Alex, who has just finished his first year of Medicine at Queen’s University, Belfast, shares his thoughts on what studying medicine at University is really like.
“Why do you want to study medicine? This is one of the hardest questions you’ll have to answer as part of your application process and it’s one that will be asked by family, friends and interviewers alike. It’s certainly one that I dreaded the most so I tried to formulate the perfect answer with a very basic knowledge of what a medical course actually entailed and what I was going to experience if I got there.
The first thing I realised about medical school upon arriving is that it’s very different to any other course that the university might offer with the exception of Dentistry and Veterinary Science. While your flatmates and other friends might only have one lecture and a couple of tutorials a day starting at 1pm, the medics will find themselves starting at 9am and finishing at 5pm.
An example of a typical Monday might be as follows: 9am-10am: Cardiorespiratory Pathology lecture, 10am-12pm: Physiology Practical – measuring and interpreting an ECG, 12pm-1pm: Social Basis of Health lecture, 2pm-3pm: Physiology lecture – control of cardiac output, 4pm-5pm: Anatomy lecture – Pharynx and Larynx. On top of this we’re expected to do an extra four hours of work every day, writing essays and preparing for the next day’s lectures.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, the days are long, there is a lot of work and it’ll only increase as you progress. But don’t let this put you off. If you’re applying to study medicine I’m sure you would have been told about the workload but it’s important to remember that the positives dramatically outweigh the negatives.
As a result of spending so much time with your course mates you’ll forge friendships that last a lifetime and these friends will support you when times get tough. Everyone is in it together and help is always on hand for anyone who needs it. Some of your new friends might come straight from school whereas others might be married with children and this creates a fantastic range of diversity, allowing you to meet people from backgrounds that are completely different to your own.
Some people go to medical school wanting to become a surgeon or a paediatrician and others have no idea what the future might hold. Either way, because the content of the course is so varied you’ll start to get an idea of what future career might interest you. For example in my first year alone I’ve learnt about the principles of certain diseases like cancer, gained an insight into medical ethics and the doctors code of conduct while also visiting the home of a patient who had depression in order to better understand what happens when doctors make a mistake and the lifelong consequences for the patient.
For those who are currently applying, do not give up hope if you’re rejected by a medical school. In my first year of applying I didn’t get any interviews at the four medical schools I put on my UCAS and it was only thanks to a re-mark in one of my A-Levels that I was able to re-apply the following year. There will be times when you wonder if it’s really the right course for you, probably while you’re writing the twentieth draft of your Personal Statement, but when you finally get there you’ll ask yourself if it was worth it and I guarantee your answer will be yes.”