Exploring elective studies abroad

Studying in a different country can profoundly shape a student’s educational experience. Image: 123RF

WHETHER you are pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies, the chance to immerse yourself in different cultures, healthcare systems, or research environments while studying overseas can be invaluable.

Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) – an international branch campus of Newcastle University, UK, is renowned for its Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme.

Part of the course involves medical elective study, whereby students will undertake an eight-week period of elective study in any specialism almost anywhere in the world at the end of their fourth year.

This opportunity enables students to explore new cultures, gain clinical experience, and conduct research, enriching their academic learning and personal development.

Lim Jun Jie (standing, far right), found that exploring elective experiences abroad provides valuable opportunities for professional growth and networking.Lim Jun Jie (standing, far right), found that exploring elective experiences abroad provides valuable opportunities for professional growth and networking.

NUMed alumnus Lim Jun Jie, who chose to do his elective in plastic surgery in the UK, is currently a specialised foundation doctor in medical education and an honorary clinical teacher at University of Sheffield, UK.

During the course of study, Lim was part of a case that involved three different surgical specialities – an experience that allowed him to learn new techniques and understand the importance of teamwork for successful outcomes.

“The abdominal part of the procedure was done with the DaVinci Robot and I got the chance to sit in the robotic console and feel the controls. The final part of the procedure was a perineal defect reconstruction using a gluteal turnover flap which was performed by my supervisor, a plastic surgeon.

“I was able to scrub in and assist for this part. This is a relatively new technique that involves less extensive incisions,” Lim said.

According to Ang Zi Yi, undertaking elective components in another country is a good opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zone and hone their independence.According to Ang Zi Yi, undertaking elective components in another country is a good opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zone and hone their independence.

Ang Zi Yi, a fellow NUMed student who is currently in Year 5 of the MBBS programme, pursued her electives in hepatobiliary and transplant surgery, and respiratory and transplant medicine at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, UK.

She explained that for students in healthcare-related fields, elective placements in hospitals, clinics, or research institutions abroad offer invaluable hands-on experience.

“As there were other medical students from all around the world doing their electives as well, we would divide among ourselves and choose between ward rounds, operation theatres, and clinics.

“Most memorable for me were cases involving patients who were initially really ill because their organs were not functioning well, but they underwent transplant surgery, recovered well, and attended clinic follow-ups for several years,” she said.

Finding balance

When studying abroad, it is undeniable that students will need to strike a balance between their clinical responsibilities, leisure activities and travel. Lim found that careful planning and time management are essential.

“Ultimately, finding balance as a medical student requires self-awareness, discipline, and the willingness to make sacrifices when necessary. It's about understanding your priorities and managing your time effectively to achieve both academic success and personal fulfilment,” he pointed out.

As clinical placements on weekdays typically last from 9am to 5pm, Lim would plan his travels during weekends.

For Ang, the two-week break between electives gave her the opportunity to travel further and explore different destinations around the UK.

Opening new doors

Both Lim and Ang strongly feel that students should take advantage of elective subjects.

“I would highly recommend that you take part in the electives in another country, even if you have already planned to only work in your country. It is quite an invaluable experience for one to embrace this, as you get to learn to be independent and venture outside your comfort zone,” said Ang.

For Lim, the opportunity to immerse himself in academic pursuits such as research projects, evaluation, quality improvements, and audit projects alongside clinical duties, was incredibly enriching.

“Clinician academics are often more accessible in countries like the UK, providing students with valuable mentorship and opportunities for professional growth.

“Engaging with these experts can offer unique insights and open doors to collaborative research projects or other academic endeavours,” he added.

By embracing the multitude of elective options available from NUMed’s medical elective study, students can broaden their horizons, deepen their understanding of global issues, and emerge as well-rounded global citizens prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Unlocking opportunities

NUMed has always been at the forefront of producing practice-ready graduates. In addition to its acclaimed undergraduate degrees in medicine and biomedical sciences, the university also offers a Foundation in Biological and Biomedical Sciences programme, as well as opportunities for postgraduate study.

The May 2024 intake of the Foundation in Biological and Biomedical Sciences programme is still open. For more information, please email admissions@newcastle.edu.my, call 07-555 3800, WhatsApp 011-1231 5411/012-7849456, or visit www.ncl.ac.uk/numed

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