Questions About Studying Abroad
May I Take Pre-med Requirements Abroad?
Question: Hi, I want to study abroad this summer and I was looking at some programs in the UK. Since biochemistry is not a universal requirement for med school, would it be OK to take it at an university abroad? I know that you recommend we do pre-med courses here at Princeton. Would the med schools that require biochemistry have issues if I took the class in a foreign country?
Answer: The medical schools that require biochemistry will want it taken at a U.S. school, preferably Princeton. All pre-med science coursework should be taken in the U.S. However, please do not let this discourage you from studying abroad if you're pre-med. Careful planning will allow you to go abroad and complete your science requirements (it's done all the time!). Even if your foreign country of choice is English-speaking, medical schools are not familiar enough with foreign curricula, faculty, and science texts to accurately evaluate the content of what you've taken; they're pretty much unanimous in asking that pre-med sciences be taken at American colleges and universities. The only exception, re: biochemistry, would be our fall at Oxford program, where students have succeeded in counting that very intensive term as their biochem for med school. Please note: Taking other science abroad (just not the courses for med school admissions) is acceptable. Taking a literature course abroad is fine, too (if you're looking to complete the second English course required by many schools). ♦
Popular Study Abroad Programs for Premed Students
Question: I really want to study abroad at least once during college. Are there any programs that are popular with premed students?
Answer: Spending time abroad is the kind of opportunity you shouldn’t pass up in college if you have an interest, especially at Princeton, where there are such rich opportunities. Rather than focusing on ‘most popular’ or ‘what will medical schools want,’ think about what you want to gain from the experience abroad and use your interests to guide your exploration of programs. That said, in recent years, premeds have participated in language programs and seminar programs in the summer after freshman year; the EEB semester/summer abroad in Kenya, Panama or Bermuda; IIP or Health Grand Challenges internships; MOL research opportunities at Oxford, ETH Zurich, Karolinska in Sweden and others; some sophomores have created their own opportunities and received funding through the Dale awards. The DIS-Copenhagen and King’s College London programs may also be attractive – you can take electives in neuroscience, biomedicine and public health (but there is no requirement that you focus on medicine/science while abroad – if you have specific cultural/academic interests that you want to explore abroad, by all means, do that). And, don’t forget that there are many fellowship opportunities that allow you to spend your glide year abroad in work, service, and graduate study endeavors, and many medical schools offer study abroad or medical mission trips, so your four years at Princeton aren’t the last chance to go abroad within your educational path. In any case, the Study Abroad fair today in Frist may be a great first step in gathering more information about study abroad options of interest.
Keep in mind that you can’t take any of your pre-health pre-requisite courses abroad, and that it will probably take careful planning to get all of your major and pre-health coursework, along with your application logistics into a four-year plan, so don’t hesitate to meet with us to work out a basic timeline. ♦
Studying Abroad and Being Pre-med
Question: I really want to study abroad during my junior year but I also want to major in MOL and finish the pre-med requirements. It really doesn’t seem possible. Can I study abroad, complete what I’ve got to do for my major, and study abroad? Thanks.
Answer: Yes, it is indeed possible. As a potential MOL major, check the MOL Department advice for study abroad and our HPA/Study Abroad handout. The Study Abroad Office, 3rd floor of 36 University Place, right above HPA (led by Dean Nancy Kanach), can help you find a summer abroad opportunity as well. Many pre-meds do end up studying abroad in summer programs. Lastly, no matter what your concentration, studying abroad is a valuable experience for all college students and should be encouraged. As a pre-health student, exposure to different cultures will make you more culturally competent, and in the diverse world of patients you will one day encounter this background will be vital. Learning new languages also helps in this regard. Do not forget that more than two-thirds of Princeton pre-meds take the full four years to complete requirements and do all that they want to do with their Princeton education, applying to medical school during the summer after senior year and taking one year off before matriculating in med school. Spreading the list of requirements for your major and your pre-med curriculum out over four years almost always allows a pre-med student to go abroad for a summer or a semester at the very least. ♦