For students with a passion for learning about the human body and a desire to promote wellness in individuals' lives, physical therapy is the profession to pursue. Becoming a physiotherapist is a goal that many strive to achieve in academic settings around the globe. Best practices can vary from country to country, and studying physical therapy abroad can help students become well-rounded physical therapists.
Since no two countries are alike, each place offers new challenges and unique opportunities to learn from leaders in the field. Studying physical therapy abroad also allows students to apply their knowledge in various settings with differing levels of available personnel and resources.
Immersing themselves in different cultures strengthens students' communication skills by allowing them to connect with a variety of diverse patients. These skills can have a positive impact on patients throughout their career.
Studying physical therapy abroad is an exciting opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge. There are plenty of ways in which you can go overseas to study the theory and the practice of physical therapy -- or both together.
There are countless opportunities abroad that allow students studying physical therapy to improve their knowledge and master their techniques. Not only do different populations present different challenges, but treatments differ from client to client -- meaning that no two real-world placements abroad will be alike!
That said, physical therapy isn’t just about hands-on healing and rehabilitation -- but preventative medicine, as well. Looking at physical therapy from a public health perspective, physio students can find themselves in the field educating community members about preventing the need for physical therapy in the first place. This can include education sessions in the workplace, on university campuses, with sports teams, or in community athletic settings.
Physical therapy is a field in which research is constantly conducted to inform best practices, evidence-based treatments, and positive outcomes for patients. Students interested in physical therapy can dive into a single topic in-depth by conducting a research thesis abroad. Studying abroad at a particular institution with a leading-edge researcher can allow students to gain specialized knowledge in the field of physical therapy.
Studying physical therapy is primarily beneficial when solid theory is applied to practice. Students studying physical therapy abroad might find themselves in a traditional classroom setting to develop the theoretical foundation. With science and evidence-based practices changing each year, staying on top of the ever-shifting theory of physical therapy knowledge is a key aspect to inform practice. Studying the science of physical therapy abroad can also help students develop a more global perspective of best-practices.
Where to Go
As long as there are injuries and a need for rehabilitation, there will be a need for physical therapy. For students looking to study physical therapy abroad, this means that there are endless opportunities to gain valuable experience in the field.
If you’re a physical therapy student looking to work in the area of sport and disability, studying PT in Canada is a great choice. Sports medicine is a booming topic with lots of ongoing research for people with disabilities -- particularly spinal cord injury and mobility impairments.
This intersection of sport, disability, and best practices for physical therapy makes university cities in Canada -- such as Kingston, Calgary, or Vancouver -- great places to work with community members through hands-on physical treatments.
In a land that consists of varied landscapes from snow-capped mountains to its rocky coastline, New Zealand is an outdoor trekking hub. All of this physical activity makes New Zealand a great place to practice physical therapy treatments tailored to individuals looking to maintain their active lifestyle. Sports culture -- particularly rugby -- is also a huge part of New Zealand so there is no shortage of sport-related therapies and research happening.
With a ballooning population and a continually rural-focused way of life, India is a country where physical therapy treatments and best practices are in huge demand in many communities. The sheer vastness of the country -- compounded by limited resources in many areas -- can make studying physical therapy in India a very different and enriching experience than in the West.
Geographically located on the Equator, Ecuador is a South American country that presents physical therapy students with another unique set of challenges. With rugged terrain and a developing economy, students studying in Ecuador can learn how best practices are applied in rural and low-resource settings.
Planning Your Trip
Before going overseas to study physical therapy, there are many trip planning details that you should think about before you depart.
How to Choose a Physical Therapy Study Abroad Program
When choosing a physical therapy program to study abroad, there are a few aspects to consider. You should keep in mind where you are in your current studies and choose a setting that fits well with your progression.
For example, if you are still learning theory, choosing a course-based institution is best. If you are seeking out community placements to apply practical skills, choosing a program that allows you to be more hands-on from the beginning is a good choice.
It is important to remember that physical therapy is taught at different levels of schooling that vary between countries. Accreditations will also differ from country to country so it’s important to choose a country where the skills and theories you learn can be transferred back to your home country.
Be sure to connect with instructors and other students beforehand, if possible, to hear about the program you are considering and how it is delivered.
Health & Safety
Before you head abroad to study physical therapy, it’s important to determine if you are physically and mentally set to study abroad. Depending on the country you are traveling to, you should consult a travel doctor to get up-to-date with any vaccinations.
As for safety in your chosen country, your local institution on the ground and/or your community hosts will be a wealth of knowledge for understanding any specific safety measures you should take on a daily basis. Local knowledge can be vital for planning a safe and fulfilling study abroad experience.
In any country, you should use common sense -- like avoiding unfamiliar areas and taking precautions at night.
Other Need to Knows
Studying abroad in another country comes with other logistical considerations. You should determine if you require a work/study visa for the country you are traveling to and the amount of time you will be abroad. You should take into account additional costs for things like flights, housing, and daily transportation once you arrive in your chosen country.
Depending on the organization or institution you might be working with, a valid background/police check to physically work with vulnerable populations (children, elderly, etc.) might be necessary.
Thinking culturally, practicing physical therapy abroad might differ from how it is traditionally performed in your home country. It is important to be aware of any cultural or religious considerations when practicing physical therapy on community members during your time abroad.