International Programs

Helene Altmann doing neurological research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

Helene Altmann doing neurological research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

Interested in going abroad?

If you are thinking about going abroad, your first stops should be:

These programs connect students with academic programs and internship opportunities abroad in a variety of fields, including the sciences.

UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute

Consider learning more about the Global Health Institute on our campus and the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health.  Students pursuing the certificate choose from field experiences led by UW-Madison faculty in many different countries.  These field experiences are a great opportunity to learn about healthcare delivery in an international context and the broader social, cultural and environmental factors that impact human health.

What about medical missions trips?

Many students are interested in gaining clinical experience abroad.  Admissions committees value international experiences, but they do not expect these experiences to be tied to healthcare.


There are many shorter programs that do allow undergraduate students the opportunity to volunteer in a clinical setting.  Because there are legal and ethical concerns with these programs, we recommend approaching them with caution.  As one article states, going on these trips “may end up hurting, not helping, [your] graduate applications, because many medical, dental, and nursing schools view such behavior as unethical and irresponsible.”  This being the case, be sure you do your research before going on a medical mission trip.


To learn more about the challenges associated with short-term clinical service trips, explore this free course offered by Stanford University’s Center for Innovation in Global Health.


Questions to Consider

If you do decide to pursue a clinical service trip abroad, here are some questions to guide your research and evaluation of programs:

  • What are some of your reasons for going on a medical mission trip?
  • What are you hoping to learn from this experience?
  • What do you know about the program?  Is it public, private or non-profit?
  • What are you paying for when you go on your trip?
  • Does the program have a presence in or near the community on a sustained basis or is it a mobile clinic?
  • Does the program partner with local clinicians and community leaders?
  • How much do you know about the community you will be serving?  Will there be language or cultural barriers?  How does the program address these barriers in providing care to patients?
  • Will you be caring for patients independently?  Do you have certification or qualifications that allow you to perform the same patient care duties in the United States?