What makes one med course different from the others?
Many of us who took a leap of faith and moved to a different country to pursue the dream of becoming a doctor, have faced a sneaky truth: you really, really don’t know what you’re getting at until you start living it.
Kad is a first-year med student in the English-taught med course in Padova. He seems like he’s gotten through thick and thin to get there. With an IMAT score not enough to get in Padova the first time around, he got accepted into a medical course in Ukraine, where he studied for a year. In the end, he arrived back in Padova where, as he says, his heart belongs.
Experience is gold. So finally a student in Padova, Kad has a precious perspective, a base for comparison between med schools, and some quite interesting observations about Padova to point out.
Where are you staying in Padova?
When I first came here when I got accepted in November, it was hard to find an apartment. So I opted out for a University Residence, which I applied for through ESU. It’s quite nice, people are international, there are also a lot of Erasmus students living here. We often gather at night to chat and it feels like being a part of a family. There’s also a gym here, a garden, a study room. I’d definitely apply for this Residence again.
Are people in there also medical students?
This is a good point actually. They are students of all sorts of faculties, which in my opinion is amazing. Medical students are often very competitive and sometimes a little hard to communicate with. So having a shift in pace by making connections with people from a different background feels fresh.
So you felt the competitiveness among med students right from the start?
Yes, at first when you come here it feels like a dream come true. But then you get to experience some of the hardships, and I can easily say the competitive environment is one of them. And still, there are two sides to the coin. We share notes, lecture transcriptions and help each other out. We even make up example IMAT questions together to help out the next incoming generation.
Does the University offer scholarships?
Padova is a great place to apply if you’d like to get a scholarship or a project grant. Everybody gets a scholarship, somehow. Applications happen by submitting your proof of income documents to ESU and based on the academic merit, you can apply simultaneously (or separately) for a scholarship, residence, and canteen. If you do get a spot in the residence and use the service of the canteen, the money is subtracted from your scholarship. If you opt-out to use the scholarship only, you’d get the full amount you’ve been awarded.
The tuition fee is also calculated on the basis of the student’s income and international students rarely pay anything actually.
Interestingly, Padova is also the right place to get a scholarship If you’re a female! The reason is that the first-ever female to graduate from a University studied in Padova Uni, so there are a lot of grants dedicated to female students.
How is Padova University coping in the times of the pandemic?
Something I didn’t expect is that right from the start of Covid, the university supports us financially. They cover your rent expenses if you show them your rental contract. In fact, the University has done a great deal to back us up during these times, always with great empathy towards students.
You’ve lived in a couple of different places in your life. What’s the feeling you get living in Padova?
The city is only 25 min away from Venice, which is just amazing!
Padova is known to be a student city, and everything is cut off for a good social life. And despite the language barrier, people are very welcoming, which is something I greatly appreciate.
Every city has its own culture and you can easily feel people’s characteristic atmosphere. I’ve visited other places in Italy and I find that those living in bigger cities, Milan for example, are much busier and the attitude to strangers slightly different. Living in a smaller town predisposes for a better and much calmer connection between people.
Do you find the classes in Padova any different compared to the other medschool you’ve attended?
In the first year, we start from the very basics. I believe if you want to raise a doctor, you need to give the student a strong foundation. It’s needed to start from the ground level before going into more advanced subjects, such as Anatomy, for example, in order to understand where it all comes from.
What I find very interesting about the classes, and I haven’t seen it in other universities, is that the medical course is strongly influenced by the Psychological Faculty of the University.
Padova has a very strong Psychology department, one of the best in Europe, with a special emphasis on Neuropsychology and Cognitive Function.
In the first year, we have a class called “Approach to the patient” which is more discussion-oriented, simply opening our minds pushing us to think medically and yet outside of the box. It invites us to look at diseases from both a Psychological and Pathological perspective. If you understand how the brain works, you’d also know how to approach patients. If you can’t give empathy to the patient and try to understand their emotion, then you’re not a doctor, but just someone who’s merely trying to solve a puzzle. You need to know how to show them you’re there for them and be able to give Psychological support.
In a recent class we had, we talked about the experience of people who had a near-death-experience (NDE) and why they tend to always have almost the same visualization. You know, you first see a light and then you see someone familiar who leads you to the light. So we contemplated together with the Professor on the possible biological causes of this phenomenon.
Another thing quite rarely discussed in medical schools that we do talk about here in Padova is how does déjà vu happen, why does it happen. Of course, we don’t have answers to these questions, but we simply brainstorm. And I think this is what a good education should be like.
In the second year, there is a native American professor, who studies neuroscience behind meditation.
Classes seem mind-blowingly interesting. I wonder how are exams conducted?
Exams are similarly thought-provoking. Oftentimes when we have a written exam, we need to think from a multidisciplinary viewpoint to form our answer.
Can this evaluation be objective though?
They have a checklist of what you’d need to include in your essay, of course.
Also, the University takes the student experience and feedback seriously. There is a scale, with which students evaluate the teaching performance of a professor. The professor then adjusts accordingly or is changed with a better fit.
Having studied the first year of med school both in Padova and in another University, what’s your takeaway?
It’s commonplace for med schools to make students simply memorize facts. I’ve experienced it myself back in Ukraine. I believe a quality education shouldn’t answer a question but should make you ask yourself another question instead. And this is exactly what happens in Padova.
(c) Featured image source: pixabay.com
Elena Mitsulova (Pavia)
I am a 5th-year student in the Harvey course of Pavia. During my Italian journey and all these years spent in Pavia, I've gathered a valuable experience that I am happy to share with you.