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Go Study Abroad

Dear Pre-Med Students,

You may not know me yet, but my name is Maya Caron. I was once in your shoes, struggling to balance chemistry, biology, and thinking about the MCAT. Studying abroad had never been on my radar, until recently. As a part of Emory’s Minority Pre-Medical Society Executive team, I hope to positively show other pre-meds like you, that going abroad is feasible in the magical “timeline” and that it is a wonderful experience. Being able to study abroad will not only help you individually but the patients that you care for in the future as well. The study abroad program is a program that gives back what you put in. You get to meet new cultures, visit new areas, get involved in a new university, and even learn a new language.

As we all know money talks and if money is an issue rest assured that there are many scholarships out there, from the Gilman Scholarship to the IESAbroad scholarship. It is also important to note that if you are a work-study student the financial aid office will give you up to $1,250 per semester. Additionally, if you are a part of the 1915 Scholars program it is possible that if you ask (contingent on funding) they can buy the flight for you to go abroad! Money should not be an obstacle when it comes to studying abroad as there are many resources out there. If you ask the financial aid office the worst that can happen is that they say no, but the best outcome is that you go abroad and live somewhere new with little to nothing out of pocket.

As you may or may not know, it is best to study abroad during the fall or spring semester. The reason for this is that you get to spend more time in your host country learning as much as you can. However, I know with the pre-med requirements studying abroad can definitely be hard to fit into your schedule. Ways that you can work around this is by going abroad during the summertime. Usually, pre-med students are doing research programs, shadowing, or gaining clinical hours during the summer but another great option is to go abroad. When you go abroad over the summer it is possible to still gain clinical hours, work on research, and shadow doctors. The best part is that now you get to learn about what the healthcare system is like in a different country. This knowledge will help you bring back what is good from the host country’s healthcare system and apply it to your learning and practice. You can do all of this without even needing a gap year to apply to medical school. All it takes is careful planning and wanting to go abroad.

If you have a double major like me (Spanish and Business) you can fulfill many of your requirements when you go abroad. In my case, I decided to go to Salamanca, Spain, and completed the program with 5 courses or 18 credits going towards my Spanish major. That is half of my requirements for my Spanish major completed in one semester. Usually a major is supposed to take around two years but being able to complete half of them in one semester is similar to completing the major in one year.

If you Google can pre-meds study abroad you will find an array of blog posts and Reddit links of testimonials. Studying abroad as a pre-med student is more common than one may suspect. If you have ever had the chance to talk to someone who has studied abroad they will tell you that it changed their life. One of my dear friends David Ramos had the opportunity to study abroad at ITAM (Mexico) through the business school and because of that program, he met amazing people that he still visits this day, decided to live in Mexico during the pandemic when we were all virtual, and being able to live on your own in a new country helped him in his career. He is currently in Brazil learning Portuguese and working for Abbott.

As pre-med students, we are often caught up with just getting the prerequisites done without taking time to research other opportunities that college offers. Of course, it would be amazing to be able to go to med school right after undergraduate and become a doctor by the time you are 25-26. However, becoming a doctor is a long journey and if you truly want to go abroad then you should take advantage of the time you currently have to do so. If you do not have to rush things and would love to see the world from a different perspective studying abroad should be something you at least give a second thought to. I hope to inspire other pre-meds to do the same and to take a risk. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You are only in university for four years make the best out of those years and go abroad!

Warm regards,

Maya Caron

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