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MRIC Global Essay Contest: My experience in a Hungarian hospital as a foreign medical student

Author: Lilipar Alim

Medical student at Faculty of Medicine, University of Pecs

I am a third-year medical student studying at a Hungarian medical school called the University of Pecs. I come from northwest China, and I am of Uyghur ethnicity. When I was younger, I loved learning new languages and science, as I have always been very passionate about helping people.

My name, Lilipar, is a very ancient and mysterious name that means a magical herb that can heal any diseases, so I feel that I am destined to be in medicine. When I entered middle school, I also found out that I was attracted to natural science subjects, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. By the time I was in high school, I was fascinated by the beauty of the human body and the harmony of how all of the cells work separately and as a whole. That's when I finally decided that I would choose a career in medicine and become a doctor. I left China in 2014 to follow my dream, and I completed one year of pre-med in Hungary. Before I left China, I had already been accepted to the University in China for Medicine, but I wanted to challenge myself more, so I decided to go abroad. However, at that time, I could only speak English as a foreign language, and I didn't have many options. Medical schools in the United States and the United Kingdom were too expensive and required undergraduate degrees to enter.

On the other hand, Eastern European countries offer six-year medical science programs, and the University of Pecs has an excellent reputation. That's how I started my journey in Hungary. In this essay, I would like to share my experiences in clinical practice at a Hungarian hospital.

In Hungary, people mostly speak Hungarian, and quite a few people also speak German. Only members of the young generation talk in English. When I first had a summer practice opportunity in Korhaz Ter Cardiac Rehabilitation, which is a cardiac rehabilitation center, I struggled due to the language barrier. At the hospital, only two doctors could speak English, and none of the nurses and the patients could. Therefore, that summer, all I could do was to make beds, provide food for patients, measure their blood pressure, check their blood glucose levels, and examine them by electrocardiogram. When I looked at what the students from the upper years were doing, I realized that German students were not doing their summer practices in this department. There were only two Hungarian students and two English program students at the hospital. For one month every morning, we all participated in and observed outpatient and inpatient rounds together, but we English program students could understand nothing. And as far as I know, no one explained anything to the English program students, and they didn't ask us anything, either. At that time, I realized that the Hungarian students were getting more experience and knowledge out of the practices. Also, one of the nurses taught me some pure German, and I realized that a lot of patients could speak German.

For this reason, during the summer, I started to learn German. This brought a significant change not only to my clinical practices at the hospital but also to my university life and social life. Because I was able to speak German, I got the opportunity to visit German hospitals. Furthermore, I could go to German lectures and seminars at my university.

Although I am more focused on improving my German skills, I have not abandoned Hungarian. During my second year, my medical Hungarian classes became more intense: we had to learn how to take medical history in Hungarian, and now, I am taking clinical Hungarian to learn even more. Nowadays, I can introduce myself as a medical student to the patient as well as ask about the patient’s personal data, current complaints, pain history, previous diseases, family history, social history, allergies, and medications. I can also give instructions for physical examinations in Hungarian. However, sadly, I cannot understand much of what the patient says. They speak too quickly, and people have different accents. Also, the patient never answers a question with a simple, short sentence; instead, he or she tends to tell the whole story about what happened. As an international student, I cannot sort out the critical information. I have been living in Hungary for four years now, and I have been attending two Hungarian classes every week for the past three years.

It is essential to learn how to speak the language of the place where you have been staying for six years, and I must respect this. On the other hand, I wish that we international students had more opportunities to go to other universities to observe. I also wish that universities could create collaborative clinical practices with English-speaking hospitals and universities so that international students can complete practices in the languages they speak fluently.

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