Guidelines for Undergraduate Health-Related Experiences Abroad

Experiential education in health-related settings abroad has the potential to provide expansive learning opportunities for undergraduate students, but also presents unique challenges not typically encountered in other education abroad contexts. Public health and patient-care activities involve highly technical interactions that have repercussions on health and well-being, possibly putting patients, host communities, and students at risk.

These guidelines have been created to support institutions and organizations that serve undergraduate students participating in experiential learning in clinical and community health settings. These guidelines are essential because of the competency- and systems-based nature of safe and effective health care and public health provision. Systems look very different around the world and people coming from resource-rich frames of reference may make assumptions about the needs of health systems operating with fewer resources. Students may have an inflated sense of their own skills and competencies and be unaware of the potential for unintended harms that accompany any health intervention. The host community and health professionals need to know each student’s level of competency, or lack thereof, and the services a student is permitted to provide—or not provide. Students must be trained to recognize the risk they pose to themselves and to patients and communities.

These Guidelines apply to undergraduate health-related experiences abroad. The Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad apply to all education abroad opportunities. Use them together to develop and assess health-related experiences abroad.


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