Experience Study Abroad: Virtual International Medicine

Are you curious about how global circumstances have affected study abroad programs? Check out Sarah Stanley’s reflection! As a student on the pre-med track, Sarah’s virtual study in the Dominican Republic broadened her experience with patient care, and affirmed her future interests.

This winter, from December 28th to January 15th, I had the life changing opportunity to study abroad in the course Virtual International Medicine. This three-week course was completely online but each day we would attend Zoom calls with a team in the Dominican Republic. Through this experience, I was able to learn about the healthcare system in the Dominican Republic, explore potential healthcare fields to pursue, learn about culture, and learn about more ways to get involved in communities around the world.

There were so many ways I was able to learn and expand my educational knowledge and experience. Through weekly assignments, I learned basic human anatomy, along with common conditions associated with differing body systems. This knowledge was then applied to patient history assignments with a virtual patient, where we were able to conduct a patient interview and physical examination in a low stakes environment. For two weeks, we attended Zoom calls into a hospital and shadowed doctors and other staff while they worked with patients. This allowed me to learn new medical conditions and common symptoms, better observe patient to doctor interaction, and identify the similarities and differences between a hospital setting in the United States versus a hospital in the Dominican Republic. Through shadowing, I was also able to view multiple departments within the hospital, allowing me to explore the many healthcare options provided to study.

This is a photo of my group and me. We were together in a group for each shadowing session in the hospital. We also worked together for patient history assignments and did lots of debriefing after each class.

What truly made this experience so unforgettable was all of the cultural experiences I got to have. One of my greatest concerns with studying abroad virtually was that I would not be able to learn about the culture of the country I was visiting or get a memorable experience. This was far from the truth. All of the staff members ensured that we would receive the best experience possible. For the first week of the course, we learned all about Dominican Republic culture. We read about and discussed the country’s economy and differing economic levels, common professions and the different types of hospitals provided in the country. Throughout the course, we had cultural lessons each night to help immerse ourselves and experience everything the Dominican Republic offers. These lessons included dance lessons, gastronomy classes, and Spanish lessons. We also watched drone tours to see the different parts of the country, watched a movie on cultural differences within the Dominican Republic, and visited a corner store. One of my favorite cultural experiences was the Wine to Water tour. We got to talk with a group who made safe water filters and sold them to people around the country. It was a really neat way to see how people are helping their community within the country.

While I learned a lot educationally, the most impactful experience I had while studying abroad was seen in personal growth. It is one thing to learn about another culture, but to experience it was eye opening and impactful. While shadowing in the hospital, we got to meet a wide diversity of patients. Each person had their own unique life and living situation. Hearing each patient’s story was a reminder of the wide diversity of individuals and cultures that exist. As I study in hopes of becoming a healthcare professional, this is so important to me. Understanding and respecting everyone, regardless of their background, is key to not only my future in medicine, but can be applied to my life today. I especially felt this when my group and I got to interview patients ourselves. We learned questions to ask in Spanish and, with the help of our interpreter, got to conduct interviews with patients outside of the hospital. What surprised me the most about this is how easy it was to interact with someone across the word through a language barrier. Each conversation flowed very well. My group and I were able to connect with each patient we spoke with and it no longer felt like we were just conducting interviews, but just getting to know each patient’s personal story. This experience reminded me of why I want to pursue a healthcare profession and my goal of meeting and working with a diverse group of people everyday.      


This was my entire class for the study abroad experience. We met together almost everyday for 3 weeks and got very close. I am so glad I got to meet and work with all of them. In this photo, we all made signs and took a picture to thank the team that worked with us in the Dominican Republic

My experience with the Virtual International Medicine Study Abroad program was more than I ever imagined it could be. I learned so much about culture, grew both educationally and personally, and met a lot of amazing people in the process. I highly recommend any type of study abroad experience to everyone. It is a fun and perfect way to learn, emerge yourself in a new culture, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Author Bio:

Sarah Stanley is a Biology major on the pre-med track with a Spanish minor. She is a sophomore this year, and after undergraduate she hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatric doctor.

Edited by: Anna Magaña


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