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Study Abroad

Medical Volunteer Abroad, A Pre-Med’s View: 5 Best Sites to Explore Options

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About Ryan

Ryan Hodge graduated from North Central College in May of 2021 as a biology major and Spanish minor on the pre-medicine track. After his sophomore year, he participated in the Atlantis Summer 2019 shadowing program in Tarragona, Spain.

If you are exploring a career in healthcare, no matter the field or area, you should have some volunteer experience. Healthcare professionals work every day to serve others and prioritize their patients’ health. In order for schools, programs, and employers to know you have a passion to serve others as a living, they need to know you enjoy helping people. It is not only something special to put on your resume, but you also find volunteer services are an opportunity to grow personally as well.

However, finding the right program or organization to volunteer for can be a difficult task. There are so many to choose from, and it can often feel overwhelming. Additionally, if you are like me, traveling is also another passion you want to explore. Luckily, there are medical volunteer programs that exist and can help you combine your wanderlust with your interest in service. Compiled below is a list of some of the best sites that I used to ultimately make my own decision on where to volunteer abroad!

Top 5 Sites to Explore

Go Overseas 

This site is a great place to start, as it reviews and provides a list of the top 10 best medical volunteer programs to participate in. For me, what I find helpful is that it breaks down the best volunteer abroad programs based on your interests – such as rural health or health research. Additionally, this resource has been updated since the pandemic, and includes information on whether or not proof of vaccines and/or COVID tests are required upon entry. 

Go Abroad

Similarly to Go Overseas, this site includes an additional list of volunteer abroad programs for pre-medical students. There is little overlap between the two sites, so together they provide you a wide range of sites to start with! What makes this site an excellent jumping off point is the fact that it provides a brief overview of each program mentioned so that you do not have to go to each site unless you are interested in learning more. This can save you time as you find what program is best for you. 


(PMGY) is a volunteer abroad platform that offers impactful volunteer projects not only for pre-medicine students in their gap year, but also pre-health students more broadly in the areas of medicine, childcare, teaching, and wildlife. According to their website, PMGY provides a safe, structured, and social platform with volunteer travel opportunities available from 1-40 weeks in Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America. They have been around for more than 10 years and have many positive student reviews on their site so it definitely may be worth checking out. 

Your University Advisor or Study Abroad Office 

Perhaps your most useful resource to check is your own university. Pre-professional advisors or study abroad offices are full of people who know which programs might be best for you. Additionally, they will know from other students’ experiences whether or not the program you are interested in is reliable and safe. When spending money to travel to a foreign country, I highly recommend getting second opinions before you take the leap.

Atlantis 360 Shadowing 

Although not a true and genuine volunteer experience, Atlantis offers students an opportunity to experience a unique clinical experience that most students are seeking when they are looking to volunteer. Atlantis allowed me to shadow physicians of several different specialties in Tarragona, Spain. During my three-week trip, I shadowed orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, internists, and ER physicians. This experience exposed me to cases I want to see in my career eventually and thus solidified the idea that I want to be a physician. I experienced a different healthcare system which will allow me to be well-rounded and understand the different pros and cons of different healthcare systems. 


There are multiple options available to pre-med students to volunteer abroad and gain experience relevant to their academic and professional futures. At the end of the day, medical schools are looking for three main things: healthcare exposure, high academic performance, and specific competencies that can be found here. Volunteering abroad is a wonderful way to make you a more competitive applicant. Additionally, there are other extracurricular opportunities that can also strengthen your application, such as Atlantis shadowing programs over school breaks. Ultimately, you should choose the program that best fits you and your interests, and enjoy the opportunity to personally develop as well as contribute to those around you.

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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

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John Daines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.