The University of Iowa

Public Health

Public health students in Romania.

Public health practitioners work locally and globally with communities to promote human wellness and prevent disease. Their ability to apply skills from areas such as social science, environmental science, math and statistics, laboratory science, and policy development must be complemented with an understanding of how their work affects the populations they serve. For public health students, study abroad provides a great opportunity to connect coursework to a broader global context.

The UI College of Public Health offers B.A., B.S., and certificate programs for undergraduates. The B.A. and B.S. degrees provide students with an understanding of five core areas: biostatistics, social and behavioral sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and occupational and environmental health sciences. More information can be found on the College of Public Health Undergraduate Programs website.

The program requires students to engage in experiential learning opportunities such as global learning (may include study abroad), internships, research, service-learning, and capstone courses which allow them to develop real-world skills related to global public health issues. These experiences help students define and achieve their post-graduation and career goals. Importantly, the public health program 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.

Students who have studied abroad and reflected on their experience will find that this gives them a competitive advantage for post-graduation opportunities, whether that be employment, a Master of Public Health (MPH) program, or a graduate/professional program in another discipline. Study abroad provides an opportunity to develop self-awareness, practice adaptability, and learn the benefit of community integration. All of these traits are highly valued in the field of public health.

Public health students testing samples.

Summer is an ideal time for public health majors to study abroad. By studying abroad during the summer, students should be in a better position to complete their degree requirements during the regular academic year and help themselves stay on track for graduation.

First-Years: New students are encouraged to spend their first year on campus, completing some of their General Education Program and public health core requirements.

Sophomores: Students take CPH:2050 Second Year Undergraduate Public Health Seminar during the fall semester of their second year. This course must be taken on campus. The spring semester would be a good time to study abroad for some students.

Juniors: Students will complete the majority of their public health core requirements and B.A./B.S. degree requirements on campus during their junior year.

Seniors: This is a good time to study abroad, particularly if some of the study abroad coursework can be applied as public health electives.

A public health student sampling soil for heavy metals contamination.

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

Study abroad coursework may potentially be used to satisfy completion of the Experiential Learning Requirement for public health. Participating in an experiential study abroad program is an excellent way to fulfill this requirement as it allows students to experience another culture without having to navigate life in an international setting on their own.

Up to half of a student’s public health electives may come from transfer credits (i.e., issued on a transcript that is not from the University of Iowa). Consult with a Study Abroad advisor to determine which programs offer transfer credits and which offer UI resident credits. Consult with the Public Health academic advisor about pre-approval of study abroad programs toward the public health experiential learning requirement and/or pre-approval of transfer credit toward the Public Health major or certificate from courses completed abroad.

Students completing Honors in Public Health B.A. or B.S. may choose to complete research abroad as part of their honors thesis. Public health research projects can involve a variety of research methods. All students completing research projects abroad work closely with a faculty mentor. For advice about finding a faculty mentor and developing a project, consult the Public Health academic advisor. Study abroad is also a way to begin exploring a topic in global public health firsthand, which may then later become the basis for an honors thesis.

A public health student in Nicaragua.

Public health 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 later.

Public health students interested in conducting research abroad are encouraged to apply for a Stanley Award to fund their project. Stanley Awards can be used to fund both independent research and projects completed in conjunction with a study abroad program.

Various study abroad scholarships are available for UI students. Please visit the Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad page for more information. Additional funding opportunities may be available to eligible public health majors. Please visit the College of Public Health Global Public Health Student Travel Grant page for more information.

Public health students who are also seeking health-related service opportunities should take steps to safeguard their future professional reputation 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.

The following study abroad programs incorporate public health-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.

All offer courses that could potentially be approved as public health electives for the B.A., B.S., or Certificate. Consult the Public Health academic advisor about pre-approval of credit toward the Public Health major or certificate from courses, internships and/or research completed abroad.

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).

Programs that are 6 – 8 weeks or longer in duration

Programs that are less than 6 weeks in duration


CIEE Mumbai, India Summer Global Internship

This 6 credit, 8-week program combines coursework with a community-based internship. Choose Mumbai and you’ll choose to spend a summer in the world’s fourth-largest city by population and the commercial capital of one of its fastest-growing economies. ​​​​​​India faces a severe shortfall of public health professionals and capacity building efforts are urgently needed to address its emerging public health challenges.  As a CIEE Global Intern, you’ll work in a non-paying position with a leading organization, diving into a field of interest, exploring a different culture, and expanding your professional portfolio and network.  

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 Community Public Health Program (Argentina)

* Some previous study of the Spanish language required.

CIEE Gaborone Community Public Health Program (Botswana)

CIEE Khon Kaen Community Public Health Program (Thailand)

CIEE Santiago de los Caballeros Community Public Health Program (Dominican Republic)


CIEE Monteverde Sustainability & the Environment (Costa Rica)

This program is designed for students interested in learning and studying about tropical conservation and sustainable development to ensure future biodiversity and human welfare. Students study the intersection of humans and their impact on natural systems and how environmental issues influence economics and society. This is done through coursework and an internship in the Monteverde region, as well as visits to national parks throughout Costa Rica. It includes specially designed CIEE courses on environment, sustainability, and conservation, as well as visits to businesses, schools, NGOs, and grassroots projects that practice sustainability and effective conservation.

Ewha Womans University Exchange (South Korea)

The Ewha Womans University Exchange program offers students of all genders the opportunity to study at the world's largest female educational institute and one of the top universities in Korea for a semester, academic year, calendar year. or summer. Participation in this program does not require any prior knowledge of the Korean language, as there are diverse course offerings in English. Health studies students may find major-related, English-taught courses, as well as language or Gen-Ed courses, to fill their minimum 12 s.h. schedule.

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 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

* Some previous study of the Spanish language required.

Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID) Senegal

* Some previous study of the French language required.

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)

* Some previous study of the Spanish language required.

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

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

* Some previous study of the Spanish language required.

SIT China Community Health (Summer)

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

SIT Ghana Africa in the 21st Century (Semester)

SIT India Acroecology and Food Security in the Himalaya (Summer)

SIT India Public Health and Human Development Internship (Summer)

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

SIT India Sustainable Development and Social Change (Semester)

SIT Jordan Counseling and Humanitarian Action Internship (Summer)

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

SIT Morocco Migration and Transnational Identity (Semester)

SIT Multi-Country Programs

SIT Nepal Development and Social Change (Semester)

SIT Panama Community and Nongovernmental Organizations Internship (Summer)

* Some previous study of the Spanish language required.

SIT Samoa Social and Environmental Change in Oceania (Semester)

SIT South Africa Community Health and Social Policy (Semester)

SIT Switzerland Food Security and Nutrition (Summer)

SIT Switzerland Global Health and Development Policy (Semester)

SIT Uganda Development Studies (Semester)

SIT Vietnam Culture, Social Change, and Development (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. 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.

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.