Three years of Medical School Round-up

In 2014, when I started studying Medicine, hearing of my graduation date which is set in 2020 sounded ridiculous and so far away. There were some people I know who were moaning and pity me when I told them that I would be graduating in six years. On the other hand, there were a few wise people who told me that the time at Uni is going to fly by so fast. And it did indeed. Being 14 days in in 2018, knowing that I will be a doctor in 2 1/2 years is a exciting but also scary thought to have. I’m in 4th year now and I will have about one year at Uni until I’ll start working in hospitals as a student and elective.

For me, the idea of studying abroad wasn’t always intended and maybe, it wasn’t by choice in the beginning. Living in a country which is very grade focused and has extraordinary hard and strict criteria for people who want to attend Uni, specially for Medicine, didn’t leave me with too many opportunities to stay. I started to open my mind a bit more to the inevitable choice of moving country. At that point of my life, I already had spend some time abroad in Oxford and in the U.S. and lived by myself, so the idea of moving wasn’t super scary and I was sure, I could create a beautiful time for myself abroad.

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year one

My first year in Vienna was exciting and fun. I had one friend in Vienna already who I met in Oxford at my language school and I lived with her for three days before I could move to my students dorm. The dorm itself was beautiful and in the city centre. I had a sharing room, so there were two of us living in one room and we shared a small kitchen and bathroom with a third person. At my first day at the dorm while checking in, I met one of my closest friends. We talked for two hours while waiting to get to the dorms office to get our keys, and we got along immediately. After seeing my room, I met up with her and we went for lunch. My roommates showed up a day later or so and unfortunately, I wasn’t very lucky with my roommates the whole first year of Uni. I don’t want to spill the tea and get into details, but it wasn’t easy to live with them. I felt really lonely and homesick in the first year and didn’t feel as I’d belong in Vienna. I tried to avoid to be at home as much as I could but to have to avoid your own little room makes settling in in a new environment quite difficult.

On a positive note, I grew quite a big group of friends at Uni and at other places. When I went to my very first lecture, I met my lovely friend Lisa. I just sat next to her and introduced myself to her and we clicked instantly. I’m very happy to call her my friend every since. As my classes are quite small and consisted of 10-11 people a semester, I got to knew so many people, which was amazing. In my first week in Vienna, my dorm friend and I went to an event of the main Uni where people would meet up to attend the long night of museums. There we met two girls, we became friends and spend a lot of time together in the following months and years.

At the first year, I attended every single lecture and was all in all very excited and motivated to learn. We had lectures in the mornings for five hours a day and some seminars in the afternoon. The seminars were pretty light in retrospective and the tutors and professors wouldn’t test us. We had our first oral exams in April in physiology which was quite stressful back then as we never had experiences any kind of exams at our Uni. I felt very happy to finally being able to study the subjects I was dreaming of for quite a while before that and took every challenge very serious! As my Uni gives you and your study group a schedule each semester, which you have to stick to and which is very school like, I always had that academic frame of classes with a fixed group of people to attend, which has it’s pros and cons.

There was one exam at the end of the year which was on everybodies mind and was quite frighting. It basically covered all the first year subjects such as Chemistry, Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Genetics and Environment/Public Health in multiple question format which was a first for me. The summer days were hot and long and we spend our days studying so much for that exam as we never had before. My dorm situation got to another level of hell. My friend had moved into her own flat at that point and still had her single room at the dorm and kindly offered me to stay there two weeks before the exam as I couldn’t handle my roomies anymore.

Studying for that exam was a experience. I had never studied that intense for anything in my life before and the material seemed endless. There was also a condition on this test: if someone failed on their first and second attempt, they had to take a full gap year without being able to continue their studies! As there were a semi high percentage failing each year on their first attempt, the fear of “wasting” an entire year was enormous.

The end of June came and so came freedom. We finished our exam and celebrated on the hospitals campus with white wine and beer on a stressed empty stomach and went out the same night. I’ll never forget the sunny, light day after the exam without any duties.

 

year two

The second year started really, really exciting. I moved to my own little apartment! I spend the whole summer back in my home city, working, to save money for furniture and decor and dreamed about my place. I also really missed Uni.

My sweet parents decided to fly to Vienna with me to help me with my flat. It needed a lot of work as my flat is quite old and it needed to be renovated. I needed a bit of time to get used to live completely by myself, but I so enjoyed it after that horrendous dorm experience!

My schedule in second year was so different to the first. We had a hell lot of seminars and each of them needed preparation in advance and we got a hell lot of oral exams. We started with a term of academical writing in order to prepare us for our Diploma thesis in 4th/5th year and had seminars Diseases & Causes, Pharmacology (Antibiotics and Cytostatic’s mostly), Endocrinology, Heart and Lung. It was so exciting to finally have subjects which covered clinical medicine and diseases!

The third semester was all about Pharmacology though, the most frightened seminars. The Pharmacology term at our Uni is basically a psychotic emotional week of tears, sweat, no sleep at all and humiliation. My study group and I had one of the most intense (I don’t know how to refer him without cursing, so intense it is) Professors for that week and unfortunately, he saw how scared I was of him. So he picked me as his victim of the week. I failed the exam. It was a really hard time for me, not only because I didn’t pass but rather because of that grade of Humiliation I experienced for the very first time of my life. And on a honest note, studying (and failing) Pharmacology taught me how to really study and to always ask myself why something is the way it is. I’m not the biggest fan of oral exams and prefer writing, but I feel like you have to prepare on a whole other much higher level for oral ones. It kinda helps us better with remembering the material and with improving cognitive process.

The most horrible week ended and my friends and I went to Südtirol straight after. It was nice to socialize again and relax in a magical winter wonderland with lots of snow and cosiness. I retook the exam and luckily, it was a writing one. I passed and tried to move on. My next semester was a lot better. I still had a bitter aftertaste of that previous one, but I was determined to study more and be more confident in my oral exams. We also started our first Anatomy/Dissection class which I absolutely loved at second year. There were six of us on one body donation, each of us worked on a different anatomical field and in the end of the semester, we had to study all the fields from our colleges. The schedule was intense though, we had three to four oral exam seminars in different subjects per week and no time to breath between them. But as the subjects were so interesting and delivered so much knowledge, I really loved it and I was so proud of myself and anybody else for managing year two. We also had a practical exam at the end of that Uni year were we performed medical actions on dummies such as taking blood samples, establishing vascular access, placing a urinary tract catheter and so on. It was a very important exam and after completing it, we were allowed to attend clinical clerkships in hospitals.

There was a last exam at the end of the year like the one in first year again, so we were very busy with studying until the end of June. I left that year with so much experience, good and bad, and really felt that I gained so much applicable medical knowledge!

 

year three

Well, I really don’t know how to start on that one. Year three was really crazy and an up and down for me and definitely my least favourite year so far.

My semester started with a lot of Anatomy. At that point I felt I was only studying for Anatomy for months and it was a intense period. I have to admit, I lost my love for that subject during that time as it was the most present subject we studied for a whole semester. We had oral exams every single anatomy class like the year before, but the tutors who tested us overdid it a bit and asked for a lot of preparation. At that semester, I also had my very first tutor job which was so rewarding and fun. I taught the second year students in practical Microbiology and prepared them for the Pharmacology exams and felt every pain with them!

The second half of year three turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. I don’t know how everything shifted that fast from that exciting second year to this! To begin with, the seminars weren’t as good as they used to be unfortunately. The first seminar series were academical writing and statistics and our main subjects had been Neurology and Senses. I felt like the Professors I had weren’t really interested in teaching, specially in Pharmacology and Physiology. They just turned up to the Seminars to test us (again, sometimes in a humiliating way), which was such a shame because I was looking forward to Neurology for so many months now as it is one of my fave subjects. Thinking about that semester now, it is a total blur to me and at the end of it, a lot of my friends and I didn’t really feel that we learned that much. Maybe we were spoiled from the second year were we gained so much medical knowledge at the shortest time. Anyways, there was, again, the exam at the end of June waiting for us, but I decided to take it in September, when I would come back from Japan. I also finished my last Anatomy/Dissection class ever and we all were very happy about that and it was also a very interesting one because we got to dissect the brain and the spine!

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All in all, I had an incredible time at Uni so far! I’m almost finished with the first half of my 4th year and I have to say, this year is so much better then the last. Starting with my diploma thesis and organising some more upcoming clerkships and the electives makes me realise how far I have come already. I’m really looking forward to the remains of my Uni time in Vienna and abroad and I hope you liked my super long round up post!

12 Comments

  1. Vienna seems so nice and lovely. Your course sounds intense – very classroom orientated! Don’t you get any patient contact before 5th year? In the UK, our clinical years are year 3- 5 and I believe seeing patients is the best way to learn 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading! Yeah, it’s pretty classroom orientated which sometimes definitely has it’s negatives!
      we get patient contact from the second year on! we have to complete 12 weeks of clerkship during our studies, 8 out of 12 before entering 5th year 🙂 But speaking of the clerkships, we have to attend them during holidays and are not allowed to do them during the semester!
      In 5th year we spend our time mostly at hospitals and then an elective program follows at 6th year (which I believe is similar to the Foundation Programme in the UK?) So it’s basically 1,5 years of patient contact and 12 obligatory weeks of clerkship (but most of us attend more!) And yes you are so right, seeing patients is definitely the best way to learn! I constantly feel I know nothing until I get into a hospital and see patients haha 🙂

  2. Thank you for taking the time to explain the system there! Are you originally from Austria? 🙂 I guess with all the classroom work, you guys become very knowledgeable and know the ‘ins and outs’ of everything lol!

    Foundation programme here is a 2 year programme after graduation where you work as a newly-qualified doctor in different departments in a hospital for 4 months at a time 🙂

    Sounds stressful that clerkships can’t be done during semester time! Have you thought about what you wanna do for your elective? 🙂

    1. of course! no, I’m actually from Hamburg (Germany), I moved to Vienna three years ago to go to Uni here! 🙂
      foundation programme sounds a bit like my final/elective year, we work in different apartments for 4 months as well (and depending on the hospital, we take over and basically do everything qualified doctors do) and afterwards we choose a subject area for good 🙂 Have you decided on your future field yet?

      yeah I feel like I know what fields I’ll choose for my elective, we have to do 4 months in internal Medicine, 4 in Surgery and 4 in what ever we want, so mine probably will be Oncology, Neurosurgery and Pediatric Surgery (2 months each) and 2 months Neurology and 2 months Cardiology 🙂

      I’m actually planning to do one part of the elective in the UK! In which city are you studying (if you don’t mind me asking!)?

    2. Ahh I see! Yes that is pretty much the same as what Foundation doctors do! 🙂 Oo that is a very nice mix! I guess you’re a big fan of Neuro then? Aha

      I’m pretty much 100% certain I will specialise in Emergency Medicine when the time comes to choose a specialty! I just love everything about it. 🙂 Only downside of EM is that the rota can be quite brutal sometimes!

      And yep or course, I’m studying in London atm but after graduation I’ll probably choose to work somewhere else in the UK just to explore other parts of the country 🙂

    3. haha yes I’m kinda into neuro 🙂 EM is amazing too, I don’t have too much experience in that field yet, but I’m organising a clerkship there right now!

      Oh, that’s so cool! I would love to do a surgery elective in london 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing this! It always great to hear how different the medical school experience can be depending on where you choose to go! Wish you all the best as you continue your medical career. Just followed you, check out my blog when you can!

    1. Thank you! Yeah it’s super interesting to hear about different experiences from medstudents all over the world!
      Great, I’m going to have a look at your blog!

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