Xinjiang Uyghur Region to Hungary: The Story of How I Decided to Study in the EU
Editors: Akihiko Ozaki M.D., Yuki Senoo
I am a third-year medical student studying at the University of Pécs Medical School in Hungary. I am an Uyghur and grew up in the small city of Bole, which covers an area of 7,802 km2 with a total population of approximately 106,400 people. In this paper, I would like to share my story about how I decided to study medicine in Hungary.
My name means a "magical herb" in Uyghur, and it appears in an ancient Uyghur fairy tale as the herb that can cure any disease. As you can see from this, my parents have always been enthusiastic about education, especially in the medical field. Looking back, I have been surrounded by stories related to medicine since I was little, so it occurred quite naturally to me to pursue studies in medicine.
In my opinion, Uyghur parents take their children and their career paths more seriously than parents in other countries do. Generally, no matter what the child chooses to pursue, Uyghur parents push their child to devote himself or herself to it. In Xinjian, every job is respected because we were educated in this way; salary differences do not exist much among most jobs.
Unlike in Japan, the US, and EU countries, physicians in China do not have high salaries compared with other occupations, and the same is true in Xinjiang. In 2014, the average annual income of state-owned and public enterprises in Beijing was approximately 18,000 USD (approx. 102,000 yuan), and that of other private enterprises elsewhere in China was 9,000 USD (approx. 52,000 yuan). Meanwhile, the average annual income of physicians working at public hospitals was 11,000 USD (approx. 8,000 yuan) in 2013 even though it has been reported their work is tough as treating over 150 patients per week. In addition, with the salary of a physician, you cannot even afford to rent a tiny apartment in the city center.
I spent most of my childhood in the hospital due to frequent asthma attacks, so I have been familiar with medical equipment and medical staff at the hospital since I was a child. Compared with how physicians treat patients in hospitals in the EU, I remember that everyone at the hospital in Xinjiang treated me more nicely. Hospitals in my region are extremely crowded; you can see patients lying everywhere, even in the corridors. The waiting time in Xinjiang is much shorter compared with those of hospitals in the EU. In Xinjian, you could actually see doctors faster when you do not have to make an appointment. Also, the same as in China, there is no general practitioner in Xinjiang, and you have to find doctors by yourself.
Before I decided to enter a medical university in Hungary, I was accepted by the medical faculty of Xian Jiao Tong. However, as an Uyghur student, I was obligated to spend one year studying Chinese despite the fact that I had spent 15 years in Chinese schools. Moreover, I already had my language proof of excellence in Chinese at the time. I felt that this was such a waste of my time, and I did not want to legitimize this unfair condition, so I started to learn English instead, which I knew could expand my future career.
I began a course for the test for International English Language Testing System (IELTS) , and I earned a score of 7 on my first try; this 7 gave me the opportunity to go abroad to study medicine. Although many universities in the US are known to have sophisticated educational programs, especially in the medical field, the tuition fees were too expensive. Furthermore, in the US, it is also necessary to study for four years in an undergraduate program prior to starting a medical program. As a girl coming from a small city, brought up by working-class parents, I was not able to afford to study medicine at universities in the US. For this reason, I started to look for medical universities in the EU. Finally, I chose the University of Pécs Medical School because it offers degrees in English, you can start medical courses right away, and most importantly, the level of education taught at this university is well recognized worldwide. In addition, the tuition fee at Pécs University is 16,750 USD, which is much cheaper compared with medical universities in other countries.
In the next article, I would like to share my university campus life in Hungary as an Uyghur student, including how I have been interacting with Hungarian students as well as other Chinese students.