10. Ireland

With its haunting landscapes, culture and history, the Emerald Isle has something to offer everyone, from avid hikers to literature lovers. Dublin, the republic's capital, is the country's largest and most cosmopolitan city.

Ireland has a means-tested healthcare system under which around one-third of the population qualifies for free healthcare. Middle-income individuals are entitled to free maternity, hospital and specialist services. Those with a high income have to pay modest amounts toward visits to general practitioners, hospitalisation, and prescriptions, usually via healthcare insurance.

What students said:

Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick

'It's a beautiful country and not overcrowded. If you don't mind it being a bit quiet and you enjoy surfing – Ireland has some of the best coastline for surfing in Europe – then it's a great option for a relatively cheap elective.'

Cork University Hospital, Cork

'I was one of three elective students in the department. There were several consultants and we were all designated to one consultant...You could get very hands-on if you wanted to with cannulas, etc. There is a lot to do if you are motivated.'

9. Tanzania

Tanzania's spectacular scenery is one of its biggest attractions – idyllic offshore islands, coastal lowlands, the Great Rift Valley and the volcanic highlands, home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa at 5,895m.

As the third poorest country in the world, with more than 51% of the population living below the poverty line, Tanzania has a surprisingly high life expectancy of 52.26 years at birth. Unfortunately, this figure is now threatened as Tanzania faces the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and the resulting problems of adequate healthcare provision.

Most hospital work is still done in English, although the majority of patients speak only Swahili. You will be welcomed by the hospitals, which rarely receive elective students, as well as by the people themselves, who are famed for their hospitality and generous welcomes. Although there is very good support because the country is so short of doctors, students are likely to be given a lot of independence and practical experience.

What students said:

Flying Medical Services, Arusha

'The pilots take it in turns providing three-day flight clinics and those remaining in Arusha are 'on-call' for emergency flights. The plane we flew in was a 1974 Cessna six-seater plane; the smallest plane I had ever been in! After taking off and flying out or Arusha, we had some beautiful views as we flew south towards Maasai land.'

Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Mosh

'Local trips we enjoyed included a coffee tour, grinding, roasting and drinking our own coffee; a hike to Marangu Waterfalls in the foothills of Kilimanjaro; a canvas painting lesson in Moshi Town, kayaking across Lake Chala to Kenya and jumping off rope swings into the hot springs. These activities were all easy to organise with tour guides in town. International students that had been at the hospital a while before us gave us tips on what to do and recommended good value companies.'

8. Malaysia

Malaysia is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The culture is as rich and varied as the people: 8% belong to indigenous ethnic groups (many of which retain their own dialects), 50% are Malay, 33% Chinese, and 9% Indian. These cultures have fused to produce a diverse and complex community, with each group retaining its own unique traditional identity.

The basic health status of much of the Malaysian population has undergone significant improvements in the last couple of decades. This has been primarily achieved through improved public health measures and by providing greater access to healthcare. Rural areas have been a primary focus, with improved sanitation and access to safe water leading to a fall in the incidence of typhus and dysentery of just under 50% in 4 years.

What students said:

Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur 

'I was able to see a lot of medical conditions that I had not seen before. A high proportion of patients had dengue fever, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. They typically presented with abdominal pain, headache and fever. I also saw interesting cases of elephantiasis, thalassemia, tuberculosis and leprosy as well as conditions more common to the UK like asthma and myocardial infarction.'

7. South Africa

South Africa's attractions include a wonderful climate, spectacular scenery and wildlife, beaches and the stunning Cape Town. It's a popular destination with medical students from all over the world, particularly those interested in emergency medicine. However, the high crime rates of certain areas and the segregation of society that remain from the apartheid era call for some caution when choosing where in South Africa to do an elective.

Over the past ten years, the health sector has undergone rapid changes to make it more equitable and accessible to those in need. Thanks to improvements in infrastructure, more than 85% of the population has access to health facilities.

What students said:

Addington Hospital, Durban

'I had the pleasure of working with an incredibly enthusiastic team which helped make the experience unforgettable. Understandably, some are likely to be concerned by security issues, but this can be avoided by taking simple common-sense precautions. The Electives Network made the whole process simple by providing a list of hospitals along with reviews and contact details.'

Tintswalo Hospital, Mpumalanga

'You could do as much or as little as you were comfortable with, and the doctors were excellent at teaching and very experienced clinicians. They were also welcoming socially, and we were invited over for a barbeque, challenged to a football match by the local students (which we won 5-2) after a long gorge walk to some beautiful waterfalls. We visited a baubab tree as well, which was more than 2000 years old.'

the electives network

6. India

The Himalayas sweep along India in the north where it borders Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. In the south it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The second most populous country in the world, India is emerging as a major power on the world political stage and has a fast-growing economy. It has a huge variety of cultures, languages and architecture, which make it an amazing place to visit.

What students said:

Dr Jeyasekharan Medical Trust, Nagercoil

'One consultant was very keen to show off the local cuisine and in particular trying out jackfruit, an odd-looking but very tasty fruit. They were also very keen for us to engage beyond the hospital and spend weekends visiting other areas around south India. This led to visiting Kanyakumari, the most southerly tip of India; hiking in the Western Ghats, and visiting Koyalam beach. After our placement we explored further into areas such as Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai to help develop our understanding of the rich heritage and culture of this area.'

Bel-Air Red Cross Hospital, Panchgani

'India is such a fantastic, diverse and incredible country. I am so happy I chose to spend my elective here and had the privilege of getting to know everyone at Bel-Air. I saw things that I will never see again. I learnt things I'll never forget. But most importantly, I came away with a deep desire to go back and ensure that this amazing little village specialist hospital is still making such a difference to the people of India.'

5. Canada

A spectacular vast country with lakes, river-filled forests, mountains, grassland prairies and arctic tundra. The Rocky Mountains lie in the west of Canada, while Niagara Falls and most of the country's major cities are in the east. Visitors are lured by the opportunity to explore Canada's wilderness and natural wonders. There are unlimited opportunities to camp, hike, raft or ski. Many of these activities are only a short drive out of most of the major cities.

A recent United Nations report concluded that Canada is the best place to live in the world (based on 40 factors, from life expectancy to education), and this is reflected in the country's high levels of immigration throughout its history.

What students said:

Penticton Regional Hospital, Penticton

'My elective was a wonderful experience of which I enjoyed every minute; it also allowed me to make excellent friends from around the world who I am still in touch with. If you go to Penticton, take advantage of the easy-going nature in the hospital and make it into an elective that suits your wishes. It will be an elective to remember!'

Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Halifax

'I was quickly integrated into the clinical team and was given the opportunity to see many patients every day. I sat in on follow-up appointments and assessments with four different psychiatrists who work with the programme. I learned new things from each one; lessons that I will no doubt carry with me and integrate into my future clinical practice.'

4. New Zealand

Visitors to New Zealand are drawn to its glacier-carved mountains, lakes, beaches, wine regions and thermal springs.

Healthcare standards in New Zealand are generally high, although some poverty-related diseases are on the rise again due to the social stresses of economic restructuring. Life expectancy is the same as in the UK, but there are significant differences between ethnic groups. New Zealand is highly reliant on overseas-trained doctors (40%) and nurses (25%) when compared with other developed countries.

What students said:

Auckland City Hospital, Auckland 

'While with Auckland Rugby I accompanied the team to seven Air New Zealand Cup matches. Before each game and under supervision I was involved in applying appropriate supportive strapping, sports massage and sometimes giving local anaesthetic or intra-articular corticosteroid injections. During each game I was permitted to attend to any injured players at the sideline with my tutor. This involved making an initial assessment on the type and severity of injury and applying initial treatment (such as ice therapy, strapping or suturing lacerations). This showed me how important thorough initial assessment can be and the need to take simple and appropriate first-aid measures in an acute situation.'

Waikato Hospital, Hamilton

'I undertook my elective placement in the endocrinology unit at Waikato hospital in New Zealand. New Zealand was a country that I always wanted to visit as it is very known for its beautiful scenery and it is a place that I am seriously considering working in after my junior doctor years. Doctors I had spoken to who had worked in New Zealand said it was fairly similar to the United Kingdom, which appealed to me as I am a big advocate of the NHS.'

elective photo competition

3. USA

With over 130 different US hospitals listed on The Electives Network, there's something for everyone!

Americans generally enjoy a high standard of living, especially among the professional classes. Despite relative prosperity in recent years, the gap between rich and poor remains a major challenge. More than 30 million Americans live below the official poverty line. The US contains a highly diverse population, the product of numerous and sustained waves of immigration. Ethnic and racial diversity is celebrated as a core element of the American ideology.

What students said:

Medical Clinic of Big Sky, Big Sky

'The Medical Clinic of Big Sky in Montana is a great elective with plenty of opportunity to improve your medical knowledge and skills whilst working on your skiing/ pretending to be a cowboy for a few weeks!'

New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Long Island

'The elective was varied, well supported and allowed me to sample New York living for two months. I had the opportunity to see various roles the Department of Health performs within NYC. These included lead abatement visits, since lead poisoning is still a problem within the city due to old lead-painted apartment buildings, and restaurant inspections to ensure food preparation standards were upheld according to state law.'

2. Australia

The country TEN's Facebook users would most like to visit!

With its parched deserts, dripping rainforests, beaches and glistening surf, it's hardly a surprise that Australia attracts some five million visitors every year.

All towns and cities of a certain size have public hospitals, nursing homes and community health services. There are also special services for rural and remote areas, such as the well-known Royal Flying Doctor Service.

What students said:

Liverpool Hospital, Sydney

'I came away from Liverpool Hospital understanding the principles of pre-hospital care, primary survey, secondary survey, the importance of early definitive care and the importance of the trauma team. I would wholeheartedly recommend that any students looking for trauma exposure do their elective at the Liverpool Hospital in Sydney.'

Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre, Melbourne

'As soon as I stepped off the plane I knew I was going to fall in love with the city – sun, sea, culture, nightlife, activities non-stop and smiling faces! This placement was well organised – I was given a rota on my first day for who I would be sitting with throughout my time. I loved my elective and would definitely consider a career in sports medicine.'

Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide

'I highly recommend Australia as a fantastic elective destination, as although it is similar in structure to the UK, the experience is invaluable. I would also suggest discovering medicine in a remote location, as seeing the major differences allowed me to appreciate what we often take for granted.'

1. United Kingdom

The UK is by far the most popular elective destination for our student users – over 10% of the elective placements on the TEN database are UK-based, so there is no shortage of choice!

Although a geographically small country, the UK supports a large population and there is a wealth of beautiful countryside, good connections for travelling and many memorable places that are worth getting to know in detail. The weather is notoriously unpredictable but there are plenty of indoor activities and nightlife in towns and cities, so this is rarely a problem.

What students said:

Arnold Lodge, East Midlands Centre for Forensic Health, Leicester

'I chose Arnold Lodge largely because I was looking for a new experience. While all medical students do a rotation through psychiatry, we rarely get the opportunity to experience the convergence of the justice and medical systems that is forensic psychiatry. The consultant responsible for the elective program was enthusiastic and accommodating.'

Noble's Hospital, Isle of Man

'I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Isle of Man and would highly recommend it as an elective. It was very easy to organise as the hospital regularly takes elective medical students and the undergraduate coordinators are very organised, friendly and helpful. Hospital accommodation is provided and is free of charge and includes Wi-Fi. It's easy to travel to from the UK, and I reckon I'm the only person in my year who travelled to their medical placement by boat (planes are also available)!'


This article was correct at publication on 04/05/2018. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.