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Why do a medical internship in the developing world?

Set your CV or UCAS application apart from the rest...

By Hannah Doyle | 03rd May, 2024
Updated on 07th May, 2024

What if you kickstarted your medical journey by wandering off the beaten track?

As an aspiring healthcare professional, you don’t need us to tell you that choosing where and how to launch your medical training is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make at this early stage of your career. 

But before you dive into the world of flashcards, lab benches and coursework chaos, take time out to experience something special and set your application apart from the rest.

More and more students are striking out on medical work placements abroad: deep-dive immersions that take them from the luscious Andes or Tanzania’s Manyara region to the holy city of Kathmandu and beyond. 

If you think embarking on an adventure to the other side of the world sounds like an amazing holiday, how exactly can it give your CV or UCAS application the edge, and why are so many healthcare hopefuls flocking to faraway shores?

Read on for our top five reasons why medical and healthcare internships in the developing world make perfect sense…

Interns on a work placement in Nepal

1. Getting all the exposure

Healthcare professionals in developing regions are forced to contend with infectious diseases, resource scarcity, limited access to specialists, and malnutrition on a day-to-day basis — and during your time abroad, so will you. 

An international medical internship catapults you right to the heart of some of the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges, giving you a hard-hitting taste of on-the-ground realities and equipping you with the practical skills needed to put you head and shoulders above your peers. 

Hours of shadowing, insider insights into problems like malaria and tuberculosis, and invaluable involvement in medical rounds and patient consultations are the perfect breeding ground for experiences to rival the very best medical schools. 

This is next-level exposure you can’t get back home.

Medical interns handling supplies

2. Making a (genuine) difference

Last year alone, our medical interns carried out close to 3,000 vitals assessments, dispensed nearly 4,000 free prescriptions, and performed 50 healthcare outreaches. 

Getting international medical work experience under your belt means having a tangible positive impact on the wider world, and can genuinely deepen the sense of social responsibility you’ll need as a healthcare professional. 

Committing to a medical work placement in a developing country helps you re-centre and connect with why you’ve chosen to embark on the long and winding road ahead. 

And better yet, everyone benefits. Whilst you’re learning, you’re also boosting access and providing life-changing healthcare to the under-served communities that need it most. 

Now that’s something to write home about.

Medical work experience in developing countries

3. Building up your cultural acumen

Heading abroad for some hands-on healthcare experience is about more than just getting up-close-and-personal with dengue diagnostics. You’ll be providing treatment and care to patients from a huge range of different backgrounds and cultures, putting your communication skills to the test, and fostering your empathy and cultural sensitivity. 

It’s not just about the patients and service users, either. Wherever you go, you’ll be engaging with fellow medical interns from all walks of life, coming together around your shared values and aspirations while dipping in and out of a whole bunch of different perspectives and personalities.

In an increasingly interconnected world, this is your chance to develop soft-skills that are highly valued in globalised healthcare settings, all while making friends for life. 

Which leads us on to our next point…

Medical outreach abroad

4. Scratching the itch

Once the travel bug bites, there’s no going back. And once university is back in full swing, your globe-trotting opportunities will narrow considerably as you settle in and hit the books. 

Now’s your chance to make momos and memories: soak up all the untouched magic of the mountains and rainforests, get creative with ceramic workshops, shake the day off with sunset yoga sessions, venture into the wilderness on unforgettable safaris and pack in all the markets and temples you can handle on a trip that’s been thoughtfully curated to feed the soul. 

Can you excel as a medical student while hitting your own personal life goals… Why not? A medical and healthcare internship abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore new horizons as you work towards meeting the GMC's good medical practice duties.

Sunset in Nepal

5. Embracing personal growth

Nothing fosters a spirit of inquiry quite like this kind of travel experience, but you’ll be exploring so much more than different healthcare perspectives. 

When you find yourself in a high-stakes healthcare setting on the other side of the globe, your resilience, adaptability, independence, curiosity, empathy, and decision-making skills will all be put to the test — and inevitably honed. 

However you approach it and wherever you choose to go, this is a unique chapter of your life that will ultimately shape your vision of the world as you know it. 

If you’re prepared to let go and lean into whatever an international medical placement might throw your way, the rewards can be huge. 

Beyond the professional path that lies ahead, striking out to meet the unknown can spark the kind of life-changing inner transformation that other healthcare work experiences will struggle to fully offer.

Medical voluntary placements

Life is a journey…

…and so is the path to becoming a healthcare practitioner. Doing a medical internship in a developing region is about saying yes to a transformative experience that goes well beyond academic learning. 

Consider this the first step on a challenging (and enriching) journey that offers unparalleled opportunities for personal and professional growth. 

We know just how big a deal this is, so before you take the plunge, consider what’s really driving you and carefully comb through your options. 

Medical internships in the developing world aren't an easy option, and nor are they everyone's cup of tea. But if you’re an exceptional student with a genuine commitment to serving the most vulnerable and a deep-rooted curiosity for the world around you, it’s a no-brainer. The adventure starts here…

Pre-med in Peru

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