Advice from a student who obtained funding for her elective
In 2016, Chloe Vanderpump, fifth year Cardiff medical student and soon-to-be F1 Doctor in Princess of Wales Hospital, wrote to us about how she raised funding for her elective. She found it a very rewarding experience, in more ways than one:
During my 4th year, I became interested in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Around the same time, I was bombarded with emails reminding me it was never too early to start organising your elective. I therefore started the seemingly mammoth task of planning the perfect elective, along with the equally huge task of trying to fund it…
With specialty decided, I compiled a list of things that were important in my destination – I definitely wanted to go abroad and experience a different culture and healthcare system. There were also practical considerations; would I be safe? Or would there be a language barrier? There was then weather – after years in rainy Wales I wanted to spend my elective somewhere considerably warmer!
I concluded that St Lucia would be an amazing destination, but also an expensive one! However, knowing what an incredible opportunity it would be (as well as average temperatures of 27 degrees centigrade in February, the month I was going on my elective!) prompted me to seek funding.
Search for funding starts…
Twelve months before I was due to travel, I started searching online databases, and I identified a number grants to apply for. Many were offered by Medical Societies or Royal Colleges, and I found a number of charities or trusts which offered funding to students in education. I also approached the Welsh Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, asking whether they provided elective bursaries.
Keen to make a good impression when approaching organisations, I prepared a detailed elective proposal and a short personal statement. I also researched the criteria used to assess applications by each fund, and tailored my covering letter to highlight why I met them.
I initially heard nothing, but in August I received an email from a society who wanted me to provide additional information. I needed a reference, a letter from my host institution and details of project supervisors in St Lucia and Cardiff. Whilst gathering these documents took time, it was worth it as I was later sent additional application forms from other applications that I had made with similar requirements.
October arrived, and yet to secure any funding, I grew increasingly concerned about the feasibility of elective. However, I soon received letters and emails informing me I had been awarded a £100 bursary from my university, two separate £500 awards from charitable trusts AND a £1000 bursary from the Welsh Society of Obs and Gynae- a total of £2100. This covered the cost of my flights, accommodation and the elective fee charged by the hospital. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! In return, I would have to produce a written report for each charity, complete a form for my university and give a short presentation to the society.
Overall, the experience of applying for funding was overwhelmingly positive. The application process required me to consider the aims of my elective carefully so I could explain how the experience would benefit me. This was not something I would have considered had I just paid for the trip myself, and consequently I had a more focused idea of what I hoped to gain. I also knew that I would have to produce a detailed report on my return, and therefore kept a reflective journal whilst away. I was therefore able to complete my university required report to a higher standard that I might otherwise have done, and it also meant I had a personal account for my own reflection. What is more, I have been told that having been awarded the bursaries via competitive application will look great on my CV, and demonstrates commitment to Obs and Gynae- something that may prove useful when applying to training programmes.
If you’re keen to try and source some extra funding for your own elective, there are a few things I would recommend:
- Apply early! Many organisations only meet a few times a year or are run by a small team of people who have lots of applications to process -be sure to get organised and submit applications as early as possible
- Tailor applications to the organisation you’re applying to- this shows you’ve thought carefully about your proposal
- Create an elective proposal. This gives organisations more information about your trip and will demonstrate you’ve planned carefully. It’s worth spending time on too, as you can include the same proposal with any application you send
- Include a breakdown of estimated costs, which will show exactly how you’ll spend any grants awarded
- Make early contact with personal tutors/referees- this will hopefully mean you’re able to quickly obtain a reference or have a letter signed/stamped
- Don’t expect one organisation to fund your entire trip! Awards vary greatly in amount, so consider various sources
- Apply to as many places as you can- In total I made seven applications and was successful in four of them (far more than I was expecting!). With a success rate of over 50%, I would definitely advise sending lots of applications
Finally, my most important advice is to remember you have nothing to lose! The worst anyone will say is no, so spend time on good quality applications and aim high!» go to website