Three months after finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario I hopped on a plane and flew across the Atlantic to start my new adventure. I had been offered a position in the Graduate Entry Medicine Program at the University of Limerick, and without ever having been to Ireland before, I made the decision to pack up my life and accept the position. I arrived on my own, and checked into the student accommodation reserved for medical students. Within a few days of being in Ireland I made close friendships with dozens of students (Canadian and Irish), many of whom are now my closest friends.
The first two years of the program are completed entirely on campus and are comprised mainly of group work in the form of Problem Based Learning (PBL) with very little didactic teaching. In addition to PBL there was also a strong focus on developing clinical skills and anatomy. We were taught to teach ourselves and to teach one another, which was an extremely rewarding and enjoyable learning environment. Beware: to succeed in this type of learning environment, you must have a high level of self motivation and discipline.
The last two years of the program are completed entirely in the clinical setting. Although a large portion of the training is done in the Limerick hospitals, students are placed outside of Limerick for a minimum of eighteen weeks. Many students initially have reservations about packing up their belongings and moving away for a period of time, but the opportunity to practice in more rural settings is a huge advantage. For our general practice placement my boyfriend and I were placed in rural County Cork for eighteen weeks where we enjoyed the true Irish experience; we lived in a thatch roofed cottage, we had cows in our backyard, we chopped our own firewood, and we truly became locals in the town. From a learning point of view, we easily integrated into the practice, participated in the first response to emergency calls, attended house calls, and developed our own patient lists over the eighteen weeks.
It was very important to me to be able to return to Canada once I finished my degree in Ireland. Although I loved every minute in Ireland, my home is still Canada. The University of Limerick has obviously provided an exceptional education, evidenced by myself and many of my Canadian friends having been accepted into competitive residency positions this year. I am starting my five year emergency medicine residency at the University of Toronto on July 1st, and have friends accepted into neurology, radiology, internal medicine, and family medicine residency programs. Completing medical school in Ireland at the University of Limerick has not only provided me with an excellent education, it has been an unforgettable life experience. On top of our studies, my friends and I have availed of the opportunity to enjoy living in Europe; we have gone skiing in the Alps every year, attended Oktoberfest in Munich, visited the Eiffel Tower, and spent many a night sitting back in an Irish pub to enjoy a Trad music session.