International Electives and Placements

Are you thinking of spending some time abroad during your studies at McGill? There are many options for you to investigate. If you are an undergraduate and interested in study abroad or study away opportunities for credit the McGill International Education Office is your best source of information. If you are a student looking specifically for a global health related research or clinical placements then the Global Health Programs office might have some ideas for you.

First things first…..Why are you thinking about going abroad for a portion of your studies?

All students need to think about why they are seeking out international opportunities and consider their underlying motivations. We recommend you take time to speak with faculty members, mentors, and peers who have worked internationally on projects similar to your interests.

The site below is an excellent resource for clinical students considering time abroad. This free course is something we recommend you complete before you consider placement sites to help you think through your motivations and the ethical considerations around international global health student placements. 

Considering the different options

Type of Opportunity:
Does your program or department have long standing partners that they work with? Are you more interested in observing a clinical setting or helping on a research project? Is there a faculty member who may be looking for help on a research project?  

Questions to ask:
In the article “Global Health Ethics for Students” authors Andrew Pinto and Ross Upshur encourage students to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Why do you hope to do this work?
  • What are your objectives, both personal and structural, short and long-term?
  • What are the benefits and who will receive them, and what are the costs, and who will bear them?
  • In the context of very limited resources for global health needs, is your elective justified? What exists close-by?
  • What do you need to do to prepare for your elective, both practical and personal?
  • Where are the weaknesses in your plan, specifically?
  • Is the work feasible, cost-effective, necessary, focused, and justified?
  • Will it work to undermine disparity, or actually contribute to it? Will there be a new benefit to the community?
  • What do you hope to bring back to your community, and whom will you share it with?
  • Is your work sustainable, and if not, will this leave a negative impact? 

In this article Yan Xu, a Queen’s University medical student, challenges other clinical students to ask questions about international placement sites.

We recommend exploring the following programs:

McGill-Based Programs

External Programs

Before you depart

1. Speak with your student affairs administrator to determine whether your placement will fulfill program requirements.

2. Apply for travel funding if needed.

3. Complete pre-departure training

  • Faculty of Medicine clinical students (MDCM, Nursing, PT/OT): You must complete the online Faculty of Medicine Pre-departure Training Modules if you are traveling outside of Canada (including the USA for MDCM students) for an family medicine clinical rotation (core rural), elective, placement, observership, or research project.
  • Apply for your placement/elective/etc. as you normally would through your academic program. Once your placement is confirmed by your program/department you will receive an email from the GHP office giving you access to the online modules in MyCourses. (MDCM students must meet all the deadlines for applying for a clinical rotation in family medicine or a clinical elective through the normal application process(es) in place for those programs.)
  • Your academic program may have additional requirements above the online training required by the Faculty of Medicine. Your program will communicate with you about those requirements. 
  • Faculty of Medicine Graduate students are encouraged to complete Module 1 of the online Faculty of Medicine Pre-departure Training Modules - contact the kristin.hendricks [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Pre-departure%20Training%20for%20FOM%20Graduate%20students) (GHP office) for more information.
  • Any student seeking to an exemption from pre-departure training must request it in writing to the kristin.hendricks [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Pre-departure%20Training%20Exemption%20Request) (GHP office). Only the GHP office can grant exemptions--not UGME, SPOT, or Department of Nursing.
  • Other Faculty of Medicine students who are not from a clinical training program (not from MDCM, Nursing, or SPOT) must complete the pre-departure training offered by the Office of International Education. It is offered two times a year. 

4. Sign-up for the McGill Travel Registry

All students participating in a University-related international activity (e.g., exchange, study-away, internship, graduate work or undergraduate research, etc.) must complete a McGill Travel Registry form on Minerva for each US and international experience – the electives coordinator will create the electronic form and advise the student by e-mail that it is ready for completion. Students should also register their travel with the Government of Canada registry. In general, the Faculty will not approve electives in regions for which the Canadian government has issued a Travel Warning.

When you return

If you are feeling unwell when you return don’t hesitate to contact McGill Student Health Centre or the JD Maclean Centre for Tropical Diseases at the MUHC. In addition, students often find it helpful to debrief their experience. Some programs have a mandatory debriefing, but if yours does not offer that contact your coordinator or supervisor for options.