On a Saturday in March, I was about to start teaching my first trombone lesson of the day when the mail came. To my complete surprise, there was a large envelope in the mail from the Atlantic Bridge program, which contained my acceptance to the University College Cork Graduate Entry to Medicine program. I was accepted in to med school! While the acceptance was enthralling, I faced a very tough decision that I struggled with over the next few weeks: do I leave my comfortable life here as a full-time business analyst/programmer and part-time music teacher, where I live in the city where I grew up with all my family and friends around? Should I reapply to med schools again here in the US? I am completely confident in my decision to make the trek from Virginia and come to Ireland to study medicine at UCC, and I’m hoping I can explain why I feel this way in the following.
I’ll first discuss one of the primary questions that many North Americans have: Will I be able to obtain a residency placement back home? The answer is absolutely yes, as evidenced by the tremendous success of the graduating class last year. I feel confident in my future in applying for residency positions as well, and the reason for this confidence is not only a result of my own hard work, but also as a result of the academic and clinical teaching at UCC. We are given an incredibly solid foundation in physiology, anatomy, pathology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. While the USMLE exams do require a little bit more knowledge, we have such a firm understanding in the fundamentals we are able to learn the additional material with ease. UCC also provides additional lectures and a massive Qbank for those taking the USMLE exams. Clinical skills training begins in the first semester with basic examination skills with real patients, and in the second semester we learn extensive physical exam and history-taking skills.
Additionally, the brand-new facilities for clinical teaching and for didactic and small group sessions are excellent, and include a state-of-the-art anatomy lab, a beautiful library, and large windows everywhere to let in as much sunlight as Ireland affords! The Mardyke gym is not to be missed either.
One of the most amazing aspects of studying medicine in Ireland is the countless experiences I have had that would never be possible in North America. First of all, when I immerse myself in the Irish culture—by playing Gaelic football, watching Irish films, taking trips to Killarney and Dublin, and simply talking with Corkonians—I have begun to see the world with a different lens that would not have been available had I stayed in America for medical school. Also, I have sampled bits of European culture by going on remarkably cheap trips to Portugal, England, Italy, and Scotland. Finally, it is incredibly easy to make friends with the Irish, which brings me to my final point: I can’t imagine many more places in the world where people are so genuine, warm, and caring. Shopkeeps, professors, postmen, cab drivers—any kind of person is happy to strike up a conversation where they share the most interesting stories.
If you are considering applying to Irish med schools, or have been accepted and are trying to decide whether to pay the deposit, my advice would be to go for it. Most of us won’t have the opportunity to do something so unique and personally and professionally rewarding for the rest of our lives.