My experience of studying medicine in Romania
Sean is coming to the end of this third year of studying medicine
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As my preclinical years draw to a close with the final momentous exam period in full swing, it’s hard to believe that I have almost completed three of my six years in Bucharest, Romania.
Moving to Bucharest was kind of something that just happened; it wasn’t something I had planned for years, months or even weeks. To this day, many Romanians still ask me “De ce ati venit aici in Romania?” which translates to but why Romania? As cliché as it sounds, I came here to follow my dream of studying medicine. Studying medicine was something I had always dreamed of doing and a week, post Leaving Cert results, after some last minute research online and a recommendation from a friend, I found myself on a plane with my terrified but supportive mum on our way to Bucharest, Romania.
Fast forward two weeks, a hectic two weeks which included; an English entrance exam, endless queues, stamps, letters, governmental bureaucracy and I was in! Finally a medical student, it gets easier from here on in, or so I presumed. Romanian Medical schools have quite a traditional but extremely thorough approach to education. The exam process I have encountered here makes my Leaving Cert struggles seem easy in comparison. Face to face anatomy oral exams about the specific course of a branch of an artery or eliminatory practical cadaver exams, created what I can only describe as a hunger games-like environment, keep up or get out.
All this along with learning a new language, adjusting to a totally new culture and living life as a 19 year old student away from home on my own in a studio apartment, I sometimes wonder how I survived. Gone were the days where I would come home to a hot dinner and new sheets on my bed, gone were the days were freshly washed clothes would “appear” on my bed side locker. The real world hit me hard; I remember returning home for Christmas vacation and never wanting to go back. Honestly, as I sat on the bus to the airport to fly back to college my main thought was “what would happen if I don' get on this plane”?
That said, three years later I can categorically say that moving here has been the best decision I have ever made.
How about now?
The Romanian capital can at first glance perhaps seem quite grey and in need of a little TLC but as time goes by I find myself falling more in love with this little Paris of the east. Bucharest is a culturally vibrant city with endless fairs, street art and events which are mostly for free or for next to nothing. My number one piece of advice to anyone who is moving to a new country for the first time is to get involved in the local community, join organisations and to get to know the locals! Life now, is quite different to three years ago; for starters I’ve figured out how to work a washing machine and can now cook the essentials in order to get by.
Language Exchange Bucharest is one of the first groups I joined; in essence it’s an organisation which provides tandem language lessons absolutely free of charge. I really owe them a lot for giving me the confidence to express myself in Romanian and making me feel part of a community for the first time. This year, I got involved with the Erasmus Students Network (ESN), an organisation here In Bucharest and all over Europe which makes life easier for incoming international students. This organisation is a truly amazing one in which local Romanians and other international students like me, work to ensure Erasmus students experience all Romania has to offer.
Medicine in Romania
So how is medicine in Romania? From my clinical experience here in Bucharest, I can say that the Romanian healthcare system does have its problems (what healthcare system doesn’t?). Medicine in Romania is a very respected field and the university is held in high regard among the community, however unfortunately doctors do not get paid so well, which has created an unfortunate situation where young doctors are leaving the country. But from my point of view as a student, the experience has been extremely hands on with patients both willing to talk and engage with us as student doctors. I have had some extremely talented doctors take me under their wing and invite me to shadow them on my free days pushing me to examine and interact with as many patients as possible.
The doctors and nurses I’ve met on my clinical rotation are all extremely eager for us to learn and to become the best doctors we can be.
Being the only Irish student in all of my university has opened my eyes to cultures and languages I blissfully knew nothing about before. Little did I expect coming here that I would celebrate Jordan’s national holiday with their traditional “Mansaf” dish or that last summer I would visit my Romanian-American roommate in New York or begin to speak some words of Hebrew. Honestly, speaking before coming here, I probably had just a few preconceived conceptions about these cultures and societies but after getting to know these people on a personal level, I can never allow myself to fall victim to stereotyping again.
So, as my third year in Romania draws to an end, I look forward to what the future has to offer. Romania as a country gets a poor rap in today’s media, which in my opinion is absolutely undeserved; it is in fact a beautiful country with a myriad of opportunities. So my advice, especially for those in the midst of the Leaving Cert is to follow your dreams and to not despair if you don’t get the course you want as there is always another way.