I think the major worry attached to studying abroad is the uncertainty of being able to come home to Canada afterwards. Fortunately, Irish schools are all internationally recognized meaning that you’ll be able to avoid many of the barriers getting back into North American residency programs that graduates from other parts of Europe might encounter. Not only do the Irish schools have a good track record of producing doctors who match back into their respective home countries, almost all the North Americans in my own class matched back into their specialty of choice. One of my friends actually matched back into his own home town of Barry, Ontario! I certainly had no difficulty keeping up with my Canadian trained peers during my summer cardiology (McMaster University, Ontario) and general surgery electives (Memorial University, Newfoundland), which further proved that there’s certainly no lack in quality of education at UCC.
UCC’s mainly self-directed learning curriculum means that there are less class hours to fall asleep in, more time to seriously hit the books in your own time, which ultimately frees up more time for personal pursuits. And UCC certainly does not disappoint in terms of extracurricular opportunities. I certainly can’t complain with four years playing on UCC’s varsity volleyball team, which included personal milestones of winning the Irish Championships and the UK Championships! Milestones I doubt I would have accomplished if I had not travelled to Ireland.
I have friends who studied medicine at other Canadian programs who’ve all had the same comment: The class sizes are so large that it’s impossible to know everyone. With a class size of only 45, not only do we all know each other, we also get to really know the classes above and below ours. This became really helpful when it came time to switching around rotations to fit schedules, getting help with studies, or just finding people to hang out with. Knowing people in the classes ahead of ours was invaluable with getting advice and tips on how to survive upcoming courses, exams, and rotations.
Being born and bred in Toronto, I was worried that moving to the small city of Cork would be a massive culture shock. However, I quickly found that despite being small, Cork had everything that I needed: two or three climbing gyms, courts of basketball, volleyball, tennis and racquetball, a nice farmers market, a central area for shopping, and loads of bars. Despite having so much, everything is close at hand and easily accessible by public transport, bicycle, and even walking! Admittedly, many of our class initially thought Ireland was a little old fashioned and maybe not as modern as North America. But it did not take long for us to all recognize the unique charm of Ireland. Even now I think of Ireland as a second home despite any of my initial misgivings. I still catch myself unconsciously referring to Ireland as “home” now and then.
For anyone who was in the same situation as me, I would definitely recommend studying abroad in Ireland. Ireland definitely has a unique charm and culture, and anyone who studies there will definitely grow from the life experiences that those staying home will just simply never get. Where else can you spend your week studying medicine and your weekends touring La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, carving up some serious powder on one of the many slopes of Oslo, or experiencing the culture of Paris? Certainly not in Canada or the United States!
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