Thinking about a career in Physical Therapy?

There are plenty of good reasons to: Forbes listed Physical Therapist #3 on their Ten Happiest Jobs list in 2011, and The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a Mean Annual Wage of $87,000 along with a 34% anticipated increase in demand for Physical Therapists by 2024. Not a bad bet in an unstable job market!

But the road to becoming a Physical Therapist is a long one, and includes a 3-year graduate degree. And before that, you’ll need to complete internships. While there are numerous benefits to doing an internship abroad, many PT students don’t even consider interning abroad, because they’re focused on learning the standards and norms in the Unites States so they can can apply to Physical Therapy graduate programs as soon as possible.

This approach makes sense to an extent; but what many people don’t know is that Physical Therapy graduate programs prefer applicants who have the skills and knowledge you gain from interning abroad, like knowing how to interact with diverse populations, and understanding how different healthcare systems work.

Interning Abroad is a great option for undergraduates, or recent grads preparing to apply to Physical Therapy graduate school. Curious what interning abroad in Physical Therapy might look like? Check out these stories from World Endeavors alumni, and how their time abroad has set them up for long-term success in Physical Therapy.

2017 – Jenna, Intern in Ireland

Jenna at the Botanical Gardens in Dublin

In her undergrad PT courses, Jenna had learned how patients need specific kinds of practice to heal injuries and improve mobility. She got to apply that learning during her Internship in Ireland, when she designed her own intervention for the elderly women she worked with at a rehab center in Dublin:

“A lot of the women were prone to falling, so I did Tai Chi exercise with them once a week. It was a mini-experiment to see what I could improve on, what they could improve on, and then what the organization could do with them moving forward.”

Jenna developed valuable professional skills, too: “I gained a lot of self-confidence in communication, which is very beneficial in a healthcare setting.”

Perhaps best of all, Jenna got to experience the deep fulfillment a healthcare career can bring: “It was so great when the women were exited to do exercises with me. When I could tell them I saw improvement — the smiles on their faces after that! It was nice to see how I impacted their lives, because they definitely impacted mine.”

As she continues with her undergraduate degree and looks to the future, it’s clear that Jenna’s internship abroad will be a valuable touchstone: “Working with an elderly population, I had to get to know them and understand how they’re not like me. That will be helpful for me in career in terms of relating to my patients: understanding why they don’t want to do exercises, and doing what I can to help.  And as a physical therapist, I hope to get into research, and having an international perspective is important for that.”

2013 – Briee, Intern in Chile

As Briee applied for graduate schools, she decided she wanted to develop a second language; when she found World Endeavors, she jumped at the chance to Intern in a Spanish-speaking country. In Santiago, Chile, she worked at a center for patients with extreme mental and physical disabilities and spent her free time continuing work on her  graduate school applications — while also enjoying the immense natural beauty of Chile.

The view near Briee’s apartment in Santiago

“I lived in an apartment with two other interns a few blocks from the beach. It was nice to have my own room and live with other Americans interns to plan trips with. My roommate Lindsay and I went to watch the sunset on the beach sometimes and I went for runs on the sea line; it was wonderful!”

Briee atop the Chilean Andes

Going abroad alone was tough, says Briee, but “I gained confidence and independence by being alone in an unfamiliar country. I learned to come out of my shell to meet people and work with the patients at my internship.”

2008 – Lola, Intern in Italy

A magic evening in Florence

Lola fell in love with Italy on a 2006 trip, and was hungry to find a way to go back — while still working towards her goal of becoming a Physical Therapist. “World Endeavors had opportunities that in my opinion are hard to find. Interning in a field that I’m interested in working in, in a country I love?  Perfect.”

In addition to learning about the Italian healthcare system and how to interact with patients and colleagues across the language barrier, she spent free time exploring Italy’s history and food. Her advice for a great experience abroad? “It’s easy to cling on to things that are familiar to you. Take in as much as you possibly can. Speak the language everyday. This is your chance to really step outside yourself and learn something new. Have discussions about your differences. Experiences like this will change you and your outlook on life forever.”

Learn more about Internships Abroad in Physical Therapy!

Connect with a World Endeavors Advisor today!

Posted by World Endeavors on    January 16, 2018

Put yourself out there! TM

World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.