A Pre-Med’s Guide to Study Abroad

By: Gabrielle Langmann – API Tuscania Peer Mentor

Gabrielle is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, and studied with API at Lorenzo de’Medici – the Italian International Institute in Tuscania, Italy during the summer 2010 term.


Looking out over Tuscania

During my time as an API Peer Mentor, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about why a college student should study abroad—in other words, “What can studying abroad do for me? Sometimes, my answers are quite simple: studying abroad opens your mind to an entirely different way of life, teaches you to adapt to new and perhaps uncomfortable situations, and prepares you for whatever career you choose to go into.

Wait a second—say what?!

Yes, that’s right. I’m saying that studying abroad can be beneficial for any student, regardless of their major or intended career. I’ve met several students who are planning to go into fields such as medicine, nursing, or engineering, and they don’t believe they can fit a study abroad experience into their already packed schedules. Furthermore, they don’t consider studying abroad to be a priority in comparison to their coursework, research, jobs, and other extracurricular activities and obligations. Truth be told, I can relate to these students, as I’m a pre-med student myself.

Pre-Med madness!

When I first considered studying abroad, it was the beginning of my sophomore year. I was knee-deep in organic chemistry, spending hours at the library memorizing reaction mechanisms (Diels-Alder, anyone?)—not to mention the four other courses I was taking, the fifteen hours a week I worked at my part-time research job, volunteering, and my other extracurricular activities. The idea of doing the research to find the right study abroad location and program for me, filling out all of the necessary paperwork (those visa applications are no joke!), and somehow finding the money to pay for a study abroad was utterly and completely overwhelming to me. So, what changed my mind?

To make a long story short, here’s a list of why I chose to study abroad as a pre-med student (though a lot of these things can apply to anyone!):

• To fulfill course requirements for graduation: Most universities have “general education” requirements that all students, regardless of major, must complete before graduation. Studying abroad is a great way to fulfill these requirements, especially with international culture or language requirements. While I was abroad in Tuscania, Italy with API, I took an Italian language course and a class on ancient Mediterranean civilizations which counted toward my anthropology major as well as an international culture general education requirement.

• To spend a summer abroad: When I was planning my study abroad, it was difficult to find a program where I could take my pre-med requirements and courses which could count toward my majors in anthropology and English literature. For me, the solution was to choose a summer study abroad program that lasted five weeks. This is a great way to incorporate a study abroad into an already packed course schedule. Additionally, a summer study abroad program is often less expensive than one that lasts a full semester or academic year, which was another reason that I chose to study over the summer because I knew I would be paying for the program cost myself. Plus, it’s awesome to say you spent at least part of your summer traveling abroad!

API Tuscania 2010 summer 1 students with API director Irene

• To define career goals: I realized while abroad that I may want to be a part of an organization such as Doctors Without Borders as part of my practice as a physician someday. From studying medical anthropology at Pitt and from living in Tuscania and meeting people there, it really impressed upon me the importance of understanding how others perceive their health and well-being. I’m not sure I would have had this realization without the practical experience of living abroad.

• To RELAX!: I don’t think it’s any secret that the process of getting into medical school is stressful, from your first day of freshman biology to tearing open that envelope from your top choice school. For me, studying abroad in the small Italian town of Tuscania afforded me the opportunity to depart from my hectic lifestyle and still learn both in and out of the classroom. Even something as simple as waking up early to see the sunrise from an organic farm just outside of the city or going on a long run through the countryside around Tuscania was so special to me, because I was living completely in the present. I came back to Pitt this fall feeling refreshed and less stressed, which was definitely one of the greatest benefits I experienced from studying abroad

Gab in Tuscania

Long story short: I came to the realization that studying abroad was a priority for me. To be perfectly honest, I knew that I might never again have the chance to travel and learn in the way that studying abroad allows. So for all of you out there who think that you can’t squeeze in a study abroad, think again: a whole new world is truly at your fingertips, and it’s a world that you can take home with you and incorporate into whatever major or career you choose.

Editors Note: Since Gabrielle studied abroad with API in Tuscania last summer, we have added an exciting new option for pre-med students at University College Dublin. More information on this new program is also available on the API website.

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  1. daniella says

    hi 🙂
    where can i get the information for the premed summer course
    it sounds fun

    thank you

  2. Kirk Bennett says

    Could you guys email me info about the Dublin internship? [email protected] thanks!

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