Choosing To Study Medicine Abroad
By: Arav Dagli
Being a student who wants to pursue medicine in Canada is very hard. The acceptance rate to medical school in Canada hovers around 4% every year for graduates fresh out of an undergraduate program, and the average applicant has to apply 3 to 4 times to get an offer. Students go to great lengths to boost their application during their undergrad years, doing anything from hospital volunteering, to data entry for scientific studies, to peer mentoring. But the simple, and quite bleak, truth is this: it is becoming more and more risky to stay in Canada for an undergraduate degree if one wishes to practice medicine in Canada. This, and the fact that I could go straight into medical school without having to do an undergraduate degree, is what propelled me to apply to 4 of the United Kingdom’s many top-tier medical schools.
The application process was gruelling, especially seeing as I was very unsure of whether I was making the right decision at the start. It did involve what most might expect, such as personal essays, reference letters, and lists of extracurriculars. However, I was also required to take the UCAT, an aptitude test that, despite not requiring any medical or scientific knowledge, was one of the hardest assessments I have written. The UCAT tests reading comprehension, math, logic, and “abstract reasoning”, or finding patterns in seemingly random arrangements of shapes. It also had a “situational judgment” section, which scored you on your ability to make ethical and rational decisions in a moral dilemma. The hard part of the UCAT isn’t the questions; it’s the extremely short amounts of time given to answer them. Somehow, I was able to push through the chaotic rush and score in the top 5% of applicants on the UCAT, which allowed me to move onto the next step: interviews.
I received interview requests from Birmingham, Manchester, and Sheffield, but not from King’s College London, which was my first choice. Interviews run on a multiple mini, or MMI, format. Students are rotated around various stations, where they spend
5-10 minutes talking to a single interviewer. Each station is designed to assess a specific skill or address a specific area of your character. Research is key, as many of the stations ask about the UK’s medical code of conduct, or about specifics regarding the university’s medical program.
After finishing interviews, it’s just a waiting game. Interviews usually occur from December to February, and decisions are released in late May. I spent most of that time seriously thinking about whether I wanted to move to the UK, whether I would be able to handle being away from my family and friends for so long, and whether I would even be good at it. It was an incredibly tough decision from every single angle. As I said before, it’s risky to stay in Canada to pursue medicine; but it’s also risky to leave. In the end, you have to think about what works for you. If you are very attached to your family, you may not be able to study and excel so far apart from them. If you aren’t absolutely sure about medicine, the four years of undergraduate study may be very valuable in helping you figure out what you want from life and from your future career.
Eventually, May rolled around, and I received an offer to study medicine at the University of Manchester. I decided to go, mainly because I was sure that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I wanted to bypass the risk of not being able to follow my dreams. At the end of the day, it is a choice that can only be made by the individual, not their family, friends, or peers. I moved to Manchester on September 30th, 2021, and things have been going pretty well. I enjoy the content; it’s challenging (and at times, overwhelming), but I wouldn’t enjoy my education any other way. The city is rainy and gloomy, but beautiful, and the people are kind and compassionate. So far, so good. Let’s hope it stays that way.
I have only briefly discussed my experiences in this article. If you have any more questions, I am completely open to talking more about this program. You can reach me at my Instagram: @dagli.21.
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