Updated: May 7, 2020
By Nadia Ali Naja
As a second-year medical student at University College London (UCL), I have developed a love of the university and of London. UCL is quite traditional in some ways, with a separation of lecture-based years and clinical years. The first two years are mostly composed of lectures, however there are a range of other activities interspersed through the two years. These include some visits to different social care settings, computer based learning and small group tutorials. We are lucky enough to be one of the only medical schools in, which full body dissection is offered. At first, I was quite daunted by the idea of doing this. This was because, despite choosing a career in medicine, I was quite squeamish and the idea of dissecting a cadaver was quite scary. However, they ease you into it and it became a very useful experience, which helped me get over my squeamishness – you can also choose to be very hands on or just observe.
Third year is composed of the intercalated BSc – there are many different ones you can apply to. If you work hard, you may end up with your name in a publication, which will be great when you’re applying for jobs! Years 4 – 6 are the clinical years, where you are unleashed onto experience of many different specialties. You do not really get any time in actual hospitals before year 3 (depending on your iBSc) or 4. This is unlike, some other universities, where you get placements in year one. I personally like this, because it means you have some good ground knowledge before you start in placements, and hence will get more from them. There are plenty of opportunities to give feedback to the admin team, who adapt the course accordingly.
You may be intimidated by the idea of going to university in such a big city, however there are so many societies that cater to any possible interests you may have. Also, you get to know a lot of people through freshers and you can also attend events, where you can meet people from the other universities in London. Also, UCL is massive. It has a range of libraries and cafes, and the new student centres is just incredible – its open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. You’ll appreciate this when you are cramming before final exams. Medics also have their own building – the Cruciform – which basically becomes everyone’s home away from home. It even has its own café, Doctor Coffee, with an amazing barista who basically becomes everyone’s best friend.
As for UCL’s location? Well in my definitely, not biased opinion, it is the best placed university in London – a 2-minute walk from Euston station and a 10-minute walk from Kings Cross. You have great connections with everywhere else in London and in the UK! The surrounding area feels very safe and there is great security on campus.
RUMS (the medical student union) is incredible. They have their own societies, which enable you to meet people from older years, who can advise and mentor you throughout med- school. It does feel like you are only interacting with medics sometimes, but you can meet people from other courses through UCL societies and halls (if you choose to stay in them).
London can be an expensive place to live in, so a lot of budgeting is needed. Nevertheless, there are plenty of discounts for students. Also, you have to be good at independent learning – there’s no spoon feeding like in school/college. Nevertheless, keep organised and stay on top of work; you should be able to find time to do the things you love.