Giulia is a graduate medical student at the University of Glasgow. She previously studied Neuroscience at King's College London and completed her Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Amsterdam.
I am currently a second-year student at the University of Glasgow where I moved almost two years ago to pursue medicine after having completed a BSc and an MSc.
In this blog I will give you a brief overview of what it’s like to study medicine in Glasgow in terms of the curriculum used by the medical school, the class and facilities, extracurriculars and of course the city lifestyle outside of medicine, which, as it turns out, is not a myth!
I firmly believe that Glasgow, as a city, gets the best of both worlds when it comes to size and ambiance - even though it is the third largest city in the UK, after London and Birmingham, having lived in London for three years I can assure you - it feels nothing like it! Despite said size, Glasgow feels incredibly compact and cozy and its vicinity to so many amazing natural parks, hiking trails and lochs makes it feel a lot more connected to the countryside, than any other big city I have ever lived in. At the same time, the availability of fancy shopping streets, bars and loads of activities to keep you occupied if med school doesn’t (or so the tale tells, I have not had the luxury of time to try the latter out yet), is overwhelming. The atmosphere and environment throughout the West End, where the school of medicine is located, is also particularly exciting, with a huge choice of restaurants and bars and is amongst the most vibrant areas of the city, both during the day and night.
Getting by in the city is pretty straightforward, the subway runs through most central areas of the city and buses and trains easily reach boroughs further out, but having a car here, especially if you’re studying medicine can go a long way, unlike other big cities like London. There are only a couple of central hospitals you can have your placements at and in your fourth and fifth-year rotations, you can be placed in hospitals as far as an hour-hour and a half drive from the university, so that is definitely something worth considering when moving here.
One of the (many) great things about the course at Glasgow is the early exposure to clinical skills and practice. In your first two years you’ll have the chance to visit both hospital and GP settings multiple times as part of your curriculum and practice taking history and do clinical examination of real patients on the system you are covering at that time, with full-time clinical attachments starting in the second half of year 3.
Whether you’re coming straight out of school or you’re a graduate student, the idea of problem-based learning (PBL) can be a bit vague and foreign to you in the beginning, but you’ll quickly learn to adapt and appreciate the importance of finishing your PBLs on time before everything piles on. Anatomy classes start within a few weeks of your first year and include both prosection and full body dissection - they too can be intimidating at first but it is crazy just how quickly you get used to it. Dissection tip - it is not that uncommon to accidentally stab yourself with the scalpel, so if it does happen, just keep this in mind and don’t panic - it can cause a bit of inconvenience and discomfort, but there’s nothing to worry about and you’ll be ready to go back to class in 5 minutes.
In terms of challenges faced regarding the medical school curriculum, whether you’re a school leaver, have taken a gap year, or already have some academic degrees below your belt, getting used to the medical curriculum and pace and finding your ideal way of learning can be a big initial challenge. There is a lot of self-study and therefore, a lot of discipline involved in a successful academic career in medical school, the minimum grades required to fulfil all coursework assignments and final exams are typically a lot higher than for other undergraduate programmes... and the expectations from you as a student, in general, are a lot higher. Eventually, you get the hang of it and adapt to all of those things, and while you can’t know until you’ve experienced it, it’s always helpful to try and have some insight into what will be expected of you before you start, so it doesn’t come as a total shock once it does.
The University of Glasgow is a huge university with a lot of history and has tons of activities you could get involved with in your free time. There is a club and a team for every sport and physical activity imaginable and often you can choose whether you want to play on a competitive level or for leisure. As the medical school is quite big and populated, a lot of the bigger sports have a separate medic sports club that you could get involved with to get to know people from your course and other years and can go every year to SNIMS - the sports event of the year, in which you tour one of the big Scottish cities for a weekend, bond, party and, occasionally play some sports too.
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