Improving medical students

How to Ace International Electives

Posted by medliorator on November 2, 2007

Excerpts from the Student Doctor Network:

1. Use a trusted resource guide to find opportunities.

students should look into programs that are endorsed by sources that have some sort of quality control, or are recommended by someone you know.



2. Consider the safety of the location.


The State Department has a list of travel warnings and ‘Consular Information Sheets’ which can be viewed by country. It is advisable to do your elective with a friend if possible. You should know all the details about the safety of the place in which you will be living and sleeping as well as the place you will be working. Transportation is also important to consider, as many places in the world have public transportation with extremely varied levels of safety.



3. Be fluent in the local language.


You must speak the local language at least passably if you expect to see patients in anything more than a ‘shadowing’ type of experience. Do not assume that people in rural areas speak the national language.



4. Be ‘fluent’ in the local culture.


When you travel, be a good ambassador for the United States. Be polite and respectful of local customs, social mores, and dress. Do not wear revealing clothing, period. Be aware that in other countries, public displays of affection may not be appropriate. Know the place you are traveling to and in what ways you might offend people.



5. Have realistic expectations.


If you are a first year medical student or otherwise have little experience with patient care, do not expect to be involved in high-level direct care. Ask questions if the descriptions provided by the program do not give you a clear idea of what you will be doing.



6. Find a good mentor.


The best mentors are local to the place where you will be practicing, but an acceptable option is a mentor who has traveled to the location in question and has a great deal of experience there. If you cannot find a suitable mentor at your home institution, don’t despair. Finding one via the internet may take only a small amount of initiative. Many medical school faculty members travel abroad regularly and have a profile on their institution’s website that would turn up in a quick web search. Ideally, your mentor will be the main person with whom you work while traveling abroad.

Choosing and International Elective [Student Doctor Network]

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