Solutions for cultural understanding: medical students’ perspective

Cultural diversity 2019

Flat lay photography of eight coffee latte in mugs on round table (Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Maria Golebiowska, a 6th year medical student in Medical University of Lublin, Poland. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. 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.


In Medical University of Lublin, hundreds of foreign medical students start their undergraduate path in Poland. I can only imagine the anxiety and fear from unknown, which may accompany future medical professionals while choosing their studies abroad. Starting a medical diploma in a country so different culturally from home is for sure a huge risk, but every bold decision comes with a huge opportunity – to broaden the horizons and come back, enriched from living in a culturally diverse environment.

This is also a great occasion for Polish society, culturally monolythic, to become more opened and understanding. Especially in medicine, healthcare professionals should be united despite borders in order to acheive the all-important aim – to save human life and protect human health.

That is why, six years ago I decided to introduce IFMSA-Poland, known for amazing volunteering opportunities for Polish students, to English Division foreign students of MUL.

Being firstly Assistant to Local Officer to English Division (LOED), from 2013 I became Vicepresident to English Division in Lublin, and created the team of 20 international coordinators – students from Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Norway, who in 5 years of our work coordinated over 500 activities for over 5000 people – starting from kindergarteners, through our peers-high school and university students, to adults and elderly representatives of our society.

We took all our passion, motivation, medical knowledge and cultural diversity to Lublin communities. With help of our Polish volunteers, we educated the society on important medical public health topics, such as addictions, cancer, HIV and AIDS, every time including important aspect of our traditions, cultures – sharing similarities and embracing our differences.

Our volunteers contributed their comfort zones, time, effort in sharing their experiences, receiving in return the wonderful perception of the citizens – hospitality, curiosity, gratitude. It was a great experience for me to watch the growth of our peers from volunteers to leaders, educating their colleagues in public health education, practical medical and soft skills.

And Polish society travelled virtually to the most distant places, learnt about most beautiful traditions and words from most difficult, unknown languages from all around the world. Volunteering was addictive to many of us, and became the brightest memory of our medical studies.

I wanted to share our English Division Team’s story because I believe that students should have more influential voice in changing the world, especially in terms of mutual respect and understanding.

Our example shows, that the best way to minimize the cultural shock and increase the cultural understanding is to create a space, a melting-pot for cultures to cooperate together, reach out to each other and support the greatest cause – in our case, to increase medical knowledge awareness and become the best professionals for our future patients.

We hope to encourage more youth representatives to think of their professions and passions in culturally broader perspectives.

About the author

Maria Golebiowska- 6th year medical student in Medical University of Lublin, Poland, currently holds the position of Vice-president to English Division Students in Local Committee in Lublin of IFMSA-Poland. Founder of English Division Team in Local Committee in Lublin (since 2013) and National Surgical Summerschool in Poland (since 2016). Passionate about volunteering and medical education, served as Assistant to Vicepresident for Activities in IFMSA and Ethics and Human Rights in Health Program Coordinator in years 2015/16 and 2016/17.

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