How I got into medical school—and how I prepared
What does it take to get into medical school in Australia, and how can you get prepared to make the leap?
For me the decision to study abroad kind of snuck up on me. I had tried to get into medicine in Ontario and was unsuccessful. I had to handle a lot of rejections from Canadian medical schools—just like thousands of other students. But I still wanted to do something meaningful, so I decided to pursue a Master of Public Health after my BSc.
While completing my MPH I did a placement in Namibia and South Africa—and that opened my eyes to global health. During this time I had found OzTREKK, and the door to medical school opened again, but this time it would be around the world. I went to OzTREKK-hosted fairs to learn more about the programs in Australia, still not 100% convinced this was something I wanted to do.
During this time I got to know the team and they, knowing my love of global health, introduced me to a representative for Macquarie University. Once I heard about the Macquarie Doctor of Medicine program I was sold. I could not design a program more fit for me than this one… and that’s when it really hit me: I was going to study medicine abroad! Luckily, I was successful in getting in, and after accepting my offer it was a whirlwind of excitement, and continues to be!
Who doesn’t want to see Sydney at some point in their life?! It’s a fantastic mix of bustling city, new and old architecture, beaches, and wildlife at your door. For me I was very focused on the program I wanted to go to, and I was very lucky that that program was also in such a great city. Studying in Australia in general means more sunshine, less snow, easy-going classmates, and adventure. Once you’re in Australia it’s so easy to hop around to other big cities and you have Southeast Asia at your doorstep. I was really excited at the idea of being able to spend my breaks travelling. During one inter-semester break I visited Brisbane and Hong Kong. Can’t wait to see what I can manage next year!
Sydney itself is fairly multicultural which is great. There is so much to see and do, always a festival and good food available. I landed in the middle of the Lunar New Year festival, which was a great welcome!
All the little things
This degree is a 4-year commitment, so I’ve never been on a trip quite like this before! The longest before that was a month in southern Africa, and those are very different trips! Preparations varied from making sure I got to see all my friends and family before I left (I left the end of January so the holidays came in handy for that), making sure my visa and vaccinations were in check, and packing.
One thing I’m really glad I did was before leaving I set up an Airbnb for a few weeks while I apartment hunted, and set up some apartment viewings pretty quickly after I landed. This helped me move into a great place sooner rather than later!
An uncommon preparation step I took was starting a YouTube channel to keep my family up to date, and that has been an amazing hobby throughout the year. You can find me at Emma B MD To Be!
Starting an adventure
At first I stayed in an Airbnb which was a little nerve-wracking but it worked out fine. I was with a retired teacher so she was really kind and helped me get to know the city. After that I moved in with a fellow student I had met through our MD student group. We live in a cute 2-bedroom apartment about 30 minutes from campus, and it’s become my home away from home and our sanctuary from class.
I was really lucky I didn’t experience much culture shock—not like I had before returning from Namibia. The Australian culture is very similar to Canadian. In general we are both really friendly and welcoming countries, and with my small program we all became friends really quickly which meant we quickly had a support group.
That doesn’t mean the transition wasn’t rough. In the first week I struggled with feeling obligated to communicate back home but navigating the 14- to 16-hour time difference was tough. I wanted to throw myself into Sydney and meeting new people, but I felt like I should be reaching out to back home more. I think if I had talked to my friends and family beforehand and explained that while I would text etc. so they knew I was safe, it might take me a little while to get a new routine down and then I would be able to schedule when we could Skype.
Same, but different
Medical school has been very different from my other degrees, but I don’t think the classes vary much from the Canadian equivalent. For me there was an adjustment to the pace of courses which I think is the case with any medical student.
Specifically, it was just little things that the Australians—or maybe my school—do differently, like course enrolment, but those are different at every school. You just can’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help when you need it! Other than that classes have been very similar: lectures with reading assigned before or afterward, labs, small group tutorials with quizzes or skills assessments. We’ve even had midterms and exams it has all felt very similar to home!
Want to contact me? Find me on Instagram (@emmab_md) and send me all the questions! I’m happy to help.