I’m currently in the process of applying for electives, which proved to be more stressful than I imagined. I will be spending half of fourth year in the US, rotating at various different hospitals. But as an international medical student, things are more complicated. I have to apply to all “away” electives, which means many forms and fees. In some ways I have a “home” institution due to an institution in the US that has an affiliation with my school. I am second choice after the students of the affiliate school but I am not guaranteed any elective. And recently, the affiliate institution cut down on the number of spots they are giving us. Many institutions also only take students from AAMC accredited schools, which automatically excludes international students.
I have been researching and emailing various people, asking if they know physicians at various institutions. I’ve emailed program coordinators asking them about availabilities for international students. It’s especially been difficult to get Emergency electives because it is becoming more popular and institutions are making it a requirement for their own students. And since I want to go into Emergency medicine, I will need the Emergency electives to get my SLORs (Standard Letters of Recommendation) from an Emergency physician.
But here are some things I learned while I was applying for electives:
1. Stay on top of things because being an international medical student makes things a bit more difficult.
2. People love to help! The 4th years know a great deal (since they just went through the process) and are very willing to pass on the knowledge. Alumni are also amazingly nice and helpful. I reached out to a few alumni and they were all willing to help and give advice. Some even offered to proofread my CV and personal statement.
3. Professional organizations can also be a useful resource. I contacted EMRA (Emergency Medical Resident Association) and ACEP (American College of Emergency Physicians) membership director, who relayed my predicament to numerous other Emergency physicians and have gotten lots of help.
4. Hakol dvash. (literally meaning “Everything honey,” it is a phrase used to convey that everything will be just fine.)