Medefine – University of Bristol
Kiyara Fernando – 1st Year Medicine, University of Bristol
25th April 2016

If there were one word to describe Bristol, it would be “supportive”. The Sunday Times named Bristol “Britain’s best city to live in” and I can definitely vouch for that! The street art, independent shops, theatre, outdoor activities, festivals, music; it is a city with character and culture, with diverse people. Bristol is very relaxed and over the last few months, has started to feel like home. Whether you’re comfortable in the heart of a bustling city or prefer the serenity of the countryside, the University of Bristol’s accommodation caters to all preferences and I can guarantee that whatever niche you fit into, there is a place for you in Bristol.

To list out all the reasons why I fell in love with Bristol would be overwhelming, but a few of the top things that drew me to this vibrant city are as follows.

The University of Bristol has one of the best teaching faculties in the UK, with a teaching method that encourages self-directed learning but with an accomplished teaching staff helping you along the way. The teaching style suited me perfectly, with a blend of lectures, practicals, case-based discussions and in the future, assisting doctors and other healthcare professionals in their roles in the clinical setting. The medical course at Bristol trains you to be a doctor from day one, with patient contact starting in the first year with GP placements and clinical training in Bristol and surrounding areas in following years. The transport network in Bristol makes travelling within the city and to neighboring areas easy. I run for relaxation and since Bath is only 10 minutes away by train, I was able to run the half marathon in aid of Breast Cancer.

Bristol encourages its students to develop into global citizens, with internship opportunities ranging from final year electives in Angiers, France and volunteering in first year to help build water tanks in Uganda with the Bristol Volunteers for Development Abroad society.

The degree emphasises early involvement with patients and focuses on developing clinical skills. During each year the percentage of lectures, independent study and placements vary.

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Time in lectures & seminars36% 25%15%30%9%
Time in independent study62% 65%29%26%2%
Time on placement2% 10%56%44%89%
Source; Unistats UK

Bristol also offers a 6-year intercalated degree that would provide an additional BSc qualification alongside the MBBS degree. Students are given the option to research and explore their interests in fields like medical ethics, biochemistry and several other options for a year. An intercalated degree at Bristol broadens your horizons and provides an additional qualification in a specific area external to the medical course syllabus.

The first year at University can be a trying time for anyone, but as an international student so far away from home it can be especially difficult. The University of Bristol understands that international students need extra support. There is an international medical students’ society where people from different countries meet and support each other. Older students who have experienced the hardships of living away from home act as mentors and help us along the way. The support does not end here – with a medic family system in place at Bristol each medical student is given two medic parents who take care of you during your time at university. The medic parents are usually 2 nd year students and you’re often given a medic sibling who is in the same year as you, so that you can go through any difficulties that you may face together… like a family would! Students can opt for a peer mentor, typically an older student in the 2nd or 3rd year who helps with any academic guidance you may need and can advise you on surviving your first year!

The weightage of written exams, coursework and practical exams varies each year.

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Written exams100%100%58%57%21%
Coursework0%0%0%27%21%
Practical exams0%0%42%17%58%
Sources; Unistats UK

A cardinal aspect of life as a Bristol medic is the easy accessibility to academics and academic resources. Our lectures are recorded online and can be re-watched at any time. Our lecturers are medical pioneers who are leaders in their fields – top clinicians and researchers who are open to discussions and questions, being taught by them is a privilege. Each student is assigned an academic mentor who is a clinician in Bristol or in a neighboring area, they give advice and guide you for the duration of the course to help you make decisions beneficial to your career. Bristol has a state of the art anatomy facilities including cadaveric prosections and we have access to it from year 1.

With regards to extracurricular activities, Bristol is teeming with student life. There are over 300 student societies for sport, dance, language, faith, politics, business, culture and cuisine. The student union says that if there is a society that you think would benefit student life, it can always be introduced if it gathers enough interest. (If you were thinking of a Quidditch society, there already is one!) There are also opportunities for part-time work in Bristol. As an international student on a Tier 4 visa, I am currently permitted to work 20 hours a week according to government regulation and I have used that opportunity to tutor Biology and Chemistry to GCSE students in my spare time. Galenicals is the medical society here at Bristol and it even has its own sports teams, choir and theatre company. The medical societies are ideal forums for medical students from different years to interact with each other and share a common interest. I enjoyed playing netball for the medics’ netball team and being first year representative for Bristol Society of Medical Education and Research. It allowed me to mix with my peers and seniors a lot better. I played a role in the medics drama this year – engaging in theatre, which I have always loved, made me feel very much at ease and built friendships with my medic peers. Being an international student was never a problem for me, and I’m sure it won’t be an issue for you either – all students are given equal opportunity and are treated fairly.

Bristol is nothing if not diverse, and as an international student I found it very stimulating meeting students of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds and being able to interact and learn from each other’s experiences. The friends I have made at university have different lifestyles and different goals but we support and respect each other to the best of our ability.

With outstanding medical teaching, a wide range of extracurricular activities and a focus on supporting each other, coming to Bristol was the best decision I made. I hope you enjoy your time at Bristol as much as I am enjoying mine.

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