Medicine at Manchester: An International Student’s Perspective

Malaika Haider is an international Medicine student from Singapore who is currently coming to the end of her first year at the University of Manchester. Picking the right university is, of course, very important for all students but perhaps even more so for international students who can’t just hop on a train and go home if things don’t work out. So, what was it that convinced Malaika that medicine at Manchester was for her? Find out below…

One year ago, choosing a medical school to apply to was the most important decision of my life. All medical schools vary in their curriculum and teaching. When you haven’t stepped foot in the country before, trying to find the course that suits your learning style is difficult. After doing some research, talking to older pupils and studying here myself for the past year; I’m very confident in the decision I made. I’ve compiled a few reasons why I chose to study Medicine at the University of Manchester as an international student from Singapore.

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PBL Course

PBL is an acronym for problem based learning. Instead of being spoon fed information that may be irrelevant; you’re given large amounts of independent study time to learn content generated from your own questions. I liked the concept of driving my own learning facilitated by group discussions because it was the perfect balance between collaboration and self directed learning. While we still have lectures and other teaching sessions, they act to facilitate your learning and complement your individual study.

You aren’t completely abandoned though, you’re placed in groups of 10-12 and have a tutor to keep everyone on track. You’re also provided with a lot of resources that clue you in on the depth of knowledge you need to cover. I think an earlier misconception of mine was that you need to really enjoy group work to like a PBL curriculum, this honestly isn’t the case. You learn independently and work as a group to consolidate your learning at the end of the week to make sure everyone has covered all the relevant information.

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Anatomy

In the UK, full body dissections aren’t particularly common anymore. I was unaware of this until I started researching how anatomy is taught in different medical schools. At Manchester, you have the opportunity to dissect full body cadavers. Personally, I’ve found that dissection is the best way for me to consolidate my knowledge of anatomy. It puts into perspective where everything is located, relative sizes and makes identifying surface landmarks much easier.

Textbook diagrams are helpful in understanding theory but seeing and handling cadaveric structures is very different. You won’t be exposed to textbook description specimens during your time in medical school. You also have access to a resource room outside of your anatomy session with models, questions and pro-sections to accompany the teaching.

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Early Clinical Experience

Come third year, you’ll be spending over 60% of your time in a clinical environment so I knew it would be essential for me to spend time in a hospital or community environment. Medical students are given placements in hospitals and general practice surgery as early as the first few weeks of medical school. In first year, you have a total of three placements in a hospital and three placements in the community.

This might seem daunting to be placed this early in your journey but each placement is well structured to your semester content and the level of knowledge you’re expected to have at that time. You won’t be expected to diagnose a patient in your first year! Complementing your ECE visits are Communication Skills sessions as part of your timetabled lessons. Here you’re taught some basic clinical skills, examinations and history taking.

I’ve found ECE visits really valuable because it’s not an opportunity all medical students have early on in their journey. I already feel more comfortable in clinical environments and with speaking to patients.

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International Students

Before moving to the UK, I felt anxious and scared. I was moving far from home and knew I wouldn’t be able to see my family and friends for several months at a time. I didn’t want to be the only international student in my year group because I wanted other people who had the same experiences as me. International students are assessed separately from local and EU student but to the same assessment standards.

Furthermore, I received a lot of support as an international student when applying for visas and accommodation. A few social events were also organised so that we could meet each other before commencing the course so it was nice to have a few friends beforehand. The medical school is actually the largest in the UK and accepts 28 international students per year. The university itself enrolls over 11,000 international students per year, that’s just over 25% of the total student population! It’s so important to find people who related to your experiences as an international student.

Of course, there are many other considerations one might need to make an informed decision about where to study medicine but hopefully I’ve provided some insight on why I think I made the correct choice.


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