Why do medical students need to go abroad to become a doctor in 2017?

IFMSA, 2017

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr. François Janssens , a medical student at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels. He is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

According to the European Commission, 230 000 students benefitted from the Erasmus-programme on an annual basis, leading to an astonishing total of approximately 3 million exchanges abroad between 1987 and 2013. This year, more than 14 000 medical students will go on exchange in more than 90 countries with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA). Still not convinced you have to go on exchange after all these numbers? Then maybe the following quotes will do the trick.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Of course it isn’t always simple to leave your home country, especially for those who aren’t used to go away on their own for a longer period of time. At first you might feel a bit homesick or insecure, but that’s just part of the process. Step by step, you will develop the self-confidence needed to become the independent person you want to be. At the other hand, you’ll start realising you can’t do everything on your own and you need to rely on people you trust sometimes. As a future doctor, who will have to fend for himself but also be part of a multidisciplinary team where everybody has its responsibilities, these experiences will come in handy sooner or later.

“When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting.” – Clint Borgen

Our vision on health and healthcare, good clinical practice or evidence based medicine; everything we know about medicine is influenced by the country and system in which we work. Being in the same environment year in, year out, we tend to forget to question ourselves and what we believe in. Furthermore we are living in times of immigration, globalisation and multiculturalism. Going abroad and seeing how things can be done differently, can help cultivating that critical and international mindset.

The journey, Not the destination matters…” ― T.S. Eliot

I admit it’s a cliché to end with, but it’s a true one. It’s not about where you are travelling to or what your expectations are. It’s about the opportunities that come across, seizing the moment itself. Meeting new people, discovering a new country, doing things you have never done before and enjoying every bit of it while improving yourself day by day. This way, you’ll come back as another person, packed with a lot of great memories and ready to share your experiences.

About the author

François Janssens is a fourth year Medicine student from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Brussels. Recently he joined the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA).

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