5 Things to Consider Before Attending Medical School Abroad

Whether you are a Malaysian student interested in studying in the USA, a U.S. student interested in attending medical school in Romania, or a student interested in studying outside your home country, here are the top five considerations before attending medical school in a new country.

  1. Do you have a natural skill in learning foreign languages?

If you are studying in a country where the official language is your native language, then language acquisition skills aren’t as important.  However, if you are an American studying medicine in Italy and have no prior knowledge of Italian then the initial adjustment period can be very challenging.  Although there are over 500+ medical schools that offer a medical program in English, they do not offer the same standard of English instruction. Even if classes are taught in English, announcements relating to classes may be in the local language. Be sure to check if the school has a website option in English, if they don’t this may mean the administration operate and communicate in the local language.

Another important consideration is that despite the growing number of English medical programs in Europe, Middle East, and Asia, the majority of patients speak the local language. To be successful in your clinical years, you should learn their language proficiently within four years to communicate with patients.

  1. Are you adaptable in unknown environments?

Most students face challenges when acclimating to a new country, new school, new friends, and a new language. Having the right attitude makes a huge difference in allowing unexpected life changes keeping you from achieving your goals. Exposure to unknown environments and academic cultures requires a willingness to explore and adapt. To help with the transition process, reach out to international groups or other international students before you matriculate into medical school. Realizing your own ability in how quickly you adapt to different styles of teaching is an essential characteristic considering that medical schools around the world use different academic modes of teaching.

  1. Does the medical school have a large international student body?

If your prospective medical school has a small international student body, realize that support for international students is most probably lacking.  Some public medical schools must fill their annual quota of international students, and at times they are trivial numbers (lower than 10). International student bodies – whether they are student-based or administrative-based, play a key role in orienting international students to the country and offering invaluable resources.

  1. How are the administrative affairs at the medical school?

Students often overlook the administration setting of their medical school, although more than half of their interaction in their medical school is with the administration. Whether it’s student affairs’ offices, international offices, or registrar offices, students are in constant contact with these departments to obtain health insurance, pay tuition, or enroll in classes. If the administration is disorganized and communicates in a different language, this can prove to be challenging. Be sure to speak with graduates or current medical students to learn if the medical school has a streamlined administrative process.

  1. Where do you intend to practice after graduating from medical school?

Getting accepted is tough, however, the real journey begins towards the end of medical studies. Do you know where you want to complete your post-graduate training? Be sure to keep your options open and learn about the post-graduate training programs in different countries.

For example, Canadian citizens attending medical school abroad have a very low rate of matriculation into post-graduate residency programs in Canada. “When applying to post-graduate residencies, Canadian citizens who studied overseas are considered international medical graduates (IMGs), and according to Dr. Snadden, only 26—or about 10 per cent—of B.C.’s 292 residency positions went to IMGs last year.”1

Until 2011, foreign citizens were not allowed to practice medicine in Turkey, however, Turkey recently began revisiting their national policies towards post-graduate medical education.2

Learning about the regulations of post-graduate residency programs in different countries will allow you to make well-informed quality decisions of where you intend to practice medicine.

References

Dehaas, Josh. “Medical Dean Warns against Overseas Schools – Macleans.ca.” Macleansca. Roger’s Digital Media, 19 June 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://www.macleans.ca/work/jobs/medical-school-dean-warns-against-overseas-schools/>.

A, A. “Minister: Foreign Doctors Can Work in Turkey.” – Turkish Labor Law. Turkish Labor Law, 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2014. <http://www.turkishlaborlaw.com/news/sector-news/257-minister-foreign-doctors-can-work-in-turkey>.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think this could fall into an existing category, but vet the country as well as the school. My son's good friends were held for ransom by the government/police at Nevis-St. Kitts after one of them had enrolled in the medical school there after being rejected by U.S. schools. St. Kitts-Nevis has only been sovereign since 1993, and the country has not yet developed a respectable code-of-law with due process and all the other rights Americans have come to expect.

    This was about a decade ago, and maybe things have changed. The attitude at the time was "Look, there's two kids whose parents probably have money; let's put them in jail and demand a ransom from their fathers." I didn't mention race because I think they'd have just as quickly done the same to people of any race who were well dressed and well spoken, likely never been to jail and are thus easy to intimidate.

  2. DrEgan

    I think this could fall into an existing category, but vet the country as well as the school. My son's good friends were held for ransom by the government/police at Nevis-St. Kitts after one of them had enrolled in the medical school there after being rejected by U.S. schools. St. Kitts-Nevis has only been sovereign since 1993, and the country has not yet developed a respectable code-of-law with due process and all the other rights Americans have come to expect.

    This was about a decade ago, and maybe things have changed. The attitude at the time was "Look, there's two kids whose parents probably have money; let's put them in jail and demand a ransom from their fathers." I didn't mention race because I think they'd have just as quickly done the same to people of any race who were well dressed and well spoken, likely never been to jail and are thus easy to intimidate.

    How do you go about getting the country and school?

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