A Journey to Medicine – From Nigeria to the UK

As part of our plans to expand this year, we have decided to share the stories of many Melanin Medics (both doctors and medical students). We believe that it is very important to show that our journeys to Medicine may differ greatly but ultimately the destination remains the same. Through out the year we will be interviewing various Melanin Medics at different stages in their training/ careers, giving them the opportunity to share their personal stories of the steps they took to excel in their careers and get to where they are today. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Ayowade Adeleye, an international student from Nigeria studying Medicine in the UK.

MM: Please can you tell us what made you want to study Medicine?

AA: Medicine was always the first thing I wanted to do, but along the line I diverted a bit and considered other career paths, in the end I came back to my “first love”; as they say “your first answer is often the correct one”. I also knew that I wanted to study something that gave me a balance of science and caring for people (cliché, I know but it is true). As someone who gets bored really easily I knew when choosing my career I needed something that would keep me interested and involved for a long time. I found Medicine intriguing enough to keep me interested for my whole life. Medicine gives a variety of options for my future career path and within my future career path it also provides various opportunities e.g. whilst practising I can explore teaching as well which is what I love.

MM: What other career options did you consider?

AA: I considered engineering but the amount of math and physics in uni scared me away; I also considered Social work but I wanted something a bit more science related. Interestingly, I never considered law or business and I’ve always been quite creative and into graphic design but I preferred it as a hobby rather than full time career. (For those who may not know, she designed the MM logo). So I actually found my way back to medicine by eliminating everything I didn’t want to do.

MM: What made you decide to study abroad?

AA: The educational system in Nigeria is heavily based on rote learning e.g. memorisation, learning facts and just basically studying to pass exams. While some people thrive in this system, I knew that I couldn’t maximise my potential in such a system. I wanted a system that was more involved in hands-on learning and acquiring applicable knowledge and that was what the UK system was, particularly Cardiff.

MM: Why did you choose the UK, specifically?

AA: I considered applying to America and Canada, but in both countries I had to do a primary undergraduate degree before getting into med school. I also considered applying to Eastern Europe, but they offer a traditional course which as I mentioned earlier was not suitable for me. The UK offered the most direct route to medicine as well as the most suitable method of learning for me.

MM: Could you tell us a bit about your journey to studying Medicine in the UK.

AA: My school in Nigeria was an international school that ran an ‘Early Decision Programme’, to give high achieving students the opportunity to sit the traditional 2 year A-Levels in 1 year. So basically, I started my A-Levels before sitting my O-Levels (GCSE’s) and then continued my A-Levels in August 2014, so I graduated from High School in June 2014 and I sat my AS exams in October/ November 2014 and wrote my A2 exams in May/June 2015. During my A-Levels I applied to UK Medical Schools for the first time, My first application was not successful. I believe this was due to a number of factors; I was 17 at the time (most UK medical schools require you to be 18 before you start the course), I didn’t have enough information about specifically applying to Medical Schools in the UK and I was doing my AS exams at the time so I couldn’t really focus on my application. But I had an offer from the University of Southampton for Audiology and thankfully by the time by A2 results came out, I met the entry requirements. I studied Chemistry, Biology, Physics & Sociology and I achieved 3A’s & 1B and subsequently accepted my offer to the University of Southampton and the plan I had was to do Graduate Entry Medicine after completing by Audiology Degree but just as I was processing my Visa to come to the UK , my parents decided I should make another attempt at applying for to the UK for medicine so I had to take a Gap Year. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.

MM: What did you do during your Gap Year?

AA: During my gap year, the plan was to put all my energy and focus into my application. So I spent the first month of gap year writing my Personal Statement which was corrected, revised and reviewed so many times and thankfully I got a lot of help from my parents, aunties, uncles, doctors and ‘The Medic Portal’. Once I had my final draft, I spent the next part preparing for the UKCAT with the help of ‘Medify’ & ‘The Medic Portal’ and sat the test in Nigeria. By the end of November/ beginning of December I had heard back from all of the Medical Schools I had applied to and received Interviews for all of them. So on the 26th of December 2015 I travelled to the UK by myself  for the first time and luckily all my Interviews were within a month of each other so I didn’t need to make several trips. I received interviews from Hull York Medical School, University of Leicester, Cardiff University & University of East Anglia and was privileged to receive offers from all. At the end of the day it was just God that helped me through it all, as I don’t think I that I did anything extra or special.

I also utilised my gap year doing so many things that I’d  always wanted to do such as voluntary work and training in hair styling and make up artistry.

My school in Nigeria also made it mandatory for everybody to apply to university in Nigeria. So having applied to University of Ibadan Medical School, I received an offer to study Medicine as a direct entry student which meant I went straight into 2nd year because I already had A-Levels. So while waiting for hear back from the UK Medical Schools I started Medical School in Nigeria. Where I spent about 6 months studying medicine.

MM: What was Medical School like in Nigeria?

AA: Medical School was interesting, even though I was there for a short time I enjoyed my time there and made a lot of friends who I am still in touch with today. However, in regards to the Medical School curriculum, I struggled a bit because as previously mentioned there was a lot of information to process in a short time and I found it a bit abstract because there were no clinical correlations and the course was very traditional.

MM: What is your current Medical School like?

AA: I am a 2nd year Medical student studying in Cardiff and I absolutely love it. The course is amazing. The course is called “Case-Based learning” which was devised by the university itself. We get given a case at the beginning of the 2 week period and all of our learning is based around the case. For example, if we get a patient who presents with a heart attack in the case scenario, we have to learn the relevant scientific and clinical concepts in regards to the heart and the cardiovascular system. We also have weekly placements and clinical skills sessions related to case. One of the major underlying features of our course is the ‘Spiral Curriculum’, which means that over the course of our degree we constantly revisit concepts that we have previously encountered and build upon them, this prevents us from forgetting about it and also provides us with the chance to understand topics that we may be unclear about. I absolutely love it and if I had to describe my course in 2 words, I would choose the words ‘relevant’ and applicable’.

MM: How did you find the process of adapting to a different country?

AA: Whenever I tell people that I am from Nigeria, they pull a long face and immediately start feeling sorry for me, because I am so far away from home. I find it funny when people do that because I hardly get homesick. This probably because I went to boarding school in Nigeria so this eased my transition. Cardiff also made it quite easy for me to adjust, as the campus is embedded in the city which meant I regularly had to interact with the community outside of the student population. I’ve also been very blessed with I have made who are like family to me and I speak to my family back home often so I don’t feel homesick. Cardiff is a second home to me now.

MM: What do you do besides being a Medical Student?

AA: I’m presently the Vice President of a society in the university called ‘Timothy Bible Study’, a Christian society meeting weekly to fellowship with one another and discuss the scriptures. I am also involved in a Christian Performing Arts Organisation called ‘SOEL Connect’ as a member in the Gospel Choir and leader of the Outreach team involved in creating publicity for events we hold such as the biannual Concerts. Additionally, I have a blog called ‘The Still Small Voice Says’, which is a Christian blog that encourages young people to find comfort and encouragement in the word of God. I love to cook and I also do a bit of  Graphic Design & video editing.

MM: What tips/ advice would you give to other med students?

AA: For prospective international medical students I would definitely recommend that you do your research, be open to receiving help and give it your best shot as UK medical schools tend to only accept a limited number of international students e.g. my medical school only accepts 10 international students per year.

Be focused; once you decide what you want to do run with it and don’t let anybody discourage you. I was once told it was impossible to get into a UK Medical School without doing a premed degree first but look at me now, I’m here by God’s grace.

I would advise that current medical students find a good friendship group as they will serve as a support system in good times, bad times and lonely times. Medical school is truly a roller coaster ride and you need people who can hold your hand through it all. Know yourself so that you know how you study and so you can recognise when your body is telling you to take a break, don’t overwork yourself!

MM: What are your future plans?

AA: I’m not sure what speciality I want to go into yet but right now I am interested in Obstetrics & Gynaecology as well as Endocrinology but I know that Medical School is the place to discover what you like and what you don’t like. I have an interest in teaching & Medical Education, so I hope that sometime in the future I can go back to Nigeria and help remodel the Medical School Curriculum in Nigeria so that students like me can stay in Nigeria and still get the best education possible.

Thank you Ayowade for sharing your #JourneyToMedicine with us. Follow Ayowade on her Socials: @ayowade (instagram), Ayowade Adeleye (Facebook) and don’t forget to check out her blog ‘The Still Small Voice Says’.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post, please share and follow our blog! Would you like to share your Journey to Medicine on the Melanin Medics blog? We would love to hear from you. Please get in touch – melaninmedics@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “A Journey to Medicine – From Nigeria to the UK

  1. Dr Modupe Jibodu, Specialty Doctor, NHS Blood and Transplant. says:

    This is a very interesting article and interview. It is very engaging and delves into the journey of studying Medicine and becoming a doctor. It focuses on and delves into many aspect of ‘the journey’ including the decision and determination to study medicine, the hard work, commitment and attention to detail required at every stage and the ability required to adapt to different countries and educational systems. The article and responses from Miss Ayowade describes the essence of being adaptable, being focused and thinking ahead regardless of whatever vocation one is pursuing.
    As a doctor of many years standing, Medicine is a profession requiring continuous education and learning which has to be balanced with other equally important interests and aspects of life like family, hobbies and spiritual fulfillment. This is very well reflected in this article. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

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