Study Abroad for Public Health

Public health professionals work locally and globally to promote human wellbeing and prevent disease. Their highly technical and scientific profession requires expertise across multiple academic subjects such as social sciences, environmental science, math & statistics, laboratory science & policy development. Students interested in public health careers can boost their career prospects by including global learning experiences into their education curriculum.

Study abroad provides public health students the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in their subject matter and witness first-hand its application in different cultural environments. Furthermore, it helps develop cultural sensitivity which is key for working with diverse communities and public health students can also gain an appreciation of how factors such as culture, economics and politics impact health administration initiatives and policies across various locales around the globe.

An increasing number of universities require or encourage undergraduate students to engage in high-impact practices such as studying abroad. USF, for instance, includes studying abroad as part of its general education curriculum and its commitment to integration of global learning has spurred development of several new study abroad courses within its College of Public Health.

Public health faculty lead most new study abroad courses to ensure students have an exceptional experience. These courses present students with a unique educational opportunity because their instruction comes from experts in their respective fields and has extensive in-country experiences – this combination of teaching and field expertise can not only enrich academic content but can help students better comprehend how their future patients/clients operate in reality.

Study abroad program leadership is a highly visible form of faculty service that contributes directly to professional growth. Junior faculty can especially benefit from leading such programs as it highlights their collaborative abilities with departments across campus and create unique global learning opportunities.

Public health study abroad courses not only offer academic content, but they can also bring together students from diverse disciplines and countries for international collegial relationships that will assist in building professional networks throughout their careers.

Though it is impossible to address every barrier to expanding study abroad options in public health, several key strategies have proven successful: starting small and building on successes; using short term programs; fulfilling required coursework categories with each course offered; emphasizing interdisciplinarity as part of design processes and accommodating for student diversity when designing programs. Through employing such strategies it becomes possible to increase enrollment in study abroad courses focused on public health – which benefits both students and the field as they prepare their future workforce to face an ever more globalized world.


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