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Study Abroad in Health Professions

Considerations

There are many compelling reasons for why a pre-health professions student should study abroad.  You will never get the chance to have this kind of opportunity again, so if you have an interest in experiencing life in a different country don’t pass it up!  Once you begin professional school you will be consumed with preparing for and then practicing your profession.  Even if you eventually participate in an organization like Doctors Without Borders it will only be for a short duration and cannot compare with the experience you will obtain through study abroad.

Our health care system is very multicultural.  It will benefit you to learn about another country from “the inside”, as well as to experience what it feels like to be “on the outside”.  You will undoubtedly gain a level of understanding and empathy that will benefit your future patients from other cultures as they attempt to articulate their needs in our culture. Health professionals are routinely pushed out of their comfort zones and must be able to survive and thrive with uncertainty.  

Study abroad provides the opportunity to become fluent in a foreign language, which will come in handy when communicating with your future patients.  Language skills, particularly Spanish, make you extremely marketable in our health care system. As a temporary citizen of another country, you will learn about different health care systems and ways of healing, which will inform your understanding of our own health care system and your role in shaping it.

If you plan to go directly from Juniata into professional school, the best time to study abroad is junior year, since you must be available in the U.S. during your senior year for interviews at the professional schools.  If you plan to take time off between Juniata and professional school, studying abroad either your junior year or first semester senior year would be fine. Juniata offers short term programs over the summer if you feel you cannot manage a semester or a year.  Those who need to take summer courses before they leave need to pay close attention to when their study abroad semester starts and plan accordingly.  Not every country follows our academic timeline.

It is safest to take ALL your prerequisite courses for professional school in the U.S., as some schools will not accept credits taken abroad.  There is usually no problem with taking your Juniata POE courses abroad, but check with the Chair of the department if you have questions. If you plan to go directly to professional school after Juniata, you should take your admission exam (MCAT, GRE, DAT, OAT, or PCAT) before you leave.  Some of these exams can be taken abroad, but it is preferable that you concentrate on the study abroad experience while you are there, rather than preparing for and taking your admission exam. You are encouraged to choose a program sponsored by Juniata so that the credits will appear on your Juniata transcript.  If you really want to go to a site we do not offer, you should explore this.   However, be aware that when you apply to professional school you will likely need to employ a foreign transcript evaluation service for the courses from that foreign institution.

Since health professions prerequisites should be taken in the U.S., you should choose your site based on what you want to get out of the experience, not what you think a professional school wants.  In fact, professional schools welcome well-rounded applicants, so you are truly free to “follow your heart”! You are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the health care system in whatever country you choose by finding out how health care needs are met and talking with and, if possible, shadowing health care professionals. If you plan to study abroad junior year you MUST set up your health professions file, participate in the various training and information sessions for applicants, and be interviewed during your sophomore year.  You can update your information when you return, but it is critical that you attend to these details while you are still on campus.

It is also critical that you take into account the timing of your application to professional school.  Many professional school applications are submitted in early summer, so if your grades will not be available on your Juniata transcript until the fall you should apply in the summer and indicate that those courses are in progress. You are encouraged to get to know your professors abroad, if possible, so that you could request a letter of reference from them for professional school if you have a particularly meaningful experience.

Year 1

Enroll in a foreign language

Talk with your advisor about studying abroad

Year 2

continue with your language

make sure you have the prerequisites you need

Year 3

Study abroad at a partner site. You will have plenty of opportunity to study medical topics in professional school, but if you simply cannot wait, check out the course offerings at our affiliated schools.  For example, you can take cadaver anatomy courses at the University of Leeds in England and podiatric medical courses at The University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  

If you are interested in learning about complementary and alternative medicine, the health care systems of India and China have a wide range of modalities that are currently considered alternative in the U.S.  Living in those countries can increase your understanding of the pros and cons of this type of health care.

Year 4

secure transcript from abroad

apply to medical schools