason to add a resume boosting international experience to your education. Students interning abroad in health sciences will be exposed to the widely varied approaches to health care present around the world, including methods and treatments that may be different to what can be found in Western countries like the United States.
Interns can also utilize international internship experience as a great networking opportunity, expanding their professional contacts list to span not just cities and states, but borders as well. Finally, international health internships can and often will expose students to types of patient care environments that simply cannot be found within their own country’s borders. Through a health internship abroad students will come face to face with the difficulties of health delivery in places where health care systems are practically (and sometimes literally) non-existent, and experience that is both eye-opening and humbling.
The location sought out for an international health internship will depend largely on the specific subset of health care a student is pursuing.
Academically Based. A top choice for students looking for a health internship abroad that is more academic than field work based is none other than Germany. Germany is a global leader in almost every science field, and health sciences are no exception. With constant breakthroughs in epidemiology, neurology, and biomedical sciences, Germany is a top notch, first world destination, especially for students hoping to go to professional schools in medicine, dentistry, optometry, and related fields.
Hands On Based. Students studying health fields related to human movement could be hard pressed to find a more appropriate international internship destination than Australia for experience in their chosen professions. Students interested in fields like physical therapy, athletic training, and sports medicine can find plenty of internship opportunities for health science in Australia’s expansive sporting culture, as well as more research based opportunities in sports performance and human physiology laboratories, of which Australia has some of the finest in the world.
Rural/Need Based. These health internships abroad are more suited for either medical students or students in fields like public health, social work, or health systems administration. International health internships available in places like Uganda, Nepal, and Cambodia focus primarily on delivering healthcare to those who need it most. Having minimal or no access to healthcare is one of the largest preventable health disparities on Earth, and health internships in places like these will focus not only on educating the student, but on making them an active part of the fight to rectify the health crisis at hand. If you can handle the absence of many modern comforts, then a health internship abroad in a developing nation might be the perfect mix of professional and personal experience.
Health Science Internships Abroad
Since the health science field is so large and diverse, the types of placements interns may find will be equally as varied. However, the main focus of the field will always remain the patients themselves. This means that almost any internship opportunity in health sciences will involve interacting with and providing health care catering to the needs of local patients.
In terms of day to day life as a health intern, established medical professionals are likely to oversee students, providing guidance and training throughout daily tasks. For most interns, the type of work performed daily will be required again in some professional capacity later in their careers. Skills such as data collection and logging methods, basic physiologic testing practices, and standard laboratory techniques are all commonly expected to be attained by interns, serving them well in their future educational and professional careers.
The biggest difference between domestic and international health internships may be in their time frames. In the health sciences, it is commonly accepted that students have a relatively stringent academic schedule to stick to. Agencies asking for interns to travel overseas are likely to offer their internships in a smaller time span than those back home. Full summer internship programs are about as long as international internships will get, allowing students to complete their experience without having to jeopardize their graduation plans. Shorter opportunities are also readily available, accepting interns for anywhere from one to four weeks, meaning an international health internship can easily be squeezed into even a short break from school.
As a note, due to the shorter length of the experience as a whole, interns are quite often expected to work no less than full time during international health internships. These hours can be filled with work in a variety of settings, but students should still expect to be working in at least some capacity for a majority of their stay.
Benefits & Challenges
- Invaluable & Irreplaceable Experience. Perhaps the biggest benefit from an international health internship will come in the form of experience. Not only is an internship abroad a fantastic addition to any resume, be it for a job or for acceptance to professional school, but it is an invaluable addition to the education of any future health professional. Learning to adapt your current knowledge to a new setting and apply it successfully is a highly sought after skill in almost any field, but especially so in the health sciences. Everyday health professionals experience change, be it in their location, their care techniques, or simply in their patients. Demonstrating that you have a history of dealing with these challenges and succeeding will be a major advantage moving forward in your career.
- Build Your Network. Networking is crucial in the health industry, and an international health internship will open doors that would be completely unattainable through a domestic internship. Having contacts overseas is a way to share health data and learn from the methods of others who may not approach problems the same way you do. In the health field, this can be incredibly beneficial, as we are all just human beings and tend to suffer from the same health issues regardless of location. The effective treatment of various conditions is a major goal for every health care system, and the ability to share ideas and information around the world is key to the advancement of healthcare for all.