This month’s medical student feature is Reshma Sajimon who is a third year medical student from the Medical University of Varna in Bulgaria.
- What made you want to do medicine?
My interest in medicine began when I was in year 13. I was watching a documentary about Mother Teresa of Calcutta and I saw how with the help of just one doctor and his clinic, she was able to help save the lives of so many people. I could just imagine the joy you feel when you help someone to get better, especially in a time when they are most vulnerable. It was then that I started looking more into the career of medicine. I am very close with my religion and I really prayed to God in order to help me choose my career path in a way that would glorify him and help others according to his plan. God spoke through many bible verses and helped me realise what I wanted to do with my life and those were the bible verses that I held onto whenever I felt a lack of motivation in my A2 studies.
“And He gave skill to human beings that he might be glorified in his marvellous works. By them the physician heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes a mixture from them. God’s works will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth.” – Sirach 38:6
“Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him. There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that he grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life” – Sirach 38:12
- How was the process of applying? (Any tips)
The application process was pretty straight-forward. I applied through an agent because I applied very last minute, straight after my A-levels results. So I didn’t have enough time to apply to Bulgaria myself for the upcoming academic year. You need a minimum of B in Biology and Chemistry to apply. I had to give in all my documents to the agent and he translated it all to Bulgarian for the application process. Then I had to take an entrance exam in the UK where the professors from Bulgaria came to. At the time, the exam wasn’t too bad. Mainly because it was very similar to A level Biology and Chemistry and the university provided some revision material that helped a lot. However, they’ve made some changes to the entrance exam now due to the increased influx in students hence it’s a bit harder now. A little while later, I got my conformation from the University that I had been accepted and later I went to Bulgaria to sort out accommodation etc.
- What is your medical school like?
It’s a nice university. It may not be as luxurious as some UK universities; nevertheless, it’s one of the best in Bulgaria. There are a lot of events for medical students to take part in according to your interest, whether it’s research or surgery etc… You get a lot of help from your teachers and professors if you don’t understand something. The lecturers and professors are fluent in English. If you ever want more experience in a particular field that you want to go into, they are always willing to help and arrange that for you such as watching surgeries etc.
- Do you have any plans for the future?
After the 6 year program, I want to move back to the UK and practise in General Medicine. I’m really interested in Doctors without Borders because that’s purely the reason why I chose to pursue Medicine. I want to volunteer to be part of a medical team that travels to poorer countries and help those in desperate need for treatment.
- Why did you not want to study medicine in the UK?
At the time I became interested in medicine, it was a dream too good to be true as I didn’t do too well in my AS and had to retake all my AS chemistry and biology exams. Even though all my teachers told me to retake the year, I was adamant on managing everything in one year as I knew that a lot of medical schools in the UK do not accept students that completed their A-levels in more than 2 years. However, in my A-levels results, I got an A in Chemistry and Biology but I was 3 marks of an A in Psychology, so I missed my chance to apply in UK. I was going to apply for the Extended Medical Degree offered by Kings, but there were only 50 seats for that course and it’s very competitive. This offer came up also very quickly so I decided to pursue this course.
- Would you recommend studying abroad and why?
Yes I would if you’re very passionate about medicine and can’t see yourself doing anything else. For me, at the end of the day, it’s about doing something you love no matter what country you are in, what language they speak etc. We are all just humans with the similar conditions where ever you go round the world. It’s also a great opportunity to discover another country and meet more of an international community of medical students.
- Pros and cons of choosing to apply abroad
The biggest con I would say would be the loan. From 2015, Bulgarian banks have stopped giving out student loans to international students after they found that many graduated students were not paying it back in time. Therefore, it’s a bit of a struggle every year for our parents to pay for us from their own pockets. We do all manage in the end but that’s the only small downside I would say. For us, it’s 8,000 euros per year. The language can also be a bit of a struggle sometimes. You do get taught Bulgarian as part of the course but it’s easy to push that aside when you’ve got other important subjects to concentrate on. However, in clinics, your doctor does translate all the Bulgarian for you so we do get a lot of help from teachers.
- Any last comments/tips for future medical students?
All I can say is that, be passionate in this course. Medicine is a very demanding career and there will be times when you break down and think why did I choose this! Don’t just do it because everyone else is or your parents are telling you to. Do it because this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. I would also say to do plenty of work experience and really understand what this career is all about. I don’t regret doing this course, even though doubts lurk in the background sometimes. I’ve just started my clinics and I love doing what I do. The rest is all up to God
If you would like to feature in next month’s feature then please get in touch with me through the contact form or leave a comment below.