Why To: Do an Elective Placement Abroad

I just recently started my position as a Campus Rep for Work The World and one of my first tasks is to write a couple posts for their blog. Before they get published with them, I wanted to get your input. Up next? Why to do an elective placement abroad.

I get asked a lot why I do what I do and go where I go. Most of the time I like to explain my well thought out reasons. I mean, I am a storyteller after all. But here’s what I think of saying first: “Why not?”

To be honest, this is more of a push for traveling in general, but there is some carry-over specific to doing a placement abroad.

First of all, the world is ever changing. Be a part of that change.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~Ferris Bueller

Second, as you grow traveling becomes more challenging.

“Take your risks now. As you grow older, you become more fearful and less flexible. And I mean that literally. I hurt my knee on the treadmill this week and it wasn’t even on.” ~Amy Poehler

Third, traveling teaches you to make an adventure out of your life.

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.” ~Maya Angelou

“Take advantage of opportunities and embrace new challenges. And travel more when you’re young rather than wait until the children are grown or you are retired. … ‘Travel is so rewarding that it should take precedence over other things younger people spend money on.’ Create a bucket list now and start whittling it down.” ~Jane E. Brody, The New York Times & Karl Pillemer, Cornell University

Fourth, traveling helps you to develop compassion.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

As views change, as systems change, as we evolve in our own professions, we will experience things, moments, and situations, which will make us uncomfortable. But it’s part of life. Completing a placement abroad isn’t going to be easy, per se. But it’s going to help you develop the skills to adjust to and thrive with change.

Every generation of students soon becomes a generation of professionals. And those professionals facilitate the learning of the next generation of students. When the professionals have more to bring to the table, the students have greater opportunities to learn. As the current generation of students, we have an obligation to learn as much as we possibly can so that we can teach the next generation of students. Completing a placement abroad is an opportunity to learn more—more conditions, more pathologies, more patients, more cultures, more compassion.

“Cultural competence is looking at patients or clients from the full perspective of their humanity: their race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, disability, socio-economic status, and who and how they see themselves. … It’s not just race. It’s the whole person.” ~Johnette Meadows, PT, MS, director of Minority Affairs and Women’s Initiatives for the American Physical Therapy Association

What better way to grow as a student and a professional than by immersing yourself in an environment completely different from your own, to understand how a patient who is out of their comfort zone feels? It’s one of the best ways I can think of to “put yourself in their shoes.” Never mind the shoes. How about the whole uniform? The hospital? The culture?

We all have our own reasons for traveling. We all have our own reasons for being interested in doing a placement abroad. Maybe yours aren’t the same as mine, but maybe mine may strike some inspiration in you.

Bon Voyage!

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