Additional contributions made by Tino Mkorombindo and Brennan Carrithers
International travel can be an excellent opportunity to learn more about your interests, the experience of others, and how you can make your mark as a global citizen. There are many ways to go about finding an international experience, and many different types of international expertise that you can have. Among many other reasons to take advantage of a global travel opportunity, study abroad and mission trips can also as a unique feature to your medical school application.
Mission trips generally focus more on the volunteer aspect of study abroad. Many people think of faith-based communities traveling abroad when they hear the term “mission trip,” but they may also be a group of individuals going to teach English or build houses. Participating in a mission trip is a great way to show your sense of compassion and care for others.
Study abroad focuses more on the cultural experiences available through international travel. Many people participate in cultural immersion trips to understand the experience of those from other countries. Though it is not rooted in community service, study abroad experiences can still add value to your medical school application. They are a great way to emphasize that others’ practices are merely different than our own, instead of considering other peoples’ practices as weird or incorrect. Understanding the experience of others is a crucial part of practicing good medicine. Studying abroad gives you a unique chance to appreciate the culture and experiences of others by immersing oneself into the community that you enter. Depending on the amount of time you spend abroad, this could develop into becoming fluent in a different language, a deep understanding of the cultural practices of others, or an experience that you are unable to have in your home country. Studying abroad can be a very transformative experience, and often leads to a change in your thought process of the lives and experiences of others.
So how do you find your mission trip or study abroad experience?
Think about the things that you want to get out of your time abroad. Decide if you are more interested in participating in a service-based/mission trip or a study abroad experience. Then do your research for opportunities. If your undergraduate institution has an international studies department, look into travel opportunities through that office. There are also bountiful study abroad and service trip opportunities that can be found online. We have attached helpful links where you can find some great websites and organizations to consider if you are interested in having an experience abroad. The AAMC also provides helpful information.
- CEA Study Abroad: A fantastic thing about CEA is that they provide study abroad and intern abroad opportunities. Their website organizes opportunities by academic discipline, country, and even city, making it easy to find the opportunity that works best for you. They assist with finding housing options for your trip and also provide some scholarships to offset the costs of your experience.
- CIEE: CIEE is another excellent resource for finding a study abroad opportunities while in college. They offer study abroad opportunities across multiple semesters and incorporate a variety of courses into these opportunities. They also have scholarship opportunities, which is a significant advantage when looking into experiences abroad.
- Projects Abroad: A unique feature of Projects Abroad is their Alternative Spring Break trips. With the availability to pick what you would like to do, where you would like to go, and/or when you would like to go, there is an alternative spring break trip opportunity for just about every college student. Projects Abroad also offer team trips for individuals 18 and older, that take place throughout the year. There are volunteer and cultural immersion opportunities available through Projects Abroad.
- Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is probably the archetype of volunteer trips. With both short and long-term service opportunities, it is an ideal opportunity for an international service opportunity.
- Additional Global Internships/Opportunities:
- International Medical Aid (IMA):
- Connect 123:
- Child Family Health International:
- Cross Culture Solutions:
- Projects Abroad:
- Kaya: https://www.kayavolunteer.com/program-types/intern-abroad/
- IES Abroad: https://www.iesabroad.org/
- Intern Abroad HQ: https://www.internhq.com/about-us/
- World Endeavors: https://www.worldendeavors.com/intern-abroad
Found your trip, now what?
Make the most of your time abroad. Whether it is one based in service or cultural immersion, this experience has the opportunity to teach you a lot about yourself and your place in the world. Make sure you enter this new space with an open mind. Consider keeping a journal while abroad, so that you can reflect on your day-to-day experiences. Not only will this be a great way to look back on this trip later in life, but it can also help you realize and appreciate the opportunities and experiences you had during this time. Keep in mind, even if your trip is not medical related, it will be a unique feature on your medical school applications. Therefore, it is likely to come up during your interviews. Be able to articulate the experiences that you have and show an appreciation for the diversity you observed while abroad. Most importantly, have fun and take advantage of your time abroad in as many ways as possible.