Back to Blog
Atlantis students speaking to a doctor while shadowing (Athens, Greece)


Medical Volunteering Abroad: One Pre-Med’s Take On It

Anne Marie profile

About Anne Marie

Anne Marie Conrad is a 2021 graduate of Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts with degrees in Global Studies and Spanish along with a certificate in Medical Humanities. She has explored her passion for global healthcare by doing undergraduate research on best practices for provision of healthcare across language and cultural barriers. Anne Marie was an Atlantis Fellow to Valladolid, Spain during the Summer of 2019.

Why Volunteer Abroad?

As a pre-med student, it doesn’t take long to figure out that your time is a valuable commodity. At the beginning of my pre-med journey, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of checking off all of the necessary academic and extracurricular prerequisites to be accepted to medical school. Not only did I need to invest time in volunteering, shadowing, clinical experience, and working, on top of doing well in my classes, I had personal goals like broadening my worldview and getting out of my cultural comfort zone. I knew going into undergrad that I wanted to study abroad. I wanted the chance to travel, an experience that would allow me to challenge myself in an unfamiliar environment, and to meet people who’d been socialized in a different culture than mine. I was, however, a bit nervous about finding opportunities to be abroad while still completing my pre-med goals.

My advice to pre-med students in this position is: find ways to be involved that span many of your interests. I’ve been able to do this by seeking out opportunities specifically for pre-health students that take them abroad. 

International service trip

My first medical volunteering abroad experience came in the form of a Timmy Global Health medical service trip in Quito, Ecuador. Through this program, I spent a week with other pre-med and medical students, local and international medical professionals, and Timmy Global Health administrative staff with the combined goal of facilitating healthcare clinics for underserved communities in and around Quito. This was my first clinical volunteering experience and my first time being able to practice and develop my Spanish language skills in a pre-medical setting. On this trip I was reassured that working in international healthcare is, indeed, what I am meant to do. Being able to see this firsthand while shadowing in the consultation room was an indescribably empowering experience for me. Throughout the following semesters, I mentally returned to and reflected over that week countless times as fuel that further propelled me toward a position in which I can continue to help address disparity in global health.

Clinical Shadowing Abroad

Following my service trip experience, I knew I wanted to spend more time in the room with practicing physicians, and I hoped I could do that abroad in a Spanish-speaking context. I found the perfect fit for me in an Atlantis shadowing abroad. This program gave me another opportunity abroad while continuing to get clinical experience. I was also able to enrich and build upon my knowledge of Spanish healthcare-related vocabulary. While my previous volunteering abroad experience consisted exclusively of primary care, through Atlantis I had the opportunity to sit in on consultations, watch surgeries, and witness physician meetings in four different specialties at a teaching hospital. In just four weeks, I was able to spend over one hundred hours shadowing in the hospital’s orthopedic surgery, cardiology, general surgery, and ophthalmology units. This was my first up-close look at surgery, my first time going on rounds with a physician in a hospital, and my first time interacting with medical students and residents at work. The best part: I was able to do it all in Spain. In addition to shadowing, I was able to engage in a variety of cultural experiences while abroad. Atlantis, for me, truly was the best of both clinical shadowing and study abroad worlds.

University Research Program

My final opportunity I found to volunteer in a healthcare-related setting abroad was actually through the study abroad office at my university. A women’s reproductive health-focused research lab in the public health department was taking undergraduate research assistants to Italy in order to conduct qualitative research on how different demographics of women experience healthcare. Unfortunately, like many other great and promising opportunities, this project was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, I’ve added it to this post to show you, a pre-med student like me, that the opportunities are out there. Purdue’s study abroad office even offers scholarships specifically to make opportunities like these more affordable. Be sure to check if your university does something similar!

Whether your healthcare experience abroad comes in the form of a service trip, clinical shadowing, or a research assistantship, I really encourage you to seek out those opportunities. If spending time abroad is important to you and you want to go into healthcare, combining these goals will ultimately make you a better, more experienced candidate as you take next steps to your future. 



Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
Yong hun Kim headshot.

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
Sarah Emerick headshot.

Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
Snow Nwankwo headshot.

Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
Kayla Riegler headshot.

Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

A student smiling and learning how to kayak.

Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

MessengerWhatsAppCopy Link
Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.