The University of Iowa


A pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The practice of pharmacy requires an understanding of patients as individuals. Each patient will have their own personal values and beliefs about the broader healthcare system and how they see themselves fitting into it. Each healthcare system is also a reflection of the cultural context it is situated within. Study abroad provides a great opportunity for pre-pharmacy students to connect their coursework to a broader global context and to gain an appreciation for the importance of culture.

Pre-pharmacy students pursue different types of goals while studying abroad. Some choose programs that offer course equivalents to complete some of the required prerequisites. Some choose to comparatively study healthcare systems across multiple locations. Some choose to focus on language learning and cultural studies to foster a better understanding of their patients’ diverse backgrounds. These experiences will all serve you well as a student preparing to apply to a PharmD program and then going on to clinical practice.

There are many study abroad options available to pre-pharmacy students. From short-term, faculty-led programs to a semester of direct enrollment in an international university, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pursue your academic and extracurricular interests abroad.

The College of Pharmacy encourages students to engage in experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad, internships, research, and service learning which allow students to develop real world skills related to major global health issues. These experiences help students define and achieve their post-graduation career goals. Importantly, the college supports student involvement in experiential learning only if it is conducted through reputable organizations which uphold ethical and health standards for both students and local populations worldwide.

To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your pre-pharmacy requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad (see the "Timing" tab), how to fulfill your academic requirements abroad (see "Academics"), and how to choose a study abroad program best suited to your needs (see "Programs"). 

In general, it is never too early to begin planning your study abroad experience. If you start planning well in advance then that may help give you more options and more flexibility in your academic schedule when you get further along in your program. Feel free to visit the Study Abroad office to begin planning during your first semester on campus, or even earlier if you can.

Most students aim to complete all of their prerequisite course requirements in two years. This can make it challenging, though not impossible, to study abroad for a semester. As it is strongly recommended that students complete their general biology and chemistry sequences at UI you will need to take this into consideration when planning out your academic schedule.

Summer or winter break is an ideal time for pre-pharmacy students to study abroad. By studying abroad during a break, students should be in a better position to complete their prerequisite requirements during the regular academic year and help themselves stay on track.

Pharmacy students on rotation in Romania

Students who choose to complete the prerequisite course requirements in three years will have more flexibility to be able to study abroad for a semester, though these students will still need to pay attention to biology and chemistry course sequencing.

Most students apply to PharmD programs in the fall semester before the year in which they are seeking admission. If you will be studying abroad during the PharmD application period and applying to the UI PharmD program, you are encouraged to contact the UI PharmD Admissions office well in advance to discuss your best options. With advance planning, it may be possible to complete your interview remotely, for example, if you will not be able to interview in person.

Many PharmD programs offer study abroad opportunities, too! You may prefer to explore those options in lieu of—or in addition to—study abroad options for while you are working on your prerequisite courses.

There are not any restrictions that courses in the pre-pharmacy prerequisite course requirements must be taken at UI. However, it is strongly recommended that students complete the general biology and chemistry sequences at UI (CHEM:1110 and CHEM:1120; BIOL:1411 and BIOL:1412).

Courses that would be good candidates to try to find equivalencies for in study abroad course offerings include Microeconomics, Calculus, Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Statistics, and Physics. Consult the pre-pharmacy academic advisor in advance to see if courses being offered abroad might be able to be pre-approved to count towards the prerequisite requirements.

Students are advised to pay careful attention to the difference between resident credit programs (i.e., issued on the University of Iowa transcript) and transfer credit programs (i.e., transcript is not from the University of Iowa). Study abroad courses that yield resident credit will affect UI GPA. Consult a Study Abroad advisor to determine which programs offer transfer credit and which offer UI resident credit.

General Education courses can also be taken abroad. Some of the GE requirement areas are relatively easy to find pre-approved courses for in study abroad offerings (e.g. World Languages, Social Sciences). See the General Education Program advising page for more information or ask Study Abroad staff for program suggestions.

Pre-pharmacy students are encouraged to complete internships, service-learning courses, and research while studying abroad. General advice about internships is available on our Internships page. General advice about conducting research abroad is available on our Undergraduate Research Abroad page.

If you are contemplating the option of getting a BA/BS degree instead of applying to the PharmD program, we recommend speaking to the academic advisor for your chosen BA/BS program during planning to get a sense for how well study abroad would fit into your BA/BS plan of study.

Students who are seeking health-related service opportunities should take steps to safeguard their future professional reputations by following good practice standards that limit duties to those they are qualified to perform. For example, pre-medicine students are not qualified to practice medicine and should not participate in direct patient care. Students participating in health-related experiences are encouraged to complete the Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety (GAPS) course which is free online through the University of Minnesota to help them evaluate their limits and role in the community they plan to serve.

Pre-pharmacy students may conduct research abroad. Because it can be difficult to navigate life in an international setting, it is recommended that students travel abroad via a UI-sponsored or other accredited program that will provide them with basic infrastructural support (e.g. housing, access to public transportation, embassy contact, etc.). Many study abroad programs incorporate research and internship components. It is also possible to use time in a program to familiarize oneself with the culture of the area and establish contacts, then return to complete an internship or research project at a later time.

Various study abroad scholarships are available for UI students. Information about these scholarships is available on our Costs & Funding page.

Pharmacy rotations site Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The following study abroad programs incorporate related coursework, internships, and/or research opportunities. The wide variety of locations and themes allows students to choose an opportunity that fits well with their areas of interest. Consult the pre-pharmacy academic advisor about pre-approval of credit from courses, internships and/or research completed abroad toward the prerequisite course requirements.

For convenience, the programs recommended below are organized into categories: direct enrollment programs [anchor link] that offer a variety of courses that may be approved as equivalencies to the prerequisite requirements, global health programs [anchor link] that offer an opportunity to study health issues and healthcare systems, area studies programs [anchor link] that offer an opportunity to connect to cultures represented in diverse communities within the United States, and programs for UI PharmD students [anchor link] to show opportunities that may be available in the future.

While we suggest that students first consider the recommended programs below, feel free to also browse the programs database on our website and/or consult materials and staff in the Study Abroad Resource Room (located in the Study Abroad office, 1111 University Capitol Centre).

Direct Enrollment Programs

Students on these programs can typically choose from a wide variety of course offerings. These programs may offer courses that can be counted as equivalencies to fulfill the prerequisite course requirements for the UI PharmD program. Check with the pre-pharmacy advisor first before assuming that any courses are pre-approved.

Lancaster University Exchange, United Kingdom

Regents Semester in Australia: University of Newcastle

Regents Semester in Australia: University of Tasmania

Regents Semester in Ireland

Regents Semester in Scotland

TEAN Bond University, Australia

TEAN Griffith University, Australia

TEAN University of Otago, New Zealand

TEAN Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

University of Kent Exchange, United Kingdom

University of Strathclyde Exchange, United Kingdom

USAC Norway

USAC Sweden


Global Health Programs

CIEE Community Public Health Programs

These programs combine coursework (on issues that developing nations face in providing sustainable healthcare) with a community service practicum (during which students work in government-sponsored clinics or other public health-focused non-governmental organizations) or field research (guided by local public health practitioners and academics).

CIEE Buenos Aires, Argentina Community Public Health Program

CIEE Gaborone, Botswana Community Public Health Program

CIEE Khon Kaen, Thailand Community Public Health Program

CIEE Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic Community Public Health Program

IES Cape Town Health Studies (South Africa)

Students learn about the South African effort to deliver health care effectively to the country’s urban and rural residents through a combination of classroom lectures and observational experiences.

IES London and Jamaica Health Practice and Policy (United Kingdom and Jamaica)

While based in London, students will take courses at both local universities and at the IES center focusing on health care systems. An extended excursion to Kingston, Jamaica is included and offers an opportunity to study and compare the British and Jamaican health care systems.

IES Internships

The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) offers credit-bearing internships relevant to pre-pharmacy students in multiple locations. More information for each of these programs is available on our IES Internships website. All IES interns enroll in an internship seminar for advising about professionalism and cultural awareness in the workplace.

IES Santiago Health Studies (Chile)

All classes are taught in Spanish and proficiency in Spanish is required. This program includes 80 hours of observership which can focus on community health observation (in non-profit organization settings). Offered during the fall and spring.

MHIRT International Research Internship Program

UI-affiliated, for-credit summer internships funded by the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research and Training (MHIRT) program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID)

These programs provide students direct contact with social and economic realities of communities through classes (seven weeks), field trips, and research or an internship (six weeks). Internship placement will be with an agency engaged in grassroots work related to the student’s chosen topic (such as women’s groups, small business development, environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, or public health). 

Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) Ecuador

Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) Thailand

Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) Senegal

SIT Study Abroad Programs

These programs combine classroom instruction and field study in a variety of locations. Students advance from a structured learning environment (i.e. an interdisciplinary seminar with field-based activities and a research methods course) to an independent field-based research project on a global health topic of their choice. Some projects may include community volunteering or a guided practicum experience.

SIT Argentina Public Health in Urban Environments (Semester)

SIT Brazil Public Health, Race, and Human Rights (Semester)

SIT Chile Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment (Semester)

SIT China Community Health (Summer)

SIT China Health, Environment, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (Semester)

SIT India Public Health and Human Development Internship (Summer)

SIT India Public Health, Policy Advocacy, and Community (Semester)

SIT Jordan Counseling and Humanitarian Action Internship (Summer)

SIT Jordan Refugees, Health, and Humanitarian Action (Semester)

SIT Madagascar Traditional Medicine & Healthcare Systems (Summer)

SIT Multi-Country Programs

SIT Panama Community and Nongovernmental Organizations Internship (Summer)

SIT South Africa Community Health and Social Policy (Semester)

SIT Switzerland Global Health and Development Policy (Semester)

SIT Uganda Development Studies (Semester)

USAC San Ramón Program (San Ramón, Costa Rica)

Courses in the Life and Health Sciences and Culture Studies program are taught in Spanish and English (and include “Women’s Health: Global Health and Human Rights”). Internships—which require prior study of the Spanish language—are in Spanish-speaking environments such as local hospitals, pharmacies, NGOs, community/educational centers, and municipal health offices.

USAC Reggio Emilia Program (Reggio Emilia, Italy)

The Reggio Emilia program is ideal for students interested in studying Italian language, education, communications, and health issues in a charming midsize city in north-central Italy. Reggio Emilia is a perfect location for students looking to immerse themselves in Italian culture away from crowded tourist destinations. Internships are available in English-speaking environments such as community health centers, schools, hotels, and marketing offices in various local businesses.

All of the following programs are led by UI faculty.

Child Life Experiential Learning Program (Cape Town, South Africa)

This summer program is a three-week, faculty-led course based in Cape Town, South Africa. Students will have the opportunity to work with the Red Cross Children's Hospital, Maitland Cottage Home, and the Sarah Fox Convalescent Hospital. Students interested in health and child life are welcome to participate regardless of major or skill level.

India Winterim (Various cities in India)

India Winterim is an intensive, three-week, field-based program that provides students with the opportunity to learn from and directly interact with leading social entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions within India’s diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and geographical mosaic. Each course is based in or near one of several cities throughout India. Public health sections are offered regularly but may not be offered every year.

Area Studies Programs

Study abroad is a great opportunity to build an understanding of a cultural background that is different from your own. Students on these programs may draw connections between communities abroad and their patients’ communities in the United States through studying areas such as culture, history, and foreign language. Some programs offer language courses for beginners with no prior background in that language, while others do require some previous language study prior to studying abroad.


CIEE Chile: Valparaiso Language in Context (Semester)

SIT Bolivia Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change (Semester)

SIT Ecuador Development, Politics & Languages (Semester)

SIT Ghana Africa in the 21st Century (Semester)

SIT India Sustainable Development and Social Change (Semester)

SIT Jordan Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East (Semester)

SIT Morocco Migration and Transnational Identity (Semester)

SIT Rwanda Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding (Semester)

SIT Uganda & Rwanda Peace & Conflict Studies (Summer)

SIT Vietnam Culture, Social Change, and Development (Semester)

USAC Brazil: Florianopolis Program (Summer and Semester)  
USAC Chile: Santiago Program (Summer and Semester)  

USAC China: Chengdu Program (Summer and Semester)  

USAC Costa Rica: Heredia Program (Summer and Semester)  
USAC Costa Rica: Puntarenas Program (Summer, Winter, and Semester)
USAC Costa Rica: San Ramon Program (Summer and Semester)
USAC Cuba: Havana Program (Summer, Winter, and Semester)

USAC Ghana: Accra Program (Summer and Semester)

USAC India: Bangalore Program (Summer and Semester)

USAC Thailand: Chiang Mai Program (Summer and Semester)

USAC Uruguay: Montevideo Program (Semester)


Programs for UI PharmD Students

International Perspectives: Xicotepec (Xicotepec, Mexico)

This is a three credit hour, interdisciplinary, spring break service-learning course co-sponsored by the University of Iowa and District 6000 of Rotary International. Students enroll in International Perspectives during the spring semester and travel to Mexico over spring break. In collaboration with Rotarians and local community members, students will work in teams to develop and execute discipline-specific projects that address community-identified needs. For more information, visit the program's website and talk to a study abroad advisor.

International Rotations

The UI College of Pharmacy has multiple international rotations that occur regularly. Each rotation fulfills one of the five-week practice experiences—called Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs)—that fourth-year students complete in various pharmacy settings.