Public health is an integral component of human flourishing and societal progress. Practitioners in this field must address numerous local and global health concerns with varying cultural, economic, and political contexts in mind. Students studying public health abroad can gain a more holistic perspective by immersing themselves in this subject area.
Study abroad can have a powerfully transformative impact on student’s careers in several ways. Students who participate in public health study abroad courses often report increased enthusiasm and preparedness for post-graduation opportunities. Furthermore, such experience helps build greater self-awareness and adaptability–two skills highly valued within public health fields.
Offering public health students the chance to study abroad can also broaden their ability to understand and interact with communities from various cultural and geographical backgrounds. Such knowledge is critical for professionals working in this field in creating strategies to promote social integration, prevent disease outbreaks and respond to crises as they arise.
However, several barriers prevent undergraduate students from studying abroad, including cost, curriculum and academic culture issues. Luckily, strategies exist that can be implemented to overcome these barriers and incorporate international experiences into public health curricula successfully.
These strategies focus on designing and integrating new courses into the undergraduate public health curriculum utilizing an established framework for education abroad programs. This allows faculty members to ensure consistency when creating and managing overseas learning opportunities while minimizing administrative and logistical burdens on them; additionally, this strategy frees them to concentrate more on pedagogy than logistics management complexities and course administration issues.
One institution has developed two courses specifically tailored for public health that utilize an existing framework. These new courses form part of an established education abroad program and leverage local partners’ support and expertise, offering full in-country learning and field experience for students at a more affordable cost than traditional courses – providing more affordable opportunities to learners than ever.
The AU Madrid Program in Global and Public Health Issues offers students an unparalleled learning opportunity in one of Europe’s most dynamic and complex countries, where contrasts of wealth and poverty exist alongside health policy, healthcare systems and social determinants of health issues. Students participating on Kenya’s AU Abroad Program in Nairobi will have direct contact with prominent healthcare institutions, government officials and experts through classroom instruction as well as a practice-based internship with an organization dedicated to community health.
By working closely with Boston University Geneva Center and local global health organizations, this course places students at the intersection of community and global public health. Alongside coursework, students participate in service-learning internships with community health organizations.