Halcyon32

2+ Year Member
Aug 30, 2015
332
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Pre-Medical
Hey guys, so I have been doing some research and found some opportunities to go abroad next summer mostly in spanish speaking countries. The primary reason I want to do this is to be exposed to new cultures and experiences and to boost my spanish skills up to a level of complete fluency as I am already a pretty good spanish speaker. My first question is this: would I be better off doing some sort of summer medical internship or summer research program (if I could get accepted to one) in terms of how I will be viewed by an admissions committee or would the spanish speaking thing be good too. My second (more important) question: My opportunities include teaching english to spanish children, working on an organic farm and learning agriculture, off-grid living, self sustenance, etc., working at a hostel by just helping the staff with stuff (nothing impressive, all I would get out of it is being immersed among spanish speakers), or conservation efforts for wildlife and stuff like that. However, a lot of these places are at beach paradises and touristy locations. My concern is that an adcom would see this as an attempt to have something unique to put on my app while my ulterior motive is to give myself an easy vacation for cheap.

Both the medical internships and the going abroad for spanish (especially for conservation projects) are things I'm really interested and passionate about and have wanted to do for a while so this stuff isn't solely for boosting my resume. It's just if it would actually be worse for me med school wise to go one route , I'd like to avoid that route. Any advice? Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post!
 

starlite911

5+ Year Member
May 14, 2014
882
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Medical Student
I'd avoid any type of "hands-on" medical internship. Just because they'll let you do things in another country you can't do in the U.S. doesn't mean you should. Not saying that's what you're pursuing, but a lot of those things get a bad reputation because of it. Research could be cool, but kind of limited in the opportunity to speak with other people in a way that will have a substantial impact on your fluency. Also, you can do research in the U.S. so why not do something unique while you're there?

Personally, I think teaching would look most ~altruistic~ if that's what you're going for. Agriculture or conservation type stuff would be really cool and unique though, if you're into that kind of stuff. Working in a hostel is the only one I'm kinda meh about.
 
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LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
10+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
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Find a friend and backpack through Central America. Improve your language skills and learn about the area and yourself. Consider it a grand adventure and an opportunity for growth.

Most of these volunteerism-tourism programs are you providing cheap/free labor that takes jobs away from local people and does little for your application/resume.
 

danib2k15

ACCEPTED WOOOOOO
Aug 21, 2015
188
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Medical Student (Accepted)
Do whichever one you want. Stop worrying so much about Adcoms and live your life. Life is about so much more than this. It took me a long time to figure that out. Luckily, I had a wonderful mentor who helped me realize that there is no "perfect" activity that will get you that in. Furthermore, if you do the things you love you will put more time and effort towards it as well as feel more fulfilled from it. Just pursue things you are passionate about. If you want to go abroad and pursue an opportunity, select the one that appeals most to you. If you have concerns about a program then try to ask for advice that will address those concerns. Don't ask which one is best because I truly doubt it will make a huge difference.
 
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Halcyon32

2+ Year Member
Aug 30, 2015
332
176
Status
Pre-Medical
I'd avoid any type of "hands-on" medical internship. Just because they'll let you do things in another country you can't do in the U.S. doesn't mean you should. Not saying that's what you're pursuing, but a lot of those things get a bad reputation because of it. Research could be cool, but kind of limited in the opportunity to speak with other people in a way that will have a substantial impact on your fluency. Also, you can do research in the U.S. so why not do something unique while you're there?

Personally, I think teaching would look most ~altruistic~ if that's what you're going for. Agriculture or conservation type stuff would be really cool and unique though, if you're into that kind of stuff. Working in a hostel is the only one I'm kinda meh about.
I should have clarified that the medical internship/research program would be in the states not abroad, and the other stuff would be in mexico/dominican republic/central america places like that. And my main reservation about those abroad experiences is whether or not an adcom would perceive it as me trying to have fun rather than learn new cultures, lifestyles, languages, etc.
Find a friend and backpack through Central America. Improve your language skills and learn about the area and yourself. Consider it a grand adventure and an opportunity for growth.

Most of these volunteerism-tourism programs are you providing cheap/free labor that takes jobs away from local people and does little for your application/resume.
None of the abroad ones are really tourism groups where you have to pay to join and go and stuff like that. They're all basically homestays where you go and live with the people you're helping and they provide you with food and a place to sleep and you provide your own airfare/pocket money etc. The reason I wanna do those things specifically is that I can help people while learning the language as well as opposed to backpacking across central america which is still a pretty great idea.
 

Doudline

7+ Year Member
Aug 17, 2012
2,252
1,817
Accept that you are not going there to help, but to discover yourself. It's impossible to enact lasting change in a community or organization as a skill-less undergraduate student within 3 months.

Therefore follow your heart, do what you believe will bring you the most growth (and fun!).
And, as LizzyM pointed out, be mindful of not exploiting the local communities.
 
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May 9, 2012
196
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Medical Student (Accepted)
OP, I've done pretty much all of the things you've listed: summer research, two medical missions to South America, organic farming in Patagonia (WWOOF), working at a hostel in Argentina to keep travel costs low. Do what you feel you will enjoy the most. When you start applying, your enjoyment of these opportunities will more than likely carry over to how you present what you did. Stop thinking about how medical schools (or other pre-meds for that matter) will see it and just do it because it's what you want to do. I think med schools will find that much more attractive than trying to align what you do based upon their preferences.
 
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Halcyon32

2+ Year Member
Aug 30, 2015
332
176
Status
Pre-Medical
OP, I've done pretty much all of the things you've listed: summer research, two medical missions to South America, organic farming in Patagonia (WWOOF), working at a hostel in Argentina to keep travel costs low. Do what you feel you will enjoy the most. When you start applying, your enjoyment of these opportunities will more than likely carry over to how you present what you did. Stop thinking about how medical schools (or other pre-meds for that matter) will see it and just do it because it's what you want to do. I think med schools will find that much more attractive than trying to align what you do based upon their preferences.
That's awesome advice thank you! And yes! wwoof is what I was talking about. Would you mind telling me your experience during your trip? What you did and did you enjoy it? I'm really interested in it
 
May 9, 2012
196
314
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Medical Student (Accepted)
That's awesome advice thank you! And yes! wwoof is what I was talking about. Would you mind telling me your experience during your trip? What you did and did you enjoy it? I'm really interested in it
No problem! I woofed in Patagonia (Southern Argentina) just north of a city called El Bolson. It's nestled right in a valley surrounded by the Andes. Absolutely breathtaking views from the small, 5-acre strawberry farm where I worked. The farm was extremely secluded, so most of the times it was just one other volunteer from Israel and a native experienced volunteer that I interacted with (owner was rarely ever there). The owner of the farm wanted to build a house on the lot, so my job was to remove the foliage away from the specified area. This called for learning how to use an axe, machete, and chainsaw properly as I was uprooting huge trees from the ground most of the time. I had a one-person tent I carried with me throughout my trip, so I just camped out the 2 weeks I was there. However, I had planned on staying a month but the owner wanted me to pay for a portion of the food, and seeing how that goes against the WWOOF culture, I uprooted my tent and went back to the city to continue my solo backpacking trip.

All in all, I picked a bad apple from the bunch in regards to what farm to work on, but I did get to see what a good apple looked like. Just 2 km away from our farm was a neighbor farm I worked at for a couple of days. Everyone was awesome out there. Huge farm (100 acres). Still very tough work. Learned how to lay cement for a house they were building on the property. Learned how to construct piping and wiring in the ground across the farm. But the hospitality and cultural immersion was fantastic. I could just go on and on about this particular farm, but I'll stop here. Be prepared to work. Farming is a tough job, one that I am very appreciative of now. Let me know if you have any other questions and I'd be glad to answer them.
 
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Halcyon32

2+ Year Member
Aug 30, 2015
332
176
Status
Pre-Medical
No problem! I woofed in Patagonia (Southern Argentina) just north of a city called El Bolson. It's nestled right in a valley surrounded by the Andes. Absolutely breathtaking views from the small, 5-acre strawberry farm where I worked. The farm was extremely secluded, so most of the times it was just one other volunteer from Israel and a native experienced volunteer that I interacted with (owner was rarely ever there). The owner of the farm wanted to build a house on the lot, so my job was to remove the foliage away from the specified area. This called for learning how to use an axe, machete, and chainsaw properly as I was uprooting huge trees from the ground most of the time. I had a one-person tent I carried with me throughout my trip, so I just camped out the 2 weeks I was there. However, I had planned on staying a month but the owner wanted me to pay for a portion of the food, and seeing how that goes against the WWOOF culture, I uprooted my tent and went back to the city to continue my solo backpacking trip.

All in all, I picked a bad apple from the bunch in regards to what farm to work on, but I did get to see what a good apple looked like. Just 2 km away from our farm was a neighbor farm I worked at for a couple of days. Everyone was awesome out there. Huge farm (100 acres). Still very tough work. Learned how to lay cement for a house they were building on the property. Learned how to construct piping and wiring in the ground across the farm. But the hospitality and cultural immersion was fantastic. I could just go on and on about this particular farm, but I'll stop here. Be prepared to work. Farming is a tough job, one that I am very appreciative of now. Let me know if you have any other questions and I'd be glad to answer them.
My main concern is that the whole process of getting to a farm seemed very unstable. Like you could contact the farmer but what if something didn't work out and he didn't have room for you or like you said he springs something like making you pay for food midtrip, that could potentially cause big issues for me. You were lucky that you had a tent and stuff and just hopped on over to another farm which is awesome but I'm afraid something might not go my way. Overall though I'm sure it'll be better to just go and pray for the best. I'm glad your experience at the second farm was a good one!
 
May 9, 2012
196
314
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
My main concern is that the whole process of getting to a farm seemed very unstable. Like you could contact the farmer but what if something didn't work out and he didn't have room for you or like you said he springs something like making you pay for food midtrip, that could potentially cause big issues for me. You were lucky that you had a tent and stuff and just hopped on over to another farm which is awesome but I'm afraid something might not go my way. Overall though I'm sure it'll be better to just go and pray for the best. I'm glad your experience at the second farm was a good one!
Not going to lie, you're hesitancy has merit. But that's the risk you have be willing to take. I couldn't find the farm the first day, so I talked to a family on another farm who let me sleep in their attic for one night and helped me find the farm the next morning. Just have options. If something doesn't work out (and something will always find a way to not work out on these trips), put it behind you and go to option B. My option B was working at a hostel in the southernmost city in the world as I waited to find a discounted trip to Antarctica. Now I love my option B.
 
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Halcyon32

2+ Year Member
Aug 30, 2015
332
176
Status
Pre-Medical
Not going to lie, you're hesitancy has merit. But that's the risk you have be willing to take. I couldn't find the farm the first day, so I talked to a family on another farm who let me sleep in their attic for one night and helped me find the farm the next morning. Just have options. If something doesn't work out (and something will always find a way to not work out on these trips), put it behind you and go to option B. My option B was working at a hostel in the southernmost city in the world as I waited to find a discounted trip to Antarctica. Now I love my option B.
Wow you really like to travel but antarctica? That's pretty intense! haha well I'm glad it all worked out for you and thank you for teaching me about how it all goes down. If I have any other questions I'll be sure to ask you! :D