University of Zagreb School of Medicine
'Medical Studies in English' Program:
A Student's Perspective
by Jake Raguz, a student at UZSM/MSE
There are a lot of things to learn in medical school. One of the many things that the University of Zagreb School of Medicine (UZSM) endeavours to teach students is to pass on information and knowledge to others. With that in mind, i hope this article will:
1. inform others about the UZSM program, and encourage prospective students to attend;
2. help prepare students, and make the transition to Zagreb and the UZSM a little easier.
Some readers may already be aware that the UZSM, which was founed in 1917, has an excellent reputation, with many of it's graduates working all over the world, including the US and Canada. What readers may not be aware of is, in addition to it's Croatian-language program, in 2003 the school added a 'Medical Studies in English' (MSE) program. The similarities between the two programs at UZSM are: the same medical school; the same professors; the same Medical Doctor (MD) degree. The differences are: language of study (English), and the MSE program has the added advantage of using all the latest editions of medical texts used in US and Canada.
The 'Medical Studies in English' (MSE) program has already completed it's third year and each year is getting bigger and better. This past year, in 2005, the school added a 4-year program alongside it's preexisting 6-year program. The school added the 4-year program in response to the increased number of students attending from the US and Canada with previous university degrees and transferable credit courses. Essentially what this means is that students with prior university credit may be exempt from some courses, even if they aren't accepted into the 4-year program. The 6-year program is based on the European system of accepting students straight out of high school with no previous university experience, unlike the North American system where typically students need an undergraduate degree before applying to medical school. An important note to remember for students coming from North America is that UZSM, as is the system in Europe, offers each student at least three (3) opportunities to pass an exam. In other words, if you don't pass an exam, it's not counted as a 'fail', and there is no record of how many attempts it takes you to 'pass' the exam. So the school offers students every opportunity to succeed.
According to Prof. Davor Jezek, thr coordinator of the MSE program, MSE currently has 51 students, spread across 3 years. Most of the students come from the US and Canada. In total, 12 different countries are represented. Also, over 30% of the students already possess one or more Bachelor degrees. Some of the students are former university graduates who have left full-time jobs or unrelated careers for an opportunity to pursue a medical degree. Other students are recent university graduates. Still other students are straight out of high school. Some students are children of medical doctors; others have no doctors in their family. Each student has his or her own story, his or her own reason why they chose to attend. UZSM/MSE offers each of them an opportunity. In some cases, it is an opportunity of a lifetime.
Most of the professors at UZSM are extremely intelligent (with MD and PhD degrees) and surprisingly young. Most also have a strong command of english and have a good sense of humor, which makes them very approachable. Also, the professors encourage students to ask questions and they make themselves available to students for questions after class. In particular, Prof. Jezek, who is in charge of the MSE program, has been extremely enthusiastic and approachable since day one. He always has time to meet with students, and is constantly endeavouring to make the MSE program better. Towards this goal, the school has visiting professors attending from various countries to give lectures. Also, Prof. Jezek is working with the university to establish internships and residency placements for the MSE students in the US and Canada. I would encourage any doctor or administrator who can help the students find internship and residency placements, in the US and Canada, to please contact Prof. Jezek. Your assistance in this matter would be most appreciated. According to Prof. Jezek, some doctors from the US, Canada and Europe have already established an informal 'Friends of Medical Studies in English Club' („Klub prijatelja MSE“).
For those students planning to attend UZSM/MSE, here are a few things that might help make your transition a little easier. The school: In 2007 the UZSM will be celebrating it's 90th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the school has recently been renovated, internally and externally. Also, the school has a student cafeteria ('menza') conveniently located in the medical school building. All students receive an 'x' card ('iksica') which entitles them to eat at the school cafeteria at a reduced rate (approximately ¼ the cost). The school also has 2 new computer rooms, each with 12-15 internet equiped computers, and a medical library.
Textbooks: Any textbook that you want to order, you can do so from the bookstore 'Algoritam' in Zagreb. The bookstore is located near Trg Ban Jelacic, behind the Hotel Dubrovnik. Books usually arrive within 2-4 weeks. The cost is similar, if not even less expensive, to what you would pay in your home country. An example is the text 'Clinically Oriented Anatomy', which i purchased in Toronto for the equivalent of 500 kunas, but which can be purchased in Zagreb for around 350 kunas. The list of recommended texts can be found on the school's web-site. However, i would go so far as to say that for first year the only courses that really require textbooks is Biochemistry and Anatomy. For all the other courses the school or professors provide all the material on a CD or on powerpoint presentations. So there is no need for students to unnecessarily purchase expensive textbooks or to drag a case load of texts from your home country. Also, some students manage to get a copy of a text from students in upper years. I should also mention that some students may have CD copies of the 'Sobotta Atlas' and 'Netters Atlas', used in Anatomy, so that there is no real need to purchase these yourself.
However, I highly recommend getting a laptop computer for school. Many of the classes have their lecture presentations available on CD or you can download it onto a USB stick. Also, wireless internet is readily available in Croatia. When you arrive in Zagreb, you'll also want to get yourself a cell phone. Cell phones are virtually mandatory. Students typically exchange phone numbers with each other at the beginning of school. They are extremely useful for sending text messages to one another.
Student Dorms/Apartments: students dorms are not available to students in the MSE program. So you'll have to get an apartment. Some students have family living in Zagreb and stay with them. Others have to find their own place. What you'll need to do is to go to any newspaper kiosk and get a copy of 'Plavi Oglasnik' and search the apartment rental section. The other option is to check the bulletin boards at the medical school. Some students/landlords post notices on bulletin boards looking for tenants or roommates, but most are looking for female students only.
This is a good time to mention that there is a Tourist Information Centre located on the Trg Ban Jelacic (the main square in the city). They can provide you with all sorts of valuable information, including complimentary mini-maps of the city with all the 'tram' (streetcars/trolleys) routes. When you get to Zagreb, go to the Tourist Information Cente and ask them how to get to the medical school on Salata. They'll give you a mini map and draw the best route to get there.
As mentioned, the medical school is located on Salata, which is a 10 minute walk from the main square (Trg Ban Jelacic). On Salata there are also many recreation facilities, including a work-out/fitness gym, tennis and basketball courts, soccer field and ice-skating rink. And of course, several cafes and night clubs.
Admittedly there's an adjustment period for most, if not all, students. Most all of the students are away from home, some for the first time. Some make the adjustment better than others. But every individual has his or her own struggles being away from family and home and friends. Some students, especially the ones straight out of high school, seem to take too much of an advantage of the fact that they're away from home and parents and spend too much time partying and too little time studying. The students who have previous university experience tend to be a little more disciplined in their study habits. However, not every student is the same. The good news is that any student that puts in the time and effort will get a good result. Just as in the story of 'The Tortoise and the Hare', perseverance can prevail. Typically, students that make it past first year tend to become more serious and disciplined in their studies and continue on to 2nd year and beyond. Unfortunately some students are unable to strike the right balance and fall too far behind and eventually leave the program. In each of the the first 3 years approximately 20 students were admitted. However, about 5 students from each of the 2nd and 3rd years are no longer at the school. As a result, the upper years have about 15 students each. Students drop out for various reasons. Some transfer back to schools in their home country. Others drop out for academic reasons.
But it's hard to tell from one year to the next what each new year will bring. Each group of students, from each of the three years, seem different. Each has its own character. Next year's class will have its own character. It will be different in its own unique way. However, the problems will still be the same. Of course having the right friends, study partners or roommates can have a big effect on an individual. During first year the students are still trying to figure out who's who and what's what. And everything goes by so fast. That being said, some upper-year students are very friendly and helpful, offering advice or comments about the program and other matters. My advice is don't be afraid to approach other students to ask for advice or comments.
I'm looking forward to next year's crop of new students. Speaking with other students, they also say that they hope there's an even greater number of students enrolled in next year's class. Not only some of the staff, but also some of the students here are trying to improve and expand the MSE program.And that's one of the reasons why i'm writing this article, to notify any and all students of the great opportunity to study medicine here, and to encourage all who are so inclined to apply to UZSM. The good news is that as of June 1, there are more than 25 students (15 from US and Canada) accepted so far for the upcoming year (06-07). There is still room and still time to apply for this coming year (October 2006). If you're interested in applying, send in your application, even if the official deadline has past. In previous years, students have applied as late as August and September and have gotten accepted for the October start date.
Regarding student financing, i managed to get the government of Canada to recognize UZSM, so that residents of Canada can now apply and receive student financing (OSAP in the province of Ontario). Please check the school's website for more information, and the OSAP website to apply. If anyone can provide information or assistance regarding student financing from the US, please notify Prof. Jezek or myself so that the information can be posted on the school's website.
When all is said and done the fact is this: if you want to get a medical degree, with an excellent education, at a reasonable cost, from a renown medical school that has graduates working all over the world, including the US and Canada, then come to UZSM. See you in October, when classes start!
UZSM/MSE web-site is www.mef/mse.hr. Prof. Jezek (MSE Program Coordinator) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Admissions Officer, Mihaela Jakovac, can be reached at email@example.com. Jake Raguz is a student at UZSM/MSE. Jake has a BFA degree in Film Production & Screenwriting from York University in Toronto, Canada. Jake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.