When it came time to pick where I wanted to go to university, I had a few goals for what I wanted out of my college experience. First and foremost, I was adamant that I wanted to study abroad. As a pre-med student, however, this was easier said than done—I thought for a long time that my extensive prerequisites for medical school coupled with my own major courses would exclude me from any international study. As I researched, most programs I looked at were geared solely towards humanities students. Those that did cater to a STEM background were wildly expensive or limited only to short stays. When I stumbled upon Temple’s study abroad offerings, however, I knew I had found what I was looking for. Their programs accommodated students from every academic discipline, and the educational enhancement stipends provided to me through my merit scholarship mitigated the costs.
Temple has allowed me the flexibility to study abroad not just once, but twice now. I spent a significant amount of time doing my own planning as well as working closely with my academic advisor, but through careful consideration I managed to spend my whole spring semester of 2018 at Temple Rome. That semester left me bit by the study abroad bug, and I knew I had to take advantage of Temple’s programs again. I concluded that a summer program was a great option for me, and the Derry program seemed like the perfect fit.
My courses abroad have ranged from intensive Italian language to Irish music—one might ask what relevance months studying art, history, and language have had to my long term goals in medicine. While the academic offerings might not be obviously pertinent, it has become clear to me that my time abroad has done more to prepare me for the realities of everyday medicine than traditional study ever could. A global education has reinforced to me the importance of diversity while making me aware of my own cultural biases. In trading organic chemistry, physics, and microbiology for art history, literature, and politics, I have stepped out from behind my microscope into the broader world of cultural understanding—the same world of the people I will one day be treating. I am more well-rounded, more confident, and more open-minded for having participated in these programs, and as such I am well on my way to becoming a more compassionate, empathetic clinician. I can’t emphasize enough the value of international study to any pre-med and STEM students, and I am proof that it is possible with the right planning.
It has been so interesting comparing my experiences in Rome to my life here in Derry. That initial anticipation and excitement at coming was much the same, but the cities themselves couldn’t be more different. Rome is a sprawling capital city with a population of over three million. After over three months there, I still had items left to check off on my must-see list. Derry, conversely, has a population of just under one hundred thousand. It has a rich history, but I’m confident I will have explored most of it by the time I leave. If you asked me to pick one over the other, however, I’m not sure I could. I love potatoes as much as pasta, and Guinness as much as red wine. I would say that adapting to speaking Italian was harder, except English with a Derry accent might as well be a foreign language to me. In Rome, I felt metropolitan and worldly, but never totally at ease. In Derry, I feel comfortable and at home, but if my experiences travelling have taught me anything it is that comfort can be overrated. I wish I could somehow reconcile the two; if I squint hard enough maybe the Gaelic football stadium could be the Colosseum—the passion of the GAA fans inside could certainly match that of the ancient Romans.
Whatever their differences, nevertheless, I am immensely grateful for my time getting to know both of these amazing cities. The opportunity offered by these programs to gain an intimate understanding of one place is unparalleled. In addition, by the time I finish here in Derry, Temple will have facilitated my visiting 12 countries and a whopping 27 cities in Europe. The friendships I have made abroad are ones that will last a lifetime, even if my previous friends from home might truly cut me off if I start another sentence with “When I was abroad…”. I’ve stepped out of my pre-med box and loved what I’ve found. I think my younger self would be more than happy with my college decision.