Having gone on an a professional exchange with the IFMSA twice, I feel it is my responsibility to encourage you to go on one too. So here are 7 reasons why you should register for an ifmsa exchange program:
1. The people. Yes, I’m starting with that. People are what make experiences great. You’ll meet amazing people on your exchange, people who are gonna become your friends in no time and next thing you know they feel like family, people who’ll inspire you and change you in ways you can’t comprehend.
2. The culture. Not only will you discover the culture and customs of your hosting country but numerous others of people who share the exchange with you. It’ll be like having a little world in one place, and learn about it without having to move. Also, you’ll get to share your own culture and trust me, you’d be surprised how much people wanna know.
3. The hospital experience. In my case, it was a better hospital setting (ofc). It feels great to be able to learn and practice in better conditions. But even if you go to a country less developed than yours, you’ll be learning. You’ll learn about a new health system, how they do things differently or similarly, what works and what doesn’t.. And that is very essential to your growth as a doctor.
4. The people. Yes twice. ’cause just as you’ll meet the best people ever, you’ll also meet… people you’re not gonna get along with. And that’s okay. It actually shapes your personality, teaches you patience and conflict management. Remember to always stay kind 😉
5. The privilege of having a new home. You’ll make of a new city your home. Living in a new place for a whole month makes it impossible not to develop a sense of belonging there. It becomes familiar to you in no time, and then before you know it you have your new favorite bar, favorite coffeshop, favorite bakery.. (yes im all about the food)
6. The social program. One of the greatest aspects of the IFMSA exchanges is the social program. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in a hosting committee that has it all planned out for you to have one of the greatest summers of your life. You’ll have so many activities planned that you might even start complainging about it being too much (bad! don’t do that!). The cool thing is that none of it if compulsory, you can join on the activities you like, and skip on the rest to plan your own private things.
7. The traveling around. My favorite thing about the social program. In addition to discovering various aspects of the city you live in, you’ll travel to many surrounding cities and towns and sometimes if you’re lucky, even further ones.
So go on that exchange! This is just what I can think of now, but there is so much more to it. I get messages asking so many questions about how my exchange went and what to expect, from friends who are afraid and worrying so much about too many things; the language, the boarding, the security.. But I’m telling you, just go for it! It’ll be one of the best experiences of your life. If I could, I would do this every year of my medical studies. Whether it takes you to Ghana or Canada, I promise you’ll enjoy it. Just keep an open mind, an open heart, let go of all presumptions and take it all in!