It was my second week in university when I first time asked about exchange possibilities from my faculty. “Non-European countries? It’s not possible”, said our internationality coordinator. In the general exchange services of my university they said: “yeah there are possibilities, but we don’t know about possibilities for medical students, ask your faculty.”
I’d dreamed my whole life to become an exchange student to US or Australia. According to my plans I should have gone during my upper secondary, but because of many reasons I didn’t. So I though that in university I’ll definitely go. I think that the sooner the better when finding out possibilities.
Photo from Google search (Doctor)
Soon I’ll tell you some difficulties with medical student exchange but at first I’ll give a little information about Finnish medical degree and studies, just to make it easier to you to understand me:
1. How to get the seat? There two things that matters, firstly matriculation examinations which are the final exams of upper secondary school and secondly the entrance examination (more important).
2. Preclinical studies. The first two years are preclinical ones, when we study subjects like biochemistry, histology, languages and anatomy. You could compere this with American pre-med studies.
3. Medical studies. After passing preclinical courses (in practice all who have started them will pass them) starts the clinical period “the real medical studies”. Then we study subjects like surgery, psychology, radiology, etc. Most of these studies include both theory and practice with patients. Medical period takes 3,5 to 4 years. So it will take about six years total from beginning of university studies to graduation.
And then to the exchange things: When you’re a medical student there are many difficulties with exchanges:
1. “Stairs” – to carry on studies to third (first clinical one), forth (second clinical one) or sixth (last clinical one) year’s studies you need to pass all courses (expect one course) of earlier studies. That becomes a problem when you are half a year to one year abroad. If you can’t (or don’t want to) do the same courses abroad you can’t continue with your course mates. 6 months, spring period is the most difficult choice because it means that you’re 6 months abroad, 6 months (next fall period) doing nothing and then you continue with new people. Okay, if you go on year 4 there is no problem with this but then comes another ones.
2. When you study in clinic with patients you need to speak same language with them. How about exchange in Taiwan or Russia with psychology or pediatrics courses? Even if the theory is in English you need to do same courses again in Finland, so you’ll drop to lower course again.
3. Exchange programs are not designed to people who work with patients. I’m not sure is there some problem with insurance things or what but for example with isep, my home university’s contracts and even many volunteer work things do not allow you to work with patients. No clinical courses with these.
After huge information seeking, I found the way to go. Formally I’m first year student but I’m now doing the courses of the first and second year. That means a lot of extra work (17,5 extra credits in five months) but that’s how I make sure that I can continue with my course and study what I want to without stressing about courses.
I’m going with my university’s straight contract with Ohio Northern University to ONU. I cannot study clinical courses but I don’t think it’s a problem in this case because I’m still preclinical student anyway and there are a lot of interesting courses still: public health, exercise physiology and pharmaceutical business… I just can’t wait my exchange! I’m so clad that after hard work, tens of emails and discussion I’m this far. 🙂
If I did it, you could do it too! Just believe in your dream and don’t give up!
Btw there is one possibility to clinical exchange: IFMSA – they offer 4 weeks long professional and research exchanges abroad.