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An elective is a six to eight week period of medical work experience, which is often undertaken in another country, although there is no restriction on working in a UK medical setting or a research laboratory. The elective period is often the first time that medical students have the opportunity to work outside of their own teaching hospitals.
Many students elect to travel overseas for this period, often travelling to developing countries, and some choose to combine their elective with a period of holiday travel. Whatever students choose to do, there are a variety of hospitals that they can work in and organisations they can work with; teaching hospitals around the world, various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities and religious organisations, all of which can offer medical students an enriching and enjoyable elective.
However, there are also some charges and expenses to consider when planning an elective; what you are prepared (and able) to pay and what you want to do. Some elective locations and organisers will charge a large amount of money for the ease of an elective with or through their facilities. Others may deliberately keep the cost low to encourage students to experience healthcare in that area.
Students should not be discouraged by these costs. It is quite possible to avoid excessive fees by planning your own elective – more work for you but a valuable experience.
This section is designed to help you think about your elective, and contains information about how to budget for your elective, where to find sources of funding and important things you should think about when planning your elective.