Ingredients of a great medical elective

student with llama in Peruvian Andes

The best Medical Elective for me?

For most medical students, their final year elective something to look forward to at the end of years of study and pressure.  Therefore it is worth taking time and plan to find the best medical elective for you.

Over the years we have come to understand that different elective students have different objectives when deciding to take their elective with us in Peru.  For some, it is to see and participate in health care in a developing country.  For others, it is to immerse themselves in a Spanish speaking country where they can develop their language skills.   Of course, there are also students who want to discover Peru and South America.  Most of our participants are looking for a mix of these things.

In deciding where to go, you first need to know what you need from the experience.  Of course, every student is different.  Nevertheless, some guidelines apply to everyone:


When traveling abroad the number one priority is safety.  Before leaving home, you can learn a lot about your destination from government websites such as the UK Government foreign travel advice and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Setting up your medical elective with an organization such as The Elective Medical Network ensures that once you arrive at your destination someone will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to suitable accommodation.  You will have English speaking staff 24/7 to provide the guidance you need about dos and don’ts in your new location.  Your elective provider may also provide you with a cell phone while on your elective, transport you to your hospital each day and, of course, provide you with travel insurance.

Hospital options

Arriving at a hospital in a foreign country can be an intimidating experience.  If the local hospital and doctors do not help provide the rotation you are looking for it is going to affect your overall experience. The best medical elective providers have a good relationship with the administrators and doctors at your elective hospital.  Your elective provider should also be there for you if things go wrong during your rotation and changes need to be made.

Questions to consider

How many hours will you spend at the hospital each day?  Can you change rotations if things are not working in your chosen rotation?  How do I get to the hospital?  How far is the hospital from my accommodation?  These are some of the questions you should be considering which is the best medical elective for you.


Social life

Your elective experience is more than just spending time in a hospital in another country.  When deciding where to go, consider what your day will be like after the hospital.  An essential part of your elective experience will revolve around meeting others.  This will be both other visiting international students and locals in the country you are visiting.

At The Medical Elective Network, program participants have full days beginning with the hospital in the mornings and language classes in the afternoons.  On weekday evenings students generally eat together, use their gym membership or see some of the city.  At the weekend students often travel together to the mountains to enjoy the Andes or perhaps stay nearer to home at Huanchaco beach.

Experiencing a new country with new friends is something that will stay with you for life.

On your elective, you are likely to travel in your chosen country.  If your destination is, like Peru, popular with tourists, you should try and book ahead for the most popular attractions.  For example, the Machu Picchu Inka Trail books up several months in advance.


Something that can be overlooked when considering which is the best elective for you is accommodation.  If you arrange an elective independently, you may have hospital accommodation, stay at a hostel or perhaps rent a room with a family.  Any of these options may work out well.  However, it is vital to have a real understanding of where you will be staying before you get there.

Are you located in a dangerous area?  Is the accommodation comfortable? Are there shops and restaurants nearby?  Is transport straightforward to get to the hospital each day?  Are the family caring and experienced in receiving international visitors?  A good elective organization will provide you with details of your accommodation before you arrive and this should be in a good location.

Family or shared accommodation?

If you choose to take an organized elective program, then the provider will arrange for you to stay with other participants in a single building or for you to stay with local families.

At The Medical Elective Network, all our accommodation in Trujillo is with carefully vetted homestay families with comfortable homes within 10 minutes walk of our language center and other homestay families.  All participants have private rooms, many with private bathrooms. Quality family accommodation is especially important to students looking for cultural immersion to help develop their Spanish language skills.

Learn something more

There are many options when it comes to choosing your medical elective.  Make it a worthwhile experience for you.  As well as completing a clinical rotation, select an elective where you get the most out of your time in another country.  Coming to Trujillo, you will develop your Spanish language skills as well as enjoying a medical elective abroad.  Other learning opportunities exist in many countries making your elective experience even more special.

As a medical student, you will only have one final year elective abroad.  Take your time to ensure it is the best fit for you.