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Applying to Medical School  · June 12, 2018

Study Medicine Abroad - Lost in Translation?

Studying medicine or dentistry abroad has become a popular choice in recent years. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject, but the truth is that it completely depends on you - for some, it will be a terrifying proposition, but others will see it as the adventure of a lifetime! 


The proposition of studying medicine abroad can be incredibly daunting and this is why we’re here to help! This blog will give you an insight into some of the challenges and some of the unique opportunities that come with this decision. 

Reality check

Most UK residents who choose to study abroad do so after they have tried and failed to gain admission to a UK medical university. That was certainly the reason I considered it. Hundreds of students choosing this route every year so I think it’s about time we talk about it and end the stigma. 

Gap years

My gap year was great. I travelled, made lifelong friends and had experiences which will be with me forever. It meant that I went into university with more life experience than a lot of my peers. The point that bothers most people is whether taking an extra year to become a doctor will really bother you in the long run. Let’s break it down:

  • It will take you at least 5 years at medical school to become a doctor (on average) and then another 10 years to become a consultant (roughly), and then another 30-40 years of the blood sweat and tears required to save lives on a daily basis.

So at the end of it all, 1 year seems like a drop in the ocean. The way you spend this year is the critical part. You could spend this year boosting your application, re-hashing your personal statement, gaining some work experience and then reapplying to medical school….and getting in. I guarantee you’ll also be able to have some fun while you’re at it, maybe even do some travelling if you’re lucky.


Maybe you are in a situation where you have already taken a gap year. Taking a second gap year isn’t the end of the world. You really do need to show that you’ve done something productive in order for universities to see you as a viable candidate.

can-i-study-medicine-abroad

There are plenty of other options

You could study a different degree and apply as a graduate. You’ll be a stronger candidate, a more well-rounded person and then there’s the whole going to university, making friends and having the time of your life aspect. Competition for graduate places in medical school is fierce, more so than undergraduate medicine, and you might just want to get on with things. 

Let's get one thing straight

Studying medicine abroad does not make you any less intelligent than studying medicine at a medical school in the UK. Medicine is a universal subject with universities across the world excelling in their chosen medical subject of specialty. Wherever you study you will be taught by some of the brightest minds in the field. 

You still need high grades!

Entry requirements into foreign medical schools will still be high, like any UK Medical School. You’ll need good grades and you need to be able to show you’re a well-rounded individual.


Some medical schools, such as those in Italy, require you to sit their own entrance exams. Others may have no entrance exams but require you to have straight A’s at A-level. 

Does distance make the heart grow fonder?

Obviously, if you do choose to study medicine abroad you will be far away from your loved ones. Most medical schools abroad run 6-year programmes, which is a long time to be away from family. A European medical school is probably a better idea, with cheap and short flights to the UK meaning more time for you to spend with your loved ones. There are so many places accepting international medical students, from countries in Eastern Europe like the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania, to even further afield in Asia. These all offer high-quality medical education taught in English. 

Lost in translation

Some medicine universities abroad will require you to learn their local language so that you can interact with patients. This may appeal to some - it’s a lifelong skill that nobody can take away from you. But remember that medical school is hard enough without adding additional pressures. Choose your school wisely, there are many European medical schools which teach their curriculum in English.

Money problems...

Universities abroad can be costly. Studying medicine in Europe will vary in cost depending on the location you choose. Tuition fees vary from €3000 per year to €14 000 per year. Students who wish to study medicine abroad should consider the cost of living including your accommodation, food, bottles of Prosecco (the essentials!) and other student stuff….. And remember, your wealth will probably depend on how the British Pound is doing on the financial markets. It is also important that although tuition fees are cheaper overall, you may not be entitled to a loan.
european-medical-schools

The college dropout

It seems like all the millionaires around the world dropped out of university. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates just to name a few. However, believe me, when I say no real doctor ever failed to complete their medical studies – they all reached their Graduation Day. Universities abroad have notoriously high attrition rates. This is likely to do with a multitude of factors: difficult curriculums, difficulty in students adjusting to lifestyles, homesickness and also financial pressures. 

What about Brexit?

What about it? The impact BREXIT will have on our ability to travel and study in European countries is still largely undecided. There may be financial implications to moving abroad with the currency. Stay tuned for our blog updates on the BREXIT situation as a whole and how this may affect you personally.

What does the GMC think?

The General Medical Council will decide whether or not international students can come and work in the UK. As a general rule, European University Qualifications are generally accepted in the UK. However, there are strict requirements regarding the length of training, number of clinical hours and clinical exposure. 


You may be required to sit the PLAB exam before you can start work.The UK needs doctors desperately, so where there is a will (and an appropriately accredited medical degree) there is a way. You can find further information on the GMC website.

Education agencies & agents

There are a whole host of agencies out there that will offer to act as the middle-man to liaise with Universities to get you a place at medical school. They will, of course, charge you a fee. They may make the application process a bit easier but none can “guarantee” admission. 

Write a personal statement that stands out!

Take the leap?

Almost all doctors I speak to now speak fondly of their time at medical school. Whether you study medicine in the UK or abroad, they will be the best days of your life.Studying medicine abroad may turn out to be the biggest and best adventure of your life. You will come back a different individual with bucket-loads of life experience. But it isn’t for everyone. Take time to make this decision and see if it is right for you. 

We hope that these tips were helpful and you have a bit more insight into studying medicine abroad. If you have any questions or would like more information, email us at hello@theMSAG.com.

dr-hrushikesh-vyas

Dr Hrushikesh Vyas

Dr Hrushikesh Vyas, Academic Foundation Year 2 Doctor: Anaesthetics and critical care theme. He attended the University of Birmingham where he also on the medical school interview panel. He is theMSAG’s Summer School Co-manager and Interview Coach. 


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