Updated: May 31, 2020
By Dinul Hettiarachchi
I am a 3rd-year medical student at Newcastle University. When I moved to the UK in 2018 from Sri Lanka (where I was born and raised), I was nervous, overwhelmed and excited to start a new chapter in my life. Looking back at it now, I am so glad I chose Newcastle to be my ‘home’ for the next 5 years. What really is ‘home’ though? (woah, look at me asking those really deep questions).
As cliched as it may sound, I realized that ‘home’ was a feeling of ease and warmth (not the weather) which I learnt in Newcastle. From the friendly Geordies to the diverse community of students studying at Newcastle, one is bound to be welcomed with a smile around every corner.
Since this article is not about my epiphanies, I will get back to the point and tell you reasons I love Newcastle as a medical student and a student in general.
Reasons to love Newcastle Med:
-State of the art facilities. From the David Shaw lecture theatre to the dissecting room with SECTRAS, my university provides its students with an unparalleled learning experience to everyone. (STORYTIME: when I came here for my interviews, I remember asking the stupid question of “are the dissections done on human cadavers or animals” to a student ambassador taking us on a tour of the medical school. It’s on human cadavers. Obviously.)
- Early exposure to clinical settings through Early Clinical and Community Experience (ECCE), which incorporates a few GP and hospital placements throughout the year starting as early as Year 1. This is a factor which I praise my university most for. Grab those stethoscopes and prod along as this exposure allows you to learn course material from consenting patients through first-hand observation. You get to learn valuable communication skills and gain tips on doing physical examinations from real patients.
-The Walton Library. This place will soon become everyone’s second ‘home’ and more often than not, nerds and jocks alike will come to socialize in this library- although the main intention is to study and be good medical students (or so we tell ourselves before entering). From its cafeteria, to ‘The Snug’ with plush sofas, or more secluded and quiet spaces like the ‘Quiet study area’, or if group studying in ‘Group Study’ rooms is your thing- the Walton offers it all.
-The North East region is one of the best regions in the country for research and has consistently produced some of the best healthcare professionals in the country. As a student, you have a plethora of opportunities to attend conferences and build a network of mentors to help you achieve your career goals. Be it getting articles published in leading journals or presenting at international conferences!
-Case-based learning is an approach which really appeals to me as it compiles all the relevant teaching, from anatomy to physiology, into one teaching block. This helps me make more sense of the course material and apply it to actual clinical cases which gives me a well-rounded understanding of complex concepts. As a student entering the MBBS program immediately after A-levels, I was initially a bit overwhelmed to learn so many new concepts at once. However, the spiral curriculum ensures you add necessary information to your knowledge bank at the right time, so you will soon realize why this method of teaching helps with your transition to university teaching.
-Regular communication skills seminars help me refresh my memory and make the most of my ECCE visits when I meet actual patients. Whilst most of the teaching is delivered through lectures, the university also has seminars where we are separated into groups of 15 to 20 students (your seminar groups are assigned at the beginning of Year 1 and will remain unchanged in Year 2 as well). This helps you learn about intriguing topics through an interactive approach.
-A range of medical societies are affiliated with the university and will help you connect with students with common interests. As a committee member of the surgical society on campus, I have met many students interested in pursuing careers related to surgery and we get to discuss pertinent topics in the field of surgery through different events like surgical skills session, conferences etc. This provides a myriad of excellent opportunities to build your network of colleagues and mentors!
Reasons to love Newcastle:
-It’s often voted as the #1 city for student nightlife in the country and they are not wrong. From a good ol Digi Monday to Tup Tup Sundays, there is a night out dedicated to every day of the week (if your liver can handle it that is). Wednesdays are special due the sports socials which happen every week and keep an eye out for the creative costumes each team wears to boast of their unity (dressed up as promiscuous fruits and more).
-If you’re a sucker for a good takeaway after a sweaty night out or whilst you’re doing an all-nighter at the 24-hour Philip Robinson library (aka ‘the Robbo’), NCL does not fail to impress. A classic ‘MUNCHIES’ grub or a cheeky Maccies at 3am from the 24-hour McDonald’s down Northumberland Street, NCL has a lot to offer (although some would argue that these facilities are there for students ‘studying’ at night to grab a meal and revise some more. OK boomer).
-Coming from a tropical island (Sri Lanka), I usually find myself yearning for a beach trip. With picturesque beaches like Tynemouth and Whitley Bay a mere 20-minute metro ride away, I can easily go to the beach for some fish and chips with my mates.
-With regard to the metro, I am a fan of the public transport in NCL too. Since the Haymarket metro station is just a pedestrian crossing away from the main campus vicinity, getting around the city could not be more convenient. While the metro is an attractive aspect of the city, NCL is a relatively small city and many facilities are a mere few minutes away from campus, so you can easily walk on a daily basis (save some money and get that daily dose of cardio too).
-Northumberland Street is situated next to Haymarket station on one end and the other end is in the heart of the city (near Grey’s monument). This street is vibrant throughout the year. From street performers performing every day and the annual Christmas market studded with pop-up shops (serving anything from Bailey’s Hot Chocolate to Yorkshire pudding wraps!), Northumberland Street never fails to surprise you.
-The Quayside (often mispronounced by many internationals, me included), this area of the city boasts of its finer restaurants by the river and a stroll by the many bridges of ‘the Toon’ (what NCL is often called). Cross the Millennium bridge and go for a contemporary art exhibition at the Baltic. Go down the eerie but beautiful stone-paved steps descending to the quayside for a romantic movie like (or horror?) experience.
-29 Greggs stores in Newcastle. Yeah, that’s not a typo. NCL is the Greggs capital of the UK with a store around every corner. Just going to leave this information here.
-Jesmond Dene is like a well-kept secret of NCL (although it’s not really a secret) because of the ethereal atmosphere with its tranquil wooded valley. Watch the Ouseburn river meander through the woods and flow as a waterfall, while perched on a rock listening to some ‘Rejjie Snow’ or ‘eery’. This change in atmosphere is once again only a few minutes away from the city centre is enjoyed by those adventurous students seeking a calming stroll every now and then.
I could tell you more as to why I love this city, but it is better explored with your own eyes. When I was deciding between Glasgow University and Newcastle University, I was convinced to come to NCL because of my experience here when I came for my interviews. Hence, I would highly recommend taking a day or two after (or before) your medical school interview at Newcastle, to truly find out what NCL has to offer for YOU. All in all, Newcastle is the university for you if you’re looking for a good, affordable student life (with the perks of most things being a cheaper than in the South). I have definitely enjoyed being a student here and going back to my deep analogy of it being ‘home’ (I bet you’re thinking “oh no, not again”), this city introduced me to some of the best people I have ever met and it always makes me feel safe and happy. Thus, at Newcastle, I am home.