Every year, thousands of students leave their countries to progress their education in lands unknown. In recent years, increasing tuition costs in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the UK and US have increased the popularity of seeking education in other countries including non-English speaking countries. In today’s post, Emmanuel caught up with Dr Oge Ezeoke, an intern at a teaching hospital in Nigeria, who completed a medical degree in Ukraine. Oge discusses her experiences and challenges of being an international student in Ukraine and offers some words of advice for anyone considering studying medicine in Ukraine.
APH: Why did you choose to study in Ukraine?
OE: Most people ask me why I went all the way to Ukraine to study medicine. I think the best answer would be, I didn’t. After graduating from high school, I applied to different Nigerian universities without luck and I decided to look outside the country instead of staying at home waiting. I applied to one university in Ukraine and I got accepted.
APH: How were your early experiences and what challenges did you encounter?
OE: I arrived in Ukraine without knowing a single individual. I had no friends or relatives over there. It felt like landing on the moon. At first I was unhappy because I was so far away from home, but I was also afraid because I had never lived on my own. After settling down and completing my registration, I faced my first challenge, the language. My program was taught in English but once I left the classroom, I was on my own. I had to walk around with a translator, usually a foreign student like myself who could speak the language. So let’s say I was independently dependent, and that motivated me to learn the language.
Another challenge was the weather. That was quite a challenge going from the equator to the North Pole.
“Maybe if I had slept in a cold room for a month before going to Ukraine I would have been better prepared for it.”
But my toughest challenge of studying in Ukraine was the racism. At first, I didn’t have a problem with the way people stared at me or my friends, probably because we stared back. But as I began to understand the language, I started to hear the side remarks and the insults. Luckily I was never physically attacked because ladies were told to always walk in pairs and not to stay out late. It was difficult but in a way I appreciated it and after some time it got easier and I learnt how to accommodate it.
APH: Were there any good points?
OE: There were a lot of interesting and new things I enjoyed while I was there. I learnt a new language. I also leant how to cook Indian and East African cuisine. I got to travel and visit new places within the country.
I enjoyed the organization and how orderly things were. I’m not saying things in my country are not organized, it was just nice to have a different feel altogether. A couple of my friends enjoyed the way things were done over there and decided to stay back and further their studies. I thought about it, in fact I almost considered it. But I needed a lot more practical experience and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied staying back in Ukraine.
My school was good for the theoretical knowledge but not for the practical one. I wanted to believe that was because there were so many foreign students and most of the local patients we interacted with in the hospitals sometimes got “overwhelmed” by our presence in the sense that they weren’t too comfortable with the idea of being examined or touched by a foreigner. I believe this was a general thing in most of the universities in Ukraine. And it affected how much practical skills we got to learn or apply and the effect of that was seen when I got back home for my internship. But I was still grateful for the whole learning process.
APH: What can you say about the occasional negative impression about medical studies in Ukraine?
OE: While I was in Ukraine, I heard a lot of things that were said about people who went to study in Ukraine. There was this general idea that only “spoilt children” were sent Ukraine and all we did was go clubbing and become musicians. Now, that isn’t entirely true. Everyone is free to do what he or she wants to do. If someone decides to go to school and study till they drop, their choice.
Medical students back in Nigeria also felt it was a waste of time studying abroad because the “medicine” was different. This is completely wrong! Practicing back in Nigeria has shown me that medicine is basically the same everywhere. The only difference would be that we tend to pay attention to the diseases or conditions which are most common or have the highest incidence in our own environments.
“…medicine is basically the same everywhere. The only difference would be that we tend to pay attention to the diseases or conditions which are most common or have the highest incidence in our own environments.”
APH: What would you say about other students taking the same route you did?
OE: I know right now most parents wouldn’t want to send their children to Ukraine considering the ongoing tensions and the political crisis in the eastern part of the country. This however did not affect the western part of Ukraine.
APH: Any last words about your experience?
OE; Studying in Ukraine was a wonderful and life changing experience for me. I learnt so many things and I also believe it made me a bit more focused. So if anyone is interested in studying Medicine in Ukraine, I would advise the person to go ahead. It’s not as expensive as other medical schools in Western Europe or Europe as a whole.
If you don’t have a problem with the weather or racism, then it’s ok to study in Ukraine. Plus, if you would like to simply get a degree in Medicine and further your career in a different geographical location then it isn’t a bad idea. The reason is the postgraduate programs in Ukraine, in my opinion presently doesn’t benefit foreigners because of the struggle to acquire practical skills. All in all, it is still a wonderful place to study medicine.
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Thank you for sharing this, Quite informative, especially issues regarding the weather and racism. My concerns however is the quality of (medical) education. I assume it is best for medical students in Ukraine to come back to Nigeria and practise, like the internship.