Travelling overseas, experiencing healthcare systems in the developing world and living amongst stunning natural beauty; what's not to look forward to?
‘Fundraising!’ we hear you cry.
But while starting this process might feel daunting and leave you tempted to just stay at home for your placement, we assure you it’s not as difficult as might first appear, and is most definitely worth the effort.
WHEN SHOULD I START EXPLORING OPPORTUNITIES?
As early as possible. We advise doing some solid research before whittling down your options. Keep in mind that sometimes policies and procedures change, so be sure to refresh your knowledge closer to the time of your application.
You can book your elective dates up to two years in advance so you'll have plenty of time to research. However, we recommend making decisions at least 12 months before you’re due to leave, giving you enough time to raise the funds you need and complete the application process.
WHERE DO I START?
There are hundreds of groups that want to help fund your elective placement, but the sheer volume of these might leave you feeling more daunted than inspired. Break into the field by speaking to your course supervisors and university bursars, checking out relevant online forums, or signing up to sites like Money 4 Med Students for in-depth advice.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA?
Each funding group, bursary, and prize has different application criteria. Our advice is to familiarise yourself with one specific funding body to maximise your chances of receiving a grant.
Most groups will require you apply with the specific details of your overseas elective and your reasons for undertaking one. They’ll also want to know how the work you’ll be doing will support them as an institution. Others will ask you to conduct work to support your application, do specific project work while you’re abroad, or even write reports once back home.
WHAT PROJECTS SHOULD I KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR?
A lot of funding bodies will ask you to work on ‘data collection projects’ or ‘reflective essays’ whilst on your elective. It’s worth noting that as data collection projects will almost certainly involve lab and clinical research, this type of funding might not be suitable for you.
On the other hand, reflective writing projects work well with the type of electives we offer at Work the World. This is because they encourage students to think over how their time practicing in a developing country has affected both their personal and professional development.
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I APPLY FOR?
Some bursaries award fixed amounts, but under certain circumstances you’ll have to apply for the amount you think you’ll need. If you’re travelling with Work the World the process will be easy — we’re very clear about the cost of our programmes and the money you’ll need for whichever destination you choose.
If you’re organising your elective yourself the application process will be considerably more difficult. Struggling to decide which route to take? Read this article on the differences between going it alone and booking with us.
WHAT DOES MY BUDGET COVER?
HOW DO I MAKE MY APPLICATION STAND OUT?
You first need to understand why you want to go to a developing country, what you hope to learn there and when you’re planning on making it happen. If you’re familiar with the above, your application is more likely to be clear and concise.
If the funding body asks you to complete a reflective project, you should write up a project outline that has a title relevant to the elective you’re undertaking. With it you should provide a brief background summary relevant to the area they’ve asked you to focus on.
Do some background reading and include external references for extra Brownie points. Remember, this isn’t only for their benefit — having a pre-written plan when you’re in-country will remind you what you need to pay attention to. When it comes time to write up what you’ve learned, the project outline will speed up the process.
WHY DO THEY WANT TO SEE MY CV?
Although it might seem like an unnecessary formality, bursars will want to get familiar with the students they’re funding. While your CV might not fully encapsulate the unique and wonderful individual that you are; it will help the funding bodies make a better informed decision as to aiding your funds.
With this in mind, polishing up your personal statement to include any relevant experience you might have, your ambitions in healthcare and attaching a transcript of your medical school grades is a small price to pay for what you might gain in return.
IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT?
You'll probably only get one chance to take an overseas elective placement, so don't let a lack of funds stand in your way. Getting hands-on experience in an overseas setting is one of the most beneficial ways you can develop as a healthcare professional.
DO I REALLY STAND A CHANCE?
Funding bodies really do give out money to students, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be you if your application is well thought out. Approach each application with time and consideration, and you’ll stand a much better chance than those who’ve hammered out hundreds. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the narrower the niche, the less competition you’ll have - so up your chances by applying to smaller organisations local to you. Lastly, presentation really is paramount, so slip your final copy into a new folder and send it off with plenty of time to spare.
After a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to contact the organisation to confirm they’ve received your application, but don’t go so far as to hassle them. You can also use this opportunity to find out how long you can expect to wait for a response.
WHAT WILL MY UNIVERSITY ASK FOR?
Regardless of whether you’re working overseas or not, your university will likely ask you to provide a comprehensive summary of your elective plans and then ask you discuss them with your supervisors.
If you’re applying for a grant from your university, the aboveis process is pretty much a given.
We work with a huge number of universities all over the world and each has different requirements when it comes to electives. Because we know this can be a hassle, we do everything in our power to provide you with as much information as possible around your placement, in-country supervisors and the hospitals you’ll be working in.
We’ll also supply signed and sealed supporting documents which bring validity to your placement (useful if you’re applying for a grant, too).
IS THERE A LIMIT TO HOW MANY BURSARIES I CAN APPLY FOR?
No - now go and get researching!