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How do you choose an International Elective?
Doing your homework…and why you have to do it! 
A Roadmap for Choosing an International Elective
A Collaboration of Child Family Health International and Medsin-UK

The following questions/criteria have been designed to help medical students (as well as PA [Physician Assistant], and other health professions students) consider international elective and global health experiences to ensure you are participating in an elective that is educational, safe, socially responsible and financially just.

Why is this important?  There are lots of complex relationships and realities at play during an international elective, particularly when that elective takes place in a country where resources are limited, including medical supplies, healthcare workers, and money more broadly.  In addition, there are the realities of ‘colonialism’ and ‘neocolonialism’ that may be a pretext for a student or faculty member coming from a high income country to a low or middle income country (Want to find out what a low or middle income country is?  Learn more about the World Bank income groups.  A classic reading on this dynamic is the speech by Ivan Illich “To Hell With Good Intentions.”  

We hope the below tool can be applied to any global health educational program abroad.  We don’t mean to be negative about international electives, there are a lot of great skills, knowledge, and attitudes (called ‘competencies’ in education speak- click here to learn more about global health competencies. To make sure you are getting what you can out of the experience and doing your best to not make mistakes in your approach or your actual elective choice, check out the below roadmap to guide your decision! 


This checklist has been peer reviewed by some amazing leaders in the field of global health and medical education, learn more about them here.  Also, we are open to your feedback, contact us!











Do you know about “Fair Trade Learning”?  Fair Trade Learning
is an approach to learning in resource-limited settings that was developed and
refined by organizations and professionals working global health
and international education.  Learn more here.   

Is pre-departure training and preparation required? 

Are there defined learning objectives or competency development goals? 

Is there an organization providing guidance on health/safety preparation and response to any health/safety incidents that you might encounter?

Is the opportunity, and/or those facilitating it, intentional about considerations of social responsibility, reciprocity, and bilaterally respectful partnership?

Does the international elective embody Fair Trade principles?

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