My journey: three years at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
From the initial interview and hectic exam schedules to societies, making friends and counting sweets as a sixth food group, Oluwabunmi, our Canadian Ambassador, takes us through her journey to RCSI and how she’s found the experience over the past three years…
Here I am, Bunmi Adesanya, just having finished my third semester of medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI). Looking back I still cannot believe I am here — in Ireland — attending medical school and living my dream. While I can now safely say that I made the correct decision, moving to a new country to study under a different education system had me stress eating, to say the least.
The decision to come to RCSI was big and very risky. I had just finished my third year of the Health Sciences undergraduate program at the University of Ottawa in Canada and I had applied to several medical schools in Ireland. I knew upon acceptance I would go, but I also realised that that meant not completing my degree in Ottawa. Needless to say, I had a lot riding on this, I didn’t have a contingency plan, my alphabet started and stopped at plan A.
Once I was invited to interview I was ecstatic. I wish I could tell you what they had asked me at the interview but honestly, it was all a blur. I remember walking into the interview room thinking that my heels were much too tight and that this process would be an extreme test of my deodorant. A few weeks later I received an acceptance letter. I proceeded to finish up my third year in university and pack my entire life into six suitcases (but who’s counting really?).
…medical school is not a bed of roses… sometimes there are no roses, anywhere, for an extended period of time. Even so, I would not change this life for anything.
To fast forward currently, I am in the five year medicine program at RCSI. There is a choice of four to six year programs, depending on the level of education you have had before coming to RCSI. The programs are divided into phases — junior, intermediate and senior cycles, affectionately called JC, IC and SC (once you come here, you’ll realise that there are acronyms for everything!). The first two cycles focus on textbook learning. It’s where I became familiar with the actual Grey’s Anatomy book (after I realised that watching the show doesn’t actually count as studying) and the last cycle is all about application through rotations at various hospitals. The years are split up into classes, but in Dublin, they are called modules. During JC we learn about all the systems and how they function normally with clinical scenarios sprinkled here and there. JC also focuses on the anatomy of everything: every bone, muscle, major vessel, a collection of nerves and the physiology of it all separately and together. IC is centred around disease and abnormal system functioning and the clinical scenarios are no longer sprinkled as much as they are a focal point of every lecture. Throughout both of these cycles, we also learn the clinical skills needed to examine every system. SC requires hospital rotations in several specialities, and it’s here where a student gets a real idea of what medicine is all about.
Of course, medical school wouldn’t be medical school without exams. That word has several connotations for every medical student, but usually, its mention is met with groans, sighs and laughter that become tears. While we know they are a necessary evil, they can be a little intimidating. At RCSI overall grades consist of multiple choice, written answers, practicals and presentations. There are also the exams written in order to gain a license to practice in other countries such as the USMLE for the United States the MCEE for Canada. These are extra exams on top of the ones that are given in school, so examinations are essentially a way of life for medical students.
… cultural diversity was one of the major factors that drew me to the school besides its academic reputation. RCSI provides a cultural education that I could not receive anywhere else and I know that this will directly translate to my treating patients in the distant future.
I initially thought medical school was going to be full of overachieving intellectuals that watched surgery videos in their spare time. A little harsh I know, but this theory came from a lot of intense research using the oh so reliable sources on the internet and various television shows which basically meant it was foolproof…. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I got to RCSI that everyone had various interests and were not entirely consumed with academics. This was fully demonstrated by the number of societies (a.k.a clubs) at RCSI. While there are academically centred ones like the RCSI Student Medical Journal and Psychiatry society, there are also culture focused ones like CAS (Caribbean African Society) and sports from kickboxing to basketball. These societies host various events during the year, my favourite one being International Night (which I was honoured to MC, so maybe I am a little biased). This is a show of all of the major cultural groups at RCSI, it’s full of talent, dancing, singing and traditional outfits and is one of the best events (besides International Food Night for reasons I’m sure you can assume) RCSI has to offer, in my humble opinion of course.
The cultural diversity was one of the major factors that drew me to the school besides its academic reputation. There are people from here, there and everywhere. I hear a solid mix of English, Arabic and Malay on a daily basis. I have been exposed to several cultures, accents and of course food. RCSI provides a cultural education that I could not receive anywhere else and I know that this will directly translate to my treating patients in the distant future.
After three semesters at RCSI, I am more than confident I made the right decision. While medical school is not a bed of roses, sometimes there are no roses, anywhere, for an extended period of time. Other days sleep is a luxury I can’t afford and I only have time to eat gummy sweets shaped like dinosaurs and snakes. Even so, I would not change this life for anything. While I work hard to find the study-life balance and at times move to the extremes of both, I have made amazing friends, had the opportunity to travel to different countries, and am studying what I love. RCSI has given me fantastic opportunities and hopefully one day, yellow stethoscope in hand, I can call myself Dr Bunmi Adesanya (until then I will continue watching Grey’s Anatomy and including gummy candy as a sixth food group).