Sasha Litwin

After almost two years living and studying medicine in Dublin, I feel like this city has become my home and my classmates, my second family. When I applied to Atlantic Bridge, I checked off all three medical schools in Dublin without knowing much about each school. Honestly, I didn’t know that much about Ireland other than the stereotypes of raucous pubs and rainy days. Accepting my place in the Graduate Entry class at University College Dublin meant foraging into unknown territory, but given the opportunity to study medicine with a small group of international students, live in a city rich with charm and history, and travel around Europe on a student budget…I can’t think of a better way to spend four years.

The Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) at UCD is the perfect program for me. The professors and doctors who lecture seem to be genuinely interested in the material and are keen to help us learn. The class size (twenty Irish and twenty North American students) results in an engaging and collaborative learning environment. My classmates come from many different backgrounds in education and life experiences (since a requirement for the GEM program is a prior degree, many of my classmates have worked in medicine or have had careers in other fields).

The small class size made adjusting to life in Dublin easy. Most of the international students opted to live in UCD residences the first year, so we were able to navigate the Irish system together. As I found shortly after my arrival, everything in Ireland works a little bit differently than it does in Canada. Irish time moves slower so if you need something promptly (a bus, forms signed, student visa card renewed, lecture rescheduled) be prepared to wait. Although the GEM program is very thoughtfully put together and the medical school is top notch, Ireland’s attitude is laissez faire.

Most prospective students’ main concern is whether they will be able to get a Canadian residency. Most of my classmates will write the USMLE this summer and the Canadians will write the Canadian boards in two years. UCD is very aware of these exams and has incorporated board-style questions into our regular mid-term exams. In the past, UCD students have been very successful on board exams and have always gotten competitive residencies. Students in older years hold information sessions on board exam and residency strategies. Several Canadian students are currently working through the Canadian International Medical Students in Ireland to build contacts, information, and infrastructure for the hundreds of Canadians studying medicine in Ireland. Graduates of UCD medicine get residencies in Canada, but as an international medical graduate it takes more effort. You will have to organize summer research, network, and organize your own electives. As an international medical graduate you will have to be your own advocate.

Medical school in Ireland: the workload can be overwhelming and living far from home may take adjustment, but there is a great support network here. Sunday night study group? Bake three dozen cupcakes? Pub crawl? Surf trip to the West Coast? Weekend trip to Paris? Yes please, I’ll do it all!

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