My Medical School Experience - UK to Bulgaria

We have all received medical attention at certain points of our lives, and I can say that holds true especially for my family and myself. Medical professionals, hospital admissions and treatment have been at the forefront of our world at times. This is my motivation for studying medicine, the fact that I can give back and be of service to the wider community, in the same way we have been helped, is what drives me. The journey to studying Medicine is not always as straight forward as intended and there are many obstacles that you must overcome first.

The journey may differ but the destination remains the same  ~ Melanin Medics

For me, I knew that I definitely wanted to study medicine and did not want to do a degree before this, if possible. I had thoroughly prepared and undertaken work experience in various healthcare sectors. My GCSE grades met the requirements to apply for Medicine in the UK but I wasn’t too sure about my A-Level grades meeting the requirements, so I started researching other options in case I wasn’t able to get into any UK Medical Schools. I found out that I would be able to study Medicine in Europe and still be able to practice in the European Economic Area which currently includes the UK however since Brexit it is unknown whether we will remain in the EEA so this is something consider. It is actually much cheaper to study at certain European Universities, than in the UK however studying abroad means that I privately fund my degree as well as the cost of living as I am not entitled to Student Finance. As it turned out, I didn’t get any offers for UK medical schools, so I focused all my effort on trying to get accepted into my current university.


THE APPLICATION PROCESS

The application process was pretty smooth and straightforward, as I had a lot of help from the agency that I used and sent different documents such as my GSCE grades, medical records etc but a personal statement was not required. Even though I didn’t receive UK offers, going through the process of applying through UCAS was very beneficial in the long run because I had to really evaluate my strengths and weaknesses which is something I’ll potentially be doing for the rest of my life. As mentioned previously, I applied through an agency independent from UCAS which  dealt with the translation and legalisation of my documents as well as logistics which in total cost me over £200. Applications can be submitted free of charge but you have to pay for translation and legalisation.

I applied blindly, meaning I had never visited the University until after I was accepted however I would recommend that if you have the means to go and visit the prospective University before you apply, then do it. I applied at the start of year 13 (September/ October 2015) and received an offer in April 2016 however my place was not confirmed until after I received my A-Level results (August 2016) and sent the necessary documents over the following year. The Entry Requirements include B/C in A-Level Biology and Chemistry and you also have to do Entry Tests which determine whether you’re accepted or not. The Entry Tests involve a Chemistry Test and a Biology Test in which you have to achieve above 50% and the tests last for approximately an hour.


ADAPTING TO A NEW COUNTRY

I started Medical School in Pleven, Bulgaria in February 2017 as their academic year begins in February. I know what you’re all wondering, what was it like being in a Eastern European country all by myself at the age of 18? To be honest, it was not as bad as I thought it would be and I think that was due to being as prepared as I could be having visited the country after I had applied twice. I lived in a 2 bed apartment (private accommodation) which is what most students tend to do as the cost of living is significantly lower than that of the UK. I shared the apartment with another Afro-Caribbean international student from the UK and quickly got to know the other international students who I had previously communicated with through a Facebook Group Chat.

In terms of Bulgaria itself, I have to be honest in admitting that I have experienced racism in different forms such as verbal abuse and unwarranted attention but I have come to realise that it is more due to ignorance even though there is no excuse. It was a huge culture shock when I first came and I must admit their ways of life took a lot of getting used to. Having a large cohort of other students made it more bearable as we were all going through the same things at the same time so we were able to encourage and support one another. Adapting to a new county has been quite the experience, as Bulgaria is quite different to the UK even though it is in Europe. For example, Bulgarians shake their head when they mean “yes”. There is also the language which I enjoy learning and am still getting to grips with. Bulgarian uses a completely different alphabet system (Cyrillic), which definitely takes some time to get used to!


MY UNIVERSITY & COURSE