Medical Field Bound Student and Study Abroad?

Posted on April 4, 2022 by Rae Kantzler
Rae Kantzler

Rae, on the left, takes a selfie with another student while they wear surgical masks and caps. data-lightbox='featured'

Are you a Pre-Health/Pre-Professional student? Then you are likely committed to your studies and to serving the greater good in some way. I know the workload required for pre-health students is already difficult enough to time manage with extracurricular activities, so most students are not considering studying abroad. However, that does not mean it is not worth doing! 

All professional schools are interested in students who have global understanding and cultural competence. Graduate and professional programs do not just seek out academically competitive students but people who are well-rounded with a variety of interests beyond their major fields of study. Going abroad is one of the most worthwhile opportunities for a student to gain numerous skill sets and have intercultural experiences. Studying abroad gives you the freedom for personal growth and to gain self-confidence, the opportunity to learn something new in a foreign environment, and of course, an excuse to get out of the country and have some fun!

My group and I outside the ER on our first day.

In the summer of 2019, I went on a Faculty-Led USA Pre-Health program in Croatia. Through a partnership with the Atlantis program, nine other students and I got the opportunity to shadow for two weeks in a local hospital in Rijeka, the third-largest city in Croatia. My group and I were highly excited to watch cool surgeries, learn in a multicultural environment, and witness the functions of a social healthcare system. However, prior to our first day in the hospital, I don’t think any of us were expecting the experience that lay ahead. 

The recent history of Croatia is a particularly sad one of a violent war with the neighboring Yugoslav republics that left the country politically and economically devastated. No doubt that these events disrupted the national government’s ability to provide ‘efficient’ social services. As a tourist/foreigner/student shadowing, I should have researched and considered their history prior to visiting the country – advice that I now give to everyone bound for travels. 

Doctors at the O.R.Upon our first day of accompanying medical rounds, it was obvious that the facility was run-down, doctors were overworked and underpaid, and the hospital was constantly packed full of people due to patients being subjected to long waits. Realistically, I did not expect a fancy hospital, but I was at least expecting a clean one. For sake of comparison with the United States health care system, it was interesting to see how health care was delivered in Croatia; nonetheless, the core values were the same. The doctors cared madly about providing etiquette service to their patients. Why else would they pull all-nighters and run around to different departments to cover where other doctors were not? 

I left Croatia with a profound respect for the doctors that I was paired with. The passion, commitment, and knowledge that the job requires was beyond impressive, but at times, I could literally feel their stress in the air. 

And of course, I was amazed by how beautiful Croatia was. I had never thought that I would get to see a place where the mountains met the ocean, where the water was intensely blue and the vegetation so varied and wonderfully green. The food was amazing, but as I am vegetarian, it was a bit odd to the locals when I asked for my meals without meat. Overall, it was a worthwhile experience, and I highly recommend to Pre-Health/Pre-Professional students, and to all people in general, to get out there and see how amazing our world truly is. 

Boats on the shore in Croatia Beach in Croatia

Share on Social Media