As a pre-med student, you are likely committed to both receiving a high quality education and serving the greater good in some capacity. Often this might seem like it doesn't exactly fit with a semester abroad eating cheese in the south of France or surfing off the coast of Costa Rica, but you might be surprised!

Learning how to work with patients from different cultures will be increasingly valuable as you become a medical professional -- no matter where you end up practicing medicine!

Additionally, study abroad gives you the chance to step outside your comfort zone. Learning a new language, volunteering in a local community, or taking an unexpected class will help round out your knowledge for when it comes time to apply for med school.

As a pre-med student, you don't have to rule out the opportunity to study abroad. Several of your general requirement classes in non-scientific fields can actually be taken abroad, or you can round out your resume with other areas you're interested in. Certain programs also offer the chance to practice medicine in other countries. Here are some examples.

Shadowing Programs

One great opportunity while studying abroad is the chance to learn from fellow medical professionals on the ground. Whether it's shadowing doctors in a world-class medical facility or learning from resident medical students as they master their rounds, study abroad gives you an opportunity to see how medicine differs between countries, both in theory and practice.

Public Health Programs

A good counterpart to a pre-med education involves a thorough understanding of public health, and how government bodies help support the medical field. By studying public health abroad, you'll get a bigger picture of how public health is managed around the world.

Volunteer Programs

If you're ready to try your hand practicing the medical theories you've learned, consider a volunteer program abroad. Several programs offer you the chance to combine class time and homework assignments with clinical rotations, giving you invaluable firsthand experience for your future medical profession.

Medical Language and Sciences Programs

Understanding how medicine differs between countries and cultures will be a valuable tool in your professional toolkit. Programs that teach you to speak a foreign language relating to medicine (such as Medical Spanish) are a great option that can fulfill any language requirements you have for graduation, too.

In some ways, your choice for where to study abroad as a pre-med student are limited only by your personal interests. That said, there are several countries and regions that are worth considering for the strength of their pre-med study abroad programs.


While it might sound unusual, Tanzania is a great country if you're eager to experience life in one of the most economically developing regions of the world while still enjoying a safe and stable educational experience. Programs in Tanzania allow you to focus on both classroom time and shadowing doctors in the field.

The Iberian Peninsula

Both Spain and Portugal have strong medical fields and equally strong educational institutions to support study abroad students who choose to spend a semester (or more) there. Similar to studying abroad in Tanzania, you'll have the chance to mix classroom and clinical hours while shadowing medical professionals. Some programs offer the chance to learn Spanish for students who want both language lessons and practical experience.

Latin America

Ecuador, Peru, and Costa Rica have excellent reputations for their medical industries, and offer great study abroad options for students. Whether you want to practice Medical Spanish in San Jose, Costa Rica, enhance your knowledge of medical sciences in Lima, Peru, or apply your skills in a volunteer program in Ecuador, this region can offer it all.


If the Far East is of interest, consider a public health program based in Vietnam. Classes are taught in English, but you'll have Vietnamese lessons and the chance to learn about the medical field in a developing country.

In addition to making sure your study abroad program fits in with your graduation requirements and educational goals, there are several other aspects to consider when choosing to study pre-med abroad.


Most study abroad programs will provide accommodation as part of the costs associated with the program. Depending on the country and city you study in, your living arrangement may (or may not) have a roommate, may be in a dorm, and may include a homestay. Most programs spell this out in pre-application materials.

If you are looking into a volunteer program, you will likely live in a homestay or volunteer house. Your options will vary based on your destination, but expect more modest accomodations.


Our blog post on why you can (and should!) study abroad as a pre-med student has some great scholarship resources. When searching for financial assistance, you are more likely to find general scholarships that you can apply for than specific pre-med ones, but keep your eyes open for scholarships pertaining to your subject matter.

Contributed by Valerie Stimac


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