As most undergraduate dentistry programs are designed to lead to professional school, students in these majors are often discouraged from studying abroad by rigorous course loads and the pressure to diversify their resume through various internships. However, it is not only possible to study abroad during a dentistry degree program, but it can be highly beneficial professionally as well. A wide variety of study abroad programs are available all over the world to develop the important skills and boost the resumes of future dentists.
Why Study Dentistry Abroad
A future career in dentistry is a noble goal for any student as the field is known for being both financially and personally rewarding. A career in dentistry provides the opportunity to directly impact the lives and overall health of others, but the real need for these services is not always highest close to home.
In today’s world, the greatest need for health professionals, dentists included, is seen in developing nations where oral health is often directly linked to overall health, although not always recognized as such. Experience working with low-income populations in developing nations can highlight a student’s compassion for underprivileged groups as well as their capacity to adapt to unique environments, two additions to a resume that could easily stand out to future employers or on dental school applications.
Every country in the world deals with oral health issues and needs in a slightly different way, and these small differences are the exact reason why international education experiences are so valuable to future dentists. Studying abroad can teach students about the unique environmental and social factors that affect oral health, as well as the much larger characteristics of life that unite people from all over the world.
Finding and appreciating human commonalities is one of the best lessons that can be learned from studying abroad, and the field of dentistry is no exception to the rule. Dental students will learn to work with a individuals from all different backgrounds, which will inevitably make them more approachable, well-rounded dentists in the future.
As is often the case within the health field, there is a constant need for professionals all over the world. For full semester programs, nations with a higher standard of medical care should be considered as these types of countries are likely to be home to world class universities where the level of medical education will be comparable with your university back home. Nations in this category include classic study abroad destinations like Germany, Australia, and, contrary to the stereotypes of British dental care, the United Kingdom.
On the other side of the coin, developing nations are going to see by far the largest need for health professionals, dentists included. Volunteer programs are most commonly available in such places, like the regions of Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Specifically the nations of Nepal, The Philippines, and Ethiopia tend to have standards of health care far below international averages, which provides dental students with the opportunity to explore the effects of limited health care services on overall health. Still, study abroad programs in developing nations can be beneficial in their own way, since these typically include hands on experience not usually available in a student’s home country.
Courses & Programs
As it is a professional degree, full semester study abroad programs that focus specifically on dentistry may be difficult to come by. However, it is still more than possible to fit such a program into a pre-dentistry degree, especially if you plan ahead. Most pre-professional degrees require at least two years of general education requirements, such as core science classes and basic human health courses, making the first two years of a dentistry degree the perfect time to study abroad. Essentially every major university around the world will offer the types of classes that are needed to fulfill these general education requirements for dental students (core sciences, introductory psychology/sociology, etc.), but once abroad students will find further opportunities for more specialized classes or for dental volunteering in local communities, which will expand the study abroad experience greatly.
For students with a tighter schedule, short-term study abroad programs which include volunteer work or field experience should be considered. These types of study abroad programs often last just a few weeks, perfect for fitting into a summer break or even a shorter spring or fall break. Besides being a glowing addition to any resume for dental school applications, many of these short term programs offer credit through local or international universities, making for both a fun and productive way to spend your break. Service learning experiences in the field of dentistry are not only beneficial to those being served, but to your resume as well.
With a field as competitive as dentistry, any and all diversity that can be added to a resume will always be a plus. With so many other students simply focusing on finishing their dentistry courses at home, an international experience in the field of dentistry can be a great addition to a resume, whether you are applying for a job or for enrollment in professional dentistry school. Showing future employers that you are able to work successfully with people from other cultures and are able to adapt yourself to new surroundings, speaks volumes about you as an individual and your ability to work in varied, diverse environments. With competition for employment in the health field and for acceptance into medical schools at an all-time high, now is the perfect time to embark on an international adventure and study dentistry abroad!