International Field Practice
The International Health Field Practicum Office (IHFPO) assists SPH MPH students in finding and negotiating academically and professionally significant field practicum opportunities.
International Field Practicum
The IH Field Practicum Office augments SPH’s Practice Office. Students interested in an International Field Practicum must consider that risks, challenges, rules, and cultures that are different than those encountered in the United States. To this end, IH concentrators are required to complete an IH Practicum Orientation prior to embarking on their practicum.
Finding International Practicum Opportunities
Finding an international practicum is the responsibility of the student, but we can help.
An assortment of websites provide information on practicum opportunities or the international organizations that offer them, including the IH Practicum Blackboard site, idealist.org, and the members organizations of the Global Health Council and InterAction. You can review job advice and ads on sites like aidworkers.net, reliefweb.int, UNJobs.org, devnetjobs.org, or two UK-based sites: Practical Action and ExperienceDevelopment.org. Professional networks are a great source of potential practica. You can also identify an opportunity of interest by contacting past employers, colleagues, previous professors, friends, and family, or by attending conferences like APHA or the Global Health Council Conference.
For students who want a longer overseas experience as part of their studies, consider the Program in International Health Practice (PIHP) in the Philippines, which runs each fall and spring. This 16-credit, semester-long program has three elements: coursework at the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, a 10-day travel-study tour outside of Manila, and an intensive 5-week field practicum experience. It’s an ideal way to gain public health field experience which meets the MPH practicum requirement, live in a developing country, all while earning credits toward your degree.
In 2007, the IH Department established a 6-credit, 5-week course in Kenya through its Summer Institute in International Health, IH 707 Kenya: Field Practicum in Public Health & Environment, which also meets the MPH practicum requirement.
Announcements of IH opportunities are included in the Practice Office email updates sent to all SPH students. The Practice Office also maintains a database of past and current practica, accessible via its website. You can search by either topic areas or location.
Students need to educate themselves about the risks of travel and prepare for potential adverse events. IHPO provides students with a logistics checklist that describes in detail the pre-practicum preparations required for a practicum abroad.
Appropriate measures including visiting a travel clinic well before departure (CDC’s Traveler’s Health), arranging for insurance and medical evacuation coverage (see BU students’ plan through Aetna), and read US State Department postings on travel advisories. Student should consider buying and reading the excellent and affordable resource that cover everything from culture shock to travel logistics: Survival Kit for Overseas Living or one of the more specific travel books, like those in the Culture Shock series.
Students should start thinking about their practica early in their MPH program. Be flexible and open-minded and consider not only your learning needs but also the needs of the organization where you are seeking a field practicum. To do meaningful work, you have to fulfill a need of the hosting organization. The first steps are to explore the possibilities, and try to refine:
- Where do you want to go?
- What do you want to learn?
- When do you want to go and for how long?
- How much are you willing to spend, and what level of assistance might you need?
- Can you fit and adjust the above into the practica experiences available?
Students planning to do a practicum abroad must discuss their plans and seek advice from their advisor, the Practice Office, and IHPO, as well as complete the 2 required orientations: one for the Practice Office and the IH Practicum Orientation on CourseInfo.