Study Medicine Abroad

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A Guide to Studying Medicine Abroad

Apply your medical skills in the real world and explore different health systems across the globe by studying medicine abroad. Medicine is a global career that allows you to make a positive impact on the world afterall. While you need to take your core classes in the classroom and laboratory, you could spend your summers in Africa volunteering on HIV/AIDS projects or conducting surgery in Mexico during your clinical rotations. From taking vitals to educating kids about the proper way to wash their hands, studying medicine abroad gives you the opportunity to apply your skills and begin to change the world one person at a time.

Why Study Medicine Abroad

Pursuing a career in medicine is a noble career choice, but one that requires years of studying and hard work. Medical school requires full-time studying with little flexibility to leave the country. However, in recent years medical schools have realized the benefits of medical students studying abroad and now many medical schools offer summer programs and clinical rotations for students looking for an enriching experience halfway across the globe.

Spending a summer or a clinical rotation studying medicine abroad in another country will give you a new perspective on healthcare systems across the world and help you develop your communication skills greatly. The world is an increasingly diverse place, so living in a different culture will help you in the future when you’re in the ER with a patient who comes from a different cultural background no doubt!


Choosing a location to study medicine abroad in doesn’t have to be hard, as there are study abroad programs all over the world. Since you’ll be in the country for an extended time, it’s important to pick a country or region that interests you and could help you grow as a future doctor. If you’re interested in becoming fluent in another language, consider study abroad programs that allow you to take language courses and practice the language in your daily life. If you’re interested in public health education, Africa and Latin America are home to many opportunities to study medicine abroad that will allow you to get involved in health education programs that can help save lives. Keep these types of things in mind as you begin to decide on a location for your study abroad experience.

Africa is a vast region of the planet that offers a wide range of opportunities to study medicine abroad where you can apply your newly acquired medical skills in the real world to make a difference in a person’s life. While Africa is riddled with hunger, infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and numerous health disparities, it is a great place to really expose yourself to a new culture and make a real impact in the local neighborhood by utilizing your medical knowledge. Popular locations to complete a medical rotation in Africa include South Africa and Ghana.

South America offers many opportunities for medical students to experience the local healthcare system, whether urban or rural, and gain valuable language skills along the way. There are over 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world; as a doctor you will most likely have to treat someone who speaks Spanish in your career, so why not learn the language among natives? Argentina, specifically, is a hotbed for Spanish language schools, where many schools even provide classes focused on medical Spanish for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to improve their vocabulary and aid in cultural competence.

Looking to gain experience in Western medicine, but experience a different healthcare system? You may want to study medicine in Europe. Many medical schools offer international rotations in Europe for fourth year medical students. While studying medicine in Europe, you’ll continue to gain valuable skills and knowledge in a wide variety of specialties, but you’ll also gain an inside understanding of how healthcare systems function in other countries. When you’re ready to shed the scrubs, you’ll be able to head outside the hospital to enjoy the delicious local dishes, diverse architecture, and centuries old history.

The medical field is found universally in some form or another throughout the world. People get sick and there has to be professionals to take care of them. While most of your learning will take place in the classroom or in a hospital, don’t forget to put your skills to the test in the real world. Spend a summer or a clinical rotation abroad and apply your skills, gain a better understanding of different cultures and their healthcare systems, and grow as a person and a future doctor.

Studying Medicine Abroad

Unfortunately, most medical students aren’t able to study abroad in the traditional sense by spending a full semester abroad. However, medical students can spend their summers abroad volunteering or partaking in one or two international clinical rotations to gain valuable hands-on experience and give back to the local community.

The summer before you start medical school and the summer between your first and second year of university is a great time to go abroad through service learning programs for credit. There are many service learning programs across the globe, with most concentrated in Africa and Latin America, for pre-med and medical students wishing to make a positive impact in the local community through public health educational programs, community clinics, and a chance to spend some quality time shadowing doctors and learning new skills.

Additionally, some medical and graduate schools offer summer courses focused on tropical medicine, infectious disease, public health research, and other global topics that might be of interest to you, especially if you’re considering volunteering or working abroad as a physician in the future. Over recent decades, medical schools have partnered with international universities and hospitals to provide international clinical rotations for third and fourth year medical schools. As the world continues to become globalized and many western countries become increasingly culturally diverse, it is important that doctors gain experience treating patients of different cultures. International clinical rotations may entail anything from surgery to emergency medical to pediatrics. Often times these clinical rotations are offered in developing countries where the local people do not have access to the critical medical care they need so your skills and knowledge have a huge impact on the communities.   

Pick your favored destination and book a plane ticket to study medicine abroad now!

Benefits & Challenges

Spending a summer studying medicine abroad through a program at a hospital in Africa or doing your clinical surgery rotation in Germany is an enriching experience that will only make you a better doctor, and person. The medical profession is a noble career choice for those looking to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

While many people believe that medicine is all about saving lives and curing rare diseases, medicine is truly about connecting with people. For this reason, studying medicine abroad has many secondary benefits. For one, studying medicine abroad will make you a more competitive applicant when it comes time to apply for residencies and jobs in the field.

If you decide to study medicine abroad, you should also be prepared for some challenges though. You’ll most likely face a language barrier which makes communicating complex medical information stressful and difficult, but this will only propel your learning forward by motivating you to learn a second language.

While you can’t study medicine abroad during medical school, you can spend your summers, and possibly some of your clinical rotations, abroad exploring the world. A career in medicine can easily be spent abroad, so why not go abroad early on in your medical education?

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written by:

Banner Report 2018

A Guide To
Studying Medicine Abroad


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