Story by Joyce Jiang

f you are a pre-health student looking to study abroad in Southeast Asia, you have probably already noticed a few things. First, not many UF sponsored study abroad programs exist in Southeast Asia, and second, only one of those is a pre-health focused study abroad program: UF in Thailand.

UF in Thailand is a study abroad program offered through the Honors Program that explores the intersections of traditional and modern healthcare in Chiang Mai. If you decide to apply, the deadline is January 20, 2020 and you can do so on the UF International Center website. Applying early is encouraged, since the program plans on accepting only 12 students. Any pre-health, pre-med, or pre-PA student that is in Honors, has a 3.0 GPA, and is in good standing with the university is eligible. 

The undergraduate program costs $5,600 and the graduate program costs $5,849. This cost covers tuition for six credits, housing accommodations, transportation in Thailand, program activities, a few meals (including breakfast, and a welcome and farewell dinner), international health insurance, and emergency medical assistance. It does not cover airfare, a travel visa, or any other personal expenses. While this is a fair amount of money, there are ways to help cover the costs. Not only will financial aid like the Bright Futures Scholarship or Florida Prepaid pay some of the expenses, but the UF International Center also has many scholarships available for UF students studying abroad. If you have any questions about your financial situation, speak to a financial aid advisor or the international center for specifics and assistance. 

As a future healthcare professional, UF in Thailand will help you understand the operation of a healthcare system that is radically different from the one of the United States. In Thailand, traditional medicine (which is often looked down upon or excluded in the US) and modern medicine are practiced side by side. Additionally, Thailand has a universal healthcare system. By participating in this program, students will be able to see for themselves the pros and cons of such an arrangement, while also experiencing cultural differences and understanding how to interact with a variety of people. 

This program includes two classes: one taught by Meredith Beaupre, the UF Honors Pre-Health advisor who coordinated the program, and one instructed by a member of the Chiang Mai University Faculty. Additionally, both these classes will be taught in English. It is common for locals to speak at least some English because Chiang Mai is a tourism-heavy city, so the language barrier should not deter students from getting involved. 

The program will also model the in-depth and interactive approach to learning that is a hallmark of all Honors classes. UF in Thailand requires students to utilize critical thinking and have deep conversations as they explore different avenues of healthcare. The program schedule has students in the classroom Monday through Thursdays and visiting health organizations on Fridays for experiential learning. There will be some weekend activities and excursions—including a Chiang Mai city tour, a Thai cooking class, a meditation retreat with Buddhist monks, and a visit to an elephant sanctuary—along with plenty of time for students to explore on their own.

The deadline for applying to UF in Thailand is approaching. Students who go on the trip will have an incredible experience as they learn in an amazing location and, more importantly, gain a holistic appreciation of medicine and culture, a vital asset to the toolbox of any future healthcare professional.