Students preparing for careers in the medical and health professions gain important experience from living and studying internationally. Study abroad is a critical component of your liberal arts degree and prepares you to engage the world in meaningful ways. As with all students, your overall goals for your undergraduate studies should shape how you envision your international experience. As you consider your plans, it is important to establish a set of priorities and to remain flexible.
There are programs designed specifically for premed students where you can pursue your interests in science and health at the same time that you explore a foreign culture. Various programs in England, Australia, and Denmark offer the opportunity to gain clinical experience, engage in scientific study, or explore health-related policy issues. There are also programs throughout the world that focus on health, community issues, development, and biomedical subjects. For more information, please visit the Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement.
When making your plans, keep in mind that medical schools will not accept premedical science courses taken abroad, so these will need to be taken in the U.S., preferably at Columbia. While some students may choose to study abroad during the academic year and plan to take their science courses in the summer, many medical schools discourage you from taking summer science courses. This is a decision you would need to make individually in consultation with an advisor in the Office of Preprofessional Advising.
You can plan to study abroad at various times in your career at Columbia. When you go abroad depends on your professional, academic, and personal timeline. Some students choose to take a year off between their undergraduate studies and medical school. They can then study abroad during their junior year and complete premedical requirements in the senior year. Other students complete all of their premed sciences by the end of their sophomore year, leaving the junior year open for studying abroad. Some students pursue a summer study abroad experience or, less frequently, explore study abroad for part of their senior year. You should discuss your individual timeline with your advisors.
While there are some international sites that administer the MCAT, you should think carefully about whether you really want to make the commitment to undertake MCAT preparation while abroad. This might take away from the study abroad experience. Remember to keep your overall goals for study abroad in mind and to try to make the most of your time abroad.