Studying in the UK vs Studying Abroad

So I thought I’d share what I’ve found to be the key differences between studying in the UK vs studying abroad. Although I am a 2nd year medical student in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, I also studied in the UK for a year.

Open days/Taster days:

Do your research for open days/taster days for your potential universities. These usually take place around April/May/June time period. These days are great opportunities for you to get an insight of what medicine is like, speak with current medical students and have a quick brief tour around the university campus or if you have spare time.

In contrast, universities’ abroad do not to tend to offer open days to international (UK) students. However, you can always visit the country a year ahead or few months before applying.

The application process:

The method for applying for UK medical includes writing a personal statement through UCAS. In addition, you will need to sit an entrance test: BMAT or UKCAT depending on the medical school you are applying to.

Similarly, in Bulgaria you need to sit an entrance but it is not an amplitude test, rather it based solemnly on Chemistry and Biology. In order to be accepted to study medicine you will need to pass with at least a 60% score (which is the standard pass rate for all medical exams in Plovdiv).

Accommodation:

In terms of accommodation, if you are accepted into a medical school that is different to your home town you can generally find recommended accommodation on the student room/the official university website or through researching it on google.

This method is different in Bulgaria, the majority of accommodations are privately owned (1 or 2-bedroom apartments or studio flats). Therefore, you will have to arrange your accommodation through estate agents and landlords. This can be arranged through your agency or on Facebook.

Finance:

In regards to finance for studying in the UK you can apply for Student Finance to help fund your degree which the majority of university students do.

However, in Plovdiv (as from 2016) you can no longer apply to banks for loans, so unfortunately you have to fund the degree independently, which is to be paid in 2 instalments over the academic year  (September and January). With that being said, studying medicine abroad is generally cheaper than studying in the UK.

The university experience:

Many medical schools in the UK adapt the learning styles through case- based scenarios or PBL (Problem Based Learning) whereby you are presented with a case or topic in a small group and you have to research it, then present your findings. In contrast, in Bulgaria they adapt to a more traditional learning method which is based on lectures and practical laboratory sessions.

In the UK the examination methods can be based on research projects, written assigned essays, coursework, presentations in addition to exams (which include OSCE’s). These all contribute towards to the final mark for the year. However, in Bulgaria, the examination methods are 100% based on exams sat in January and May/ June. Theses exams are usually divided into 3 parts: written MCQ’s, randomly selected essays titles from the syllabus and oral. The 1st and 2nd year in Bulgaria are more theoretically based which covers the following subjects: Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Medical physics, Biophysics, Histology, Physiology, Anatomy and Social sciences (such as Ethics and Psychology). In addition to these subjects you have compulsory language (Bulgarian) lessons at least 4 hours a week to help you prepare for the Clinical placements in the hospitals. These clinical placements are only introduced from 3rd year and above.

Fortunately for me, whilst I was studying at university in the UK the library facilities operated on a 24/7 opening time. Contrastingly, my current university in Bulgaria is opened for a limited time during the weekdays (from 9am-8pm) and closes on the weekends. However, they are public library that open on the weekends.

The students life/social life:

There are many societies that you can join at your university as part of the Student’s Union. At every university in the UK there is a Fresher’s fair where you will have an opportunity to sign up to these societies/clubs. These societies vary from university to university but this is the best way to socialise by meeting new friends, eventually allowing you to create a work-life balance. These societies are limited when studying abroad.

Currently at my university in Bulgaria there are societies such as: International student’s association society, African-Caribbean Society (ACS), Somalian society, Nepalese society,  ISOC, Christian Union, Gospel Choir, Paintballing society, MSOM (medical students on a mission) and Eramsus. There are also opportunities’ to learn additional languages such as French and Spanish.  In addition, sport is a compulsory module in 1st year, which is scheduled in the timetable for 2 hours per week. This includes choosing one of the following sport activities: tennis, badminton, football, basketball, aerobics and swimming and the gym.

My top tips if you are considering to study abroad are:

  1. Do your research on the university: entry requirements, deadlines for application and entrance test etc
  2. Find an (reasonably priced) agency that can help you with the application process
  3. Join Facebook pages, in doing so you can form friendships online before you start university. This will therefore be one less problem that you won’t have to worry about when you arrive.
  4. Learn a few basic words/ phrases in advance from the country that you are planning to study in. This will help you settle in more easily.

Good luck to all those who are currently preparing for the medicine application process!

Written by Shona Manning,

For any enquiries about studying abroad please contact me :     abroad.melaninmedics@gmail.com

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