One down, three to go. I find it hard to believe that my first year of studying medicine at the University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) is complete. It seems not long ago that I was in the midst of putting together my application, which was followed shortly thereafter by an interview invitation, an offer of admission, and then a whirlwind move across the Atlantic. The individuals at Atlantic Bridge were extremely helpful when it came to addressing any questions or concerns that I had, but the most reassuring discussions for me were the ones that I had with a GEMS student. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll do my best to convey some of that same reassurance to you.
Because I’ve only just finished my first year, what I’m going to share with you will mostly reflect the first and second year experience that takes place at the medical school, rather than the third and fourth year experience that involves rotations in the clinical setting. If you’ve read up on GEMS, you already know that the style of learning used at the school is problem-based learning (PBL). PBL involves learning the material primarily on your own, and with fellow classmates, under the guidance of physician tutors. It is up to the individual student to identify his or her specific knowledge gaps and to then consult the appropriate resources to fill those gaps. During the first two years of studying at GEMS, students’ learning is supplemented by lectures, as well as weekly anatomical and clinical skills sessions. For individuals who are motivated, self-directed, and work well in groups, the PBL style can be a very welcome substitute to the traditional didactic style of instruction.
The experience of living in Ireland has been as positive as studying there. The accommodations that the university reserves for medical students are comfortable and well maintained. For the most part, medical students are placed with other medical students, which along with the relatively small class size and group work nature of the program, really facilitates getting to know your classmates. I’ve enjoyed meeting many Irish and fellow Canadian students, as well as students from Poland, England, and even Australia. Furthermore, in terms of things to see and do, Ireland has a lot to offer. Whether it’s touring King John’s Castle in Limerick, visiting the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, or celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Galway with a hurling match and some traditional Irish music, there’s something for everybody. If you’re the adventurous type, traveling outside of Ireland to nearby European destinations is a popular opportunity to take advantage of as well.
The last point I’ll make is that studying abroad isn’t for everybody. The only way you can know with absolute certainty whether or not studying medicine in Ireland is the right fit for you is to do it. With that being said, if you adapt well to new surroundings, excel at self-directed learning, have a true passion for medicine, and are open to meeting new people…choosing to study medicine at the University of Limerick may be one of the best decisions you ever make.