Five tips for planning a successful dental elective

Fifth year dental students tell their top tips for planning a dental electiveAfreen Osman, Thanaa Ajeigbe and Jessica Kershaw – fifth year dental students at the University of Manchester – explain their top tips for planning an enjoyable dental elective.

Speak to your university

The best place to start is at your dental school. Firstly, make sure you check with your dental school that they are happy for you to go and practice dentistry elsewhere before you book anything. They may offer planned electives with other universities and establishments all over the world. They’re usually also free! Speak to your senior peers, who will have a good idea of what’s available and how to apply. Some universities have requirements that need to be met and some may ask you to attend an interview.

Assemble a group of friends

Travelling alone can be daunting so find a group with similar interests to travel with. You may find the experience more comforting knowing you have a group of friends with you to support you and make memories with. However, if you do feel comfortable enough to go alone, there are always plenty of opportunities to make new friends while you’re away. You will find that lots of people complete an elective by themselves and have an amazing experience.

Think about what you want to get out of the experience

Deciding what experience you want and what you want to achieve while away is extremely important. Do you want to improve your oral surgery skills? Gain more experience in paediatrics? Do you want to be in a state-of-the-art hospital or in a remote location in a deprived area? Do you have a research project in mind? Or do you simply just want more experience in any dental setting? For us, we wanted to have a more hands-on experience and therefore decided to do an elective with Floating Doctors, as it is primarily oral surgery based, providing medical and dental care to remote underserved communities by boat.

Equally, electives may not be solely dentistry based. You may learn other skills including new languages, basic medical skills and teaching adults and children.

Create a budget for your elective

Everyone knows electives can end up being quite expensive. Plan your budget beforehand as you will have to consider the cost of flights, accommodation, food (if not provided), insurance, travel plans afterwards and even private vaccinations. The earlier you start saving for your dental elective the easier it will be to plan. Additionally, raise funds by hosting events, organising bake sales or even setting up a GoFundMe page. Be sure to look into what funding is available to help raise money for your elective. For example, The Royal College of Surgeons has a number of bursaries available each year for dental students. Check what your university offers also!

Don’t let money put you off undertaking an elective. There are many different companies that offer different packages, so make sure you do your research and look around for what’s best for your budget.

Travel

Think about where in the world you would like to tick off your bucket list. You should use your elective as a time to immerse yourself in different cultures and have fun. Have you always wanted to visit the Far East? Or see Machu Picchu? Or visit your extended family in the States? An elective is great time to make the most of your time away. Dental school can be stressful. Be sure to allow some time after your elective to relax and unwind. Most of all enjoy yourself.

However, going abroad is not the only option. There are plenty of opportunities in the UK that can offer the same value as going abroad. Speaking to your university will open up many volunteering opportunities for you to choose from.

We hope we have inspired you to plan a dental elective perfect for you. Good luck and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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