May 4, 2015, by studentcontributor
Shaking it up a bit — studying a semester of medicine abroad
Hi, I’m Amy, hei fra Oslo! Most medical students talk about going to a different country and practicing medicine one day, but the chance to go as part of the course itself is less well advertised. When I started my degree, I never thought I’d spend half of my fourth year studying in Norway, but it’s turning out to be the best six months of my life.
One thing that you realise when you come out here is that being back at home is being in one big placement bubble, but the reality is that there can be so much more to clinical years than just the time on the wards. Life carries on back at home and nothing changes, whereas the experiences and opportunities here, in a different country, with a completely different culture and language and travel opportunities, will stay with you for the rest of your life.
If you consider this programme in particular, be warned that the Norwegian students cover in 6 years what we do in 5- so their course is a lot more part-time than ours (knock your full-time week down to a couple of hours Mon-Wed), with a higher emphasis on self-study. Once you get over the shock of this, and the realisation that you’re not going to get as much exposure as you might at home, you can appreciate the opportunities that this brings!
The university organise cabin trips, there’s downhill ski weekends, and learning to cross-country ski is almost a given here in Norway! Not sure that you can imagine going sledging on a 2km course just up the road on a day off in England, or would think about jumping on a plane to Stockholm or Copenhagen for a weekend. Or going up north in Norway and dog sledding, and seeing the Northern lights- for me, I could never have dreamed of having these opportunities whilst still on the medical course.
In monetary terms, Norway is not cheap. I think Oslo ranks as one of Europe’s most expensive cities! But being a student means student accommodation (which isn’t all that different from halls) and student discount on all transport (including planes if you’re under 26years old). The university give financial support with an Erasmus grant (although be warned: this probably won’t enter your bank account until months in!); the value of this increases based on means-testing to encourage anyone to be a part of the exchange and not let money be the thing that holds you back.
There are obviously language barriers with Norwegian being spoken in consultations at the outpatient clinics, but the doctors speak very good English and summarise what was discussed, and it just creates a greater emphasis on improving your practical skills as these are mostly not language dependent! Oh, and you get to wear a white coat and scrubs in the hospital (effectively pajama’s!).
Despite differences in the course and a higher emphasis on self-study, this experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would recommend it a thousand times over. Norway is beautiful and I don’t want to leave! The trip will be what you make of it, and I would encourage anybody to consider it, and not be bound by thinking that you have to spend your entire medical degree confined to the hospitals of Nottingham or even the UK!