Study Abroad

Future health professionals will need to be broadly educated, mature, adaptable citizens who have had significant experience in the world beyond the classroom. Study abroad is an ideal vehicle for developing some of the skills and attitudes that are valued in the practice of medicine—flexibility, self-reliance, and appreciation of other cultures. If you’re interested in study abroad, you should not pass up the opportunity for intellectual and personal growth.

Academic considerations

  • All premedical prerequisite courses must be taken in the US. Most medical schools will not accept prerequisites taken abroad.
  • Many premedical prerequisites are two-semester sequences, so studying abroad may require taking courses in the summer. While we discourage summer science coursework, study abroad is a compelling reason to opt to take some prerequisites in the summer. Discuss your individual situation with HPA advisers for guidance.
  • For study abroad grades to be considered in your GPA for medical school, they must appear on a US-based transcript. This is possible if the study abroad program is sponsored by an American college or university (which is more likely for summer programs than those during the academic year).
  • Start working with study abroad advisers in the Office of International Programs early! They can help you identify potential programs of interest.

When to study abroad?

  • Summer: Studying abroad in the summer will require the least adjustment of your course work but may preclude you from participating in internships and gaining clinical experience – two things that many premeds focus on during summers.
  • For a semester: 
    • Studying abroad sophomore spring will require some advance planning, including knowing what concentration you want to declare early (if you’re A.B.).
    • Studying abroad junior spring will be logistically difficult if you are planning to apply for direct entry to medical school due to medical application preparation that happens in the spring. Most Princeton students apply with a glide year between graduation and medical school, in which case this will not be an issue.
    • Studying abroad senior fall is discouraged for students applying for direct entry since medical school interviews tend to occur in the fall. Again, this is not an issue for students taking a glide year.
  • As a course component: Some courses offer a trip abroad during fall or spring break. This is not as immersive as spending a whole semester or summer, but it at least provides a taste of the abroad experience. 
  • Post-grad: Some students spend a year abroad, through Fulbright, Princeton in… fellowships, or other post-graduate opportunities, between graduation and matriculation.
  • See the Study Abroad website or meet with a Study Abroad or HPA adviser to discuss your personal situation.
  • See Study Abroad and the Prehealth Student (google doc) for sample timelines.

What to do abroad?

  • Princeton summer programs are a popular first-year summer option. They allow you to complete language requirements or pursue other interests in a small group setting. It can be difficult to gain competitive internships as a first-year, so it’s a good time to head abroad.
  • The International Internship Program offers numerous health-related summer opportunities for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.
  • EEB and SPIA concentrators can pursue research- / health-oriented department-sponsored study programs in junior year.
  • The Office of International Programs database is searchable by research and service abroad with a prehealth focus.
  • It is not required that your study abroad has a health focus! If there are other areas you’d like to explore, you’ll still gain important transferable skills.

Programs popular with prehealth students