Interview: First year Medicine at Plovdiv Medical University
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Interview: First year Medicine at Plovdiv Medical University
Born in the United Kingdom, Zain Amin initially applied to study Medicine in his home country but was ultimately rejected. Then, as he puts it, instead of wasting a few years studying another subject that he wouldn’t even have enjoyed, he decides to study abroad in Plovdiv because a friend of his recommends the city and the university. One year later he is a first-year student in Medicine at one of the best medical universities in Bulgaria – Plovdiv Medical University, and shares with us his experience so far.
What was your first experience with Plovdiv?
The first month was the most difficult for me as I was just getting used to living independently in a completely different country but once I had settled in, I no longer felt uneasy. Exploring the city itself was like a journey through time, the ancient Roman theatre, the Dzhumaya Mosque and the views from the mountains which encompass the city were breathtaking, a picture simply does not do it justice.
How’s life in Plovdiv? What do you like or dislike about living there?
It’s quiet and peaceful, almost everything is within walking distance and many parts of the city are stunning. Almost everything is cheaper here than what would be found in the UK, the cost of living and the tuition fees combined are lower so it is more affordable. You’re going to become more independent, confident and grow as a person. Learning a new language is a bonus and there is the benefit of meeting some of the most unique people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds.
The language barrier is of course initially an issue however most of the Bulgarians can speak English. Missing family and friends is completely normal, and you’re going to be out of your comfort zone here. Oh and you’ll definitely miss your mother’s cooking, nothing in the world can compare.
What’s your impression of Plovdiv Medical University so far?
So far so good. A lot of the old buildings are being renovated and new ones are being built. There’s also a large community of international students here and a few societies you can join. I don’t think I would have been as content if I had chosen any of the other universities. The majority of the teachers here are very proficient and friendly. The style of teaching here is traditional, there are practical classes and lectures. Most lecturers encourage the students to play an active role during the lectures, which makes it more interesting.
What are the challenges of a first-year medical student?
The increase in workload is a big challenge, the amount of information that has to be processed and learnt can be daunting but don’t forget that people have already gone through what you’re going to experience, it’s not impossible. Time management will also be an obstacle, you won’t be the only one struggling to maintain a balance between time spent studying and the rest of your life, it is normal. You will just have to figure out a way to work smarter, not harder. One of the hardest things for me was trying to figure out the best way to study, what worked before might not always work now. Seeking advice from my friends in the year above on how to study more effectively had proven to be useful.
Tell us more about being in first semester in Medicine. How many exams and subjects do you have?
There are six subjects taught in the first semester: Anatomy, Biology, Bulgarian, Chemistry, Latin (Medical terminology) and Medical Physics. Anatomy is by far the most interesting for me, it is a very hands-on and intellectually stimulating subject because of the complexity of the human body. Within a month we were already learning about the topography of the upper limbs with the use of cadavers. We have 4 lectures and 9 seminars every week, sport is compulsory for the first-year students. There are many activities which students can take part in during sport such as football, tennis, basketball, table tennis, badminton etc. There are mini-tests/quizzes, often referred to as ‘colloquiums’, which you sit throughout the semester containing all the topics that will have been covered so far, the results obtained in them contribute towards your final grade. The final exams are those which are sat in January and June, you’re tested on every single topic that has been covered for that subject; you must pass these exams to move on to the next year. If you fail a final exam you can re-sit it at a later date.
The two final exams that are sat in January after first semester are Chemistry and Medical Physics. In terms of colloquiums we had 3 for Anatomy, 3 for Chemistry, 1 for Biology, 1 for Medical Physics and 1 for Latin. The amount of colloquiums you have might change.
How do you study and prepare for the exams?
There are books and slides from the lectures which you can get from the teachers, online resources are also available and there is a university library providing a wealth of information. Everyone revises in a different way, just because a technique works for one person doesn’t mean it will also work for you. There is a lot to learn so the information must be condensed down to make it easier to understand. This is what I did and then I kept reading over my notes again and again. Some of the teachers also provided us with practice questions which were extremely useful. Try not to leave your revision too late and then end up doing an all-nighter the day before an exam. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
How much free time did you have throughout the first semester?
This depends on you as a person, you will find that everyone learns at a different pace and some people have to revise for longer than others just to get by. Time management and organizational skills will also play an important role in how much free time one can have. I personally did the majority of my work during the weekdays and so I had a lot of free time during the weekends.
What would you advise future students to do in their first semester?
Speak to the medical students in the years above, they are an invaluable resource and can offer great advice when you need it. Work hard and consistently throughout the semester, you’ll be doing your future self a massive favour when it comes to the exams. Make lots of friends and try to enjoy yourself, you aren’t the only one studying Medicine and you should not socially isolate yourself. Don’t spend all day long revising, you need to take a break otherwise you’ll burn out. Your health is the most important thing in your life, so make sure to eat well and exercise. On your most difficult days take a look back and remember why you wanted to be a doctor, remember why you started.
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