It’s International Education Week! An initiative of the US Departments of State and Education, this annual observation celebrates the many benefits of international education and exchange worldwide while encouraging participation. But while most people think of international exchange in terms of the undergraduate years, many more opportunities exist -- including for medical studies. Read on for a roundup of five reasons to consider studying medicine abroad.
1. You could learn a new language.
As countries become more culturally diverse, healthcare professionals with language skills are in great demand. Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence points to the significant detrimental impact language barriers can have on quality of care.
In fact, healthcare professionals have many good reasons to learn another language, including everything from understanding the terminology better to standing out when applying for jobs.
Plus, if you plan to work in international medicine, your ability or inability to speak a second language may be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker.
2. It may be cheaper than studying in your home country.
Tuition fees for medical school are sky-high in countries like the US and the UK. As a result, many new MDs are graduating with crippling debt. Attending medical school in a country like Poland where medicine coursework is comparatively cheap can help you realize your goal of becoming a doctor without signing on for thousands -- or hundreds of thousands -- in debt.
3. You’ll challenge yourself -- and grow immensely.
Medical school is challenging to begin with. Throw in the extra challenges that come with studying abroad, and it becomes even more so. However, in dealing with these challenges, you will grow as a person and as a future physician. And then there’s the fact that you will have access to many things -- and people -- you wouldn’t have access to in your home country. Think of it this way: if you can handle studying medicine in an unfamiliar country and culture, what can’t you handle?
An added benefit is that once you complete your degree and start working in healthcare, you will have less time to travel and see the world. Studying medicine abroad lets you satisfy your wanderlust while simultaneously working toward your goals.
4. You will gain valuable new perspectives.
Cultural competence is a big issue in medicine right now, and expected to be increasingly important moving forward. According to a study published in the journal Academic Medicine, residents who did international clinical rotations say these experiences positively impacted their awareness of cultural and socioeconomic factors.
In addition to being exposed to new cultures and perspectives, you will also be exposed to many other new things, including different healthcare systems. US News & World Report explains, “Rotating abroad, either as a medical student or as a resident, you learn a considerable amount of information about patients' experiences under different legal healthcare structures. Given possible upcoming changes in the American healthcare system, it could be additionally helpful to have experiences in practical clinical work overseas to better understand the context of the changes.”
You will see different patients with different diseases, too. These interactions may give you the edge when you return home. “Whether you are a medical student or a resident, you will likely see illnesses and unusual clinical presentations of conditions you would probably not see at your school or hospital. You will probably also have more latitude in clinical planning and get to perform more procedures,” continues US News & World Report.
5. You may still be able to practice in your home country.
Afraid to go abroad for medical studies because you might not be able to practice back in your home country? While this may be the case in some situations, many countries are open to physicians trained abroad -- especially given the shortage of healthcare professionals. Performing due diligence and choosing the right destination for your international medical studies can help ensure that you can go on to practice in the country of your choice.
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. The same can be said of studying medicine. While combining the two into one may seem like an ambitious prospect, it is also one with potentially exhilarating outcomes for you -- both as a physician and as a person.
Did you study medicine abroad or are you considering doing so? If so, please share your experiences in the comments section.