Travelling overseas, working in novel medical environments in the developing world, living in exotic surroundings - what's not to love?
But as with many opportunities in life, finding the money to fund a trip like that can be a serious stumbling block. It might even feel like it’s not worth trying at all, but we can assure you it most certainly is.
When to start exploring options?
As early as possible.
It can’t hurt to know what you’re applying for before you need to fill out the forms. Keep in mind that sometimes policies and procedures change, so if you’re looking early make sure you refresh your knowledge closer to the time you’re going to apply.
Your elective dates can be in place as early as 2 years in advance so you'll have plenty of time for research. However it’s a good idea to start 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 to look for external funding
I am so excited to have this amazing opportunity, but nervous that I now have less than six months to fund my trip! - Jenny Gough
Fear not - there are literally hundreds of groups that want to help you fund your elective placement. But how does one find out who and where they are? There are several avenues to search - you can speak to your course supervisors, check out relevant online forums, or sign up to advice sites like Money for med students.
What are the criteria?
There isn’t a categorical answer to this question. Each funding group, bursary and prize has different application criteria. Certainly some will be similar, but researching each one individually is the way to go if you want to be well prepared.
Some groups will require you to apply with specific details surrounding your elective. Others will ask you to conduct work to support your application, or do specific project work while you’re abroad, or even write reports once you arrive back home.
The majority of funding bodies will want detailed reasoning for you undertaking an elective abroad. They’ll also want to know how the work you’ll be doing will support them as an institution and what you think your contribution will entail.
What sort of projects should I keep an eye out for?
A lot of funding bodies will ask you to work on what they term ‘data collection’ projects or ‘reflective essays’ surrounding your elective experience. 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 side of that coin reflective writing projects go hand in hand with the type of electives we offer here at Work the World. The reason being that they let students talk about how their time practicing in a developing country has affected both their personal and professional development.
How do I make my application stand out?
Be clear about why you want to go to a developing country. Be clear about what you hope to gain and when you actually want to travel.
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 talking about the area they’ve asked you to focus on.
Do some background reading and include important points as references for extra Brownie points. Remember that this isn’t only for their benefit — when you’re in country yoru plan will let you know what to pay special attention to. And when it comes time to write up what you’ve learned, the project outline will speed up the process.
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. If you’re struggling to decide which route to take, read our article on the differences between going it alone and booking with us here.
What should I consider when building my budget?
"I spent quite a lot of time preparing my application for a grant of £1,000. I might not get it, but I'd kick myself if I didn't try!" - Caroline Corcoran
Listing all the fixed costs is simple — the price of our electives includes food, accommodation, airport pick up and the tailoring and organisation of your elective placement.
Flights aren’t included because we know that if you shop around at different times of the year you’ll get a better price, and we want to make sure placements are as reasonable as possible for every student.
You’ll also need to factor in money you’ll spend on socialising, sightseeing and travelling at weekends. Again, we’ll provide you with good estimates of what you’ll need based on local costs which we’re always keeping an eye on.
Why do they want to see my CV?
What could the bursars possibly get from your CV that might influence their decision to give you money?
The answer is a lot.
Your CV will let them know of any relevant experience you might have, and give them a better feel for who you are. You might feel like it doesn’t represent you as a person, but it helps the funding bodies to make a better informed decision as to whether or not to release the money to you.
It’s also worth including a transcript of your medical school grades to boost your chances of being awarded the funds.
What will my university want?
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 discuss them with your supervisors. Providing a summary is even more likely if you’re applying for a grant through your university.
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 to bring validity to your placement (useful if you’re applying for a grant, too).
This seems like a lot of work. Why should I bother?
Because if you don't you'll end up missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime! You'll probably only get one chance to take part in 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 things for your development as a healthcare professional.
Which awards do I stand a chance of winning?
Generally speaking the narrower the niche you’re aiming for the less competition you’ll have. A good rule of thumb is to take serious time and consideration over your application. Present it in a professionally bound folder and send it to the funding bodies you’ve chosen with plenty of time to spare.Which awards do I stand a chance of winning? It's a good idea to contact the organisation after a couple of week or so to confirm they’ve received your application. You can also use this opportunity to find out how long you can expect to wait for a response.
Is there a limit to how many I can apply for?
No. Now go and apply for as many as you possibly can to increase your chances. Good luck! Know of any bursary tips or ideas we haven't mentioned here? Share your knowledge and let people know in the comments below! If you're still hungry for fundraising ideas, check out some of our other helpful posts below:
And here are two posts from previous students explaining how they raised funds for their own electives: