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In2Med

Medicine in the UK - An International Student's Perspective

This blog goes through Shweta’s journey of applying to study medicine in the UK. 

You might be able to relate to her journey and use the advice she has given from personal experience to improve your chances and confidence in gaining a place at a UK medical school. 

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Why am I writing this blog?

4 years ago, I flew 4000 miles from home to pursue a higher education in the UK. At that time, I did not have any mentors or seniors to look up to and I had to pave my own path into medical school. While I was prepared for the difficulties in the application process, I had grossly overlooked the transition into living and learning abroad. Before moving to the UK, I’d never spent more than 2 weeks away from my family and home, in Dubai. Now, as I enter my final year of medical school, I look back on my journey and I am certain that moving to the UK was the single biggest catalyst in my personal and professional growth. Having experienced the highs and lows of navigating British medical education as an international student, I’m here to share my advice to prospective students.

Don't be afraid of the Application Process

When applying to university, it’s not uncommon to see competition ratios and other mind-numbing statistics. At 17, those numbers paralyzed me into believing that I would never secure a place at medical school. After eventually winning the numbers game, I met hundreds of other students who echoed the same fears. Medical school applications are an extremely competitive arena, amplified in the face of international students. Most universities cap international acceptances at an average of under 30% of the available seats. This is compounded by the sheer volume of applicants from around the world. But don’t let that scare you away! I was neither a top scorer nor a child prodigy, but I was still accepted into a very reputable school. The same goes for many of my colleagues. My first tip to prospective students is to ignore the numbers. Your story and passion exceed the parameters of any statistic. Besides, the worst that could happen is a rejection, but it sure beats never trying.

Ask for help

It goes without saying that the application process is very difficult. For a lot of students, it might not even be in their native language. Tests like the UCAT and BMAT are hard enough, but they are even more difficult if you cannot read and write fluently in English. Therefore, find a mentor to guide you through the process and apply smartly. Every medical school will weigh the various aspects of your application differently. Even if you have to pay for help, it is important to think of this as an investment in securing your future. And the cost of help with be negligible compared to the overall cost of your degree. 

Find the schools that heavily value your assets. And remember, if they don’t see your worth, someone else will. Finding a mentor to translate the process can be difficult but if, like myself, you don’t have any immediate contacts, harness the power of the internet. Between organizations like In2Med and various YouTubers, there’s a wealth of information available online.

Be prepared for a massive change, but enjoy it...

It is without doubt that the biggest transition of my life was when I moved to the UK. But it was only because I had spent months preparing for it did I feel ready. For prospective students, no amount of preparation is too much. Before applying to the UK, familiarize yourself with the foundation program and subsequent training pathways. Learn more about the city your dream university resides in; is that somewhere you can see yourself living for another 5 or 6 years? Read up about the NHS because chances are, it works differently to the system you’ve grown accustomed to at home. When choosing universities, consider student demographics, proximity to international airports and availability of international student services. These things can make or break your experience at university.

You are an asset to the university

Finally, never underestimate the value you can add to any medical school as an international student. Putting finances aside, international students bring global perspective, cultural diversity and renewed outlook to medical programs. Our contributions to the student population encourage insight and tolerance, making all of us better doctors. While the application process may seem daunting, it is worth the try, because like all life-changing moments, it begins with discomfort.

Summary

In summary, applying to study medicine in the UK was one of the best decisions of my life and I would encourage more students to apply. The quality of education is obviously unparalleled, but the exposure and additional opportunities I have got since moving to the UK makes me almost wish that I had done it sooner. I hope that you have picked up one or two things from my story, and I wish you best of luck in your application to medical school.  

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