Medicine Internships Abroad

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A Guide to Medical Internships Abroad

The more physicians see and experience, the better doctors they become. Success in the medical field is all combining education with extensive exposure to a wide range of maladies and medical issues that impact numerous people from all walks of life. By completing a medical internship abroad, aspiring doctors can gain valuable exposure to the medical field in a setting they likely won’t find in their home country. International internships look fantastic from both a professional and philanthropic standpoint, therefore, medical internships abroad are something every medical student should seriously consider.

Why Intern Abroad in Medicine

For medical students, international internships are simply part of the process of becoming a professional. Internships are an essential requirement for almost any medical degree, and more specialized and focused medical internships are crucial in later stages of any education in medicine. Luckily, the option to complete a medical internship abroad is almost always available and beneficial, regardless of how far along in the educational process each student happens to be.

Regardless of the type or focus of the medical internship abroad, the added feature of international work will make it a standout addition to any professional resume, which is always a positive when entering as competitive a field as medicine. Also, with the types of healthcare issues addressed by many international organizations, interns will likely be given the opportunity to directly help people who are suffering from conditions that are almost impossible to find in more developed countries. These organizations do fantastic work to relieve the burden of disease in places where it can often consume a community’s day-to-day life. The improvement in quality of life that medical interns can provide for patients in these communities will give interns a true sense of accomplishment.

Finally, medical internships abroad can be an enormous amount of fun, inserted into an admittedly stressful and generally taxing time in the academic process for medical students. Do you want to spend your summer break shadowing a doctor around your local hospital, or would you rather assist in implementing a widespread health care program for underserved citizens living in the Amazon River basin? Since medicine is such a huge field, full of individual concentrations and focus areas, the opportunities for international internships are endless. Almost all students will be able to find a location that can combine adventure and professional experience perfectly, and create the ideal internship experience for them.


Every country in the world is in need of medical interns, since there are short staffed or under-resourced hospitals, clinics, and medical centers nearly everywhere in the world. It’s best to search for a medical internship abroad in a place where you’d like to gain specialized experience or hone another skill (i.e. Spanish or Arabic language fluency). To help narrow down your search, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Spain is a common, and incredible, choice for medical internships abroad. The Spanish healthcare system is a first world system featuring thoroughly modern hospitals and clinics. Those who intern in Spain will often be placed in a shadowing-based internship, in which they follow a physician through his or her daily tasks. By completing this type of medical internship in Spain, students will be exposed to the inner workings of a foreign health care system in an economically diverse and multilingual environment, allowing them to better adapt to variations in both culture and language among patients in their future careers.

CambodiaFor a bit more of an adventurous or specialized international experience, aspiring interns should travel to Cambodia for their medical internship abroad. Currently, diseases that have long been eradicated in first world countries are ravaging Cambodians in both rural and urban areas. Issues with hygiene and infectious disease continue to plague hundreds of thousands of people in Cambodia, and interns will have the chance to address these problems in several capacities. Shadowing internships and assistantships are typically available in Cambodian hospitals, while more focused medical internships working with agencies dedicated to fighting specific diseases are available in a variety of institutions, often located in some of the most remote parts of the country.

Israel. Some of the largest health concerns in Israel today are centered around the influx of refugees; most frequently, refugees from North African nations, like Eritrea, Sudan, and the Ivory Coast, have arrived in Israel with no access to the public healthcare system. To combat this, external agencies have worked with the Israeli government to establish treatment centers specifically for refugees. Those who intern in Israel will often be able to work in health care centers, gathering valuable experience and knowledge how temporary health care centers function in strenuous or complicated situations. Medical internships in Israel combine professional medical experience with exposure to social justice movements among refugee populations, making for a highly educational experience with a uniquely vulnerable population.

Medical Internships Abroad

Internships in medicine usually involve tasks that are highly based on each intern’s past experience, skill set, and professional goals. For students in the early stages of their medical degree, internships at hospitals shadowing full time staff are typical. Daily tasks might include clerical work or hands-off observation of physicians daily work or specific medical procedures. For students further along in their studies, more hands-on tasks may be possible, such as administering drug or IV injections, directly interacting with patients and families, or even observing and assisting with operations. Most individuals that complete a medical internship abroad will also assist with research, community education and outreach, and experience medical practice in a desired specialization, at least in some way.

Regardless of the tasks performed, interns should be prepared to work hard during their medical internship abroad. While some international internships will be more relaxed, it is always beneficial for interns to expect to work long hours that require a lot of attention to detail and dedication. This mental preparation required to successfully intern abroad in medicine will be good preparation for the taxing years that lie ahead, filled with clinical rotations, 48 hour shifts, and high stress situations.

All students studying medicine are encouraged to complete medical internships abroad whenever possible, so long as it doesn’t interfere with standard course or program schedules. Summer breaks are excellent opportunities for medical internships abroad, so many companies and organizations frequently structure their internships around school holiday periods. Many international internships in medicine are highly competitive, so it is imperative that students begin applying for internships months in advance.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Helping Those Who Need It Most. Most individuals that intern abroad in medicine find themselves working with populations of people who have nowhere near the same type of access to medical care that people in highly advanced countries do. Most organizations that employ or place medical interns focus on supplying medical care to areas of the world that desperately need it; therefore, interns will find that they can literally save and drastically improve lives daily. Interns are a crucial part of organizational and global efforts to improve the quality and quantity of healthcare services, so interns will return home knowing that they have not only had a fantastic educational experience, but that they have also made a real difference.

Practical Experience. All humans tend to fall victim to many of the same diseases. To be the very best doctor possible, medical professionals must have the chance to see and learn all diseases and medical issues, which will equip them to handle situations that are inevitable in their future medical careers. Participating in medical internships abroad will expose medical students to new types of medical issues that are often less common at home (such as HIV/AIDS), as well as alternative treatment or diagnostic techniques.

Resume Booster. In a field that is known worldwide to be one of the most competitive fields on Earth, international internships are one of the best ways to make your resume stand out. Whether internship experience is used when applying for professional school or for a full time job in medicine, international experience in the field is just the kind of highlight that can initiate a good conversation between interviewer and interviewee. International internships in medicine, and the challenges faced during them, also make great topics for application essays and cover letters.

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