For my juniors: How to go overseas for your electives

Okay, here it is. A post I promised to write. If  I don’t write this, I might never write it. Even if it’s with really bad syntax. I have pondered what I should do to write as my next blog post. I have so many ideas in my head: a review of the salon I did my hair in last Friday, of Hunger Games, of my Emirates flight, my hostel.  Not to mention the gazillions of drafts I already have here.

So.. Electives posting is sort of similar to the gap year concept UK students have, except that it’s for a fixed amount of time according to university and we actually have to attend the hospitals for ward work. In UPM after all the 4th year postings are over, we have electives posting for 3 weeks and a month holiday after. We can choose to have the posting in any department we want in any hospital we want.

You don’t have to go overseas, you can do it locally, which can be equally as fun. Especially if you decide to do it in somewhere in the rural areas of Sarawak or Sabah. But I guess if you can speak Italian and have always wanted to go to Italy, it’d be a shame if you didn’t utilise this time to do a bit of sightseeing.

I’ll be using a step-by-step approach using my example to illustrate. Hope this helps future juniors to pursue travelling and build up their stories. Don’t forget to tell me the stories.

this feels like a really cool party place rather than a uni

STEP 1: Decide where it is you want to go and what department you want to spend your time in.

I’ve always wanted to go to Cape Town since I was 13. I wanted to do procedures so Emergency Medicine was definitely it. I knew medical students in Africa get very hands-on. I googled ‘medical electives cape town’ and promptly got this information from University of Cape Town. I had considered Stellenbosch for a while, but their fees were a lot higher, and there was a lot more hassle to handle for someone as lazy as me. Besides, the language of currency used is Afrikaans, so I’m not too sure whether I would be able to pick it up easily.

If you choose universities with an MoU with UPM, I’m pretty sure UPM gives you more money/make your life easier in general. A list of those universities can be found here.

STEP 2: Contact the university/hospital you want to do you electives. Fill whatever form needed. Book yourself.

What I did was, I emailed Paschaline Jacobs (her email is found on the info sheet) and I introduced myself, what university I was, when my electives was, what department I was interested in. Surprisingly, she replied to me the very same day to tell me I’m booked there. She sent me forms I had to complete. This, you need to send to Pn Haslinda who is the elective officer in our faculty. She’ll send it over to the dean/academic registrar/whoever needed. Then post these forms.

Some bookings need to be made a year or two in advance. So start looking as early as possible. I booked 7 months early though. But most places are already fully booked by then. A friend of mine who applied only 2 weeks later than me was told the place was fully booked in all departments.

Some of the British med students I’ve met said that they contacted a supervisor first (via emails or a phone call or through some personal contacts) and found a place with them. Then, they contacted Paschaline via email to tell her that a supervisor has already agreed to monitor this student under a certain period of time. You just need to be resourceful even though Paschaline said there weren’t any places left.

STEP 3: Contact International Centre, UPM to get the mobiliti form.

Pn Haslinda will probably give you this form and handle it for you. Ask her. But I had to go over there to get it myself. Because no-one told me that we had an elective officer. Another salient point, don’t be shy to ask. Fill it in. If you want to stay that a couple of weeks longer (we have a month break after the electives) then you can book the flight tickets to be a bit later. Just confirm your dates properly. Forms can also be retrieved from here. You will probably need to call Pn Fadhilah at 0389467446 to confirm the approval of your trip after you apply and your flight tickets a couple of weeks before you leave.

STEP 4: Pay fees.

I had to pay fees to the Health Profession Council of South Africa, which is sort of like the MMA here. I also had to pay elective fees. It makes a total of R3821 which amounts to RM 1469.

STEP 5: Find a place to stay.

Again I found mine through googling “backpackers hotel groote schuur hospital”. I found a couple, and Obviously Armchair backpackers and Green Elephant backpackers hotel, which gave me the same quoting price. But because I kept procrastinating because I wasn’t sure I’d pass my exams, the longer I waited, the higher the price went. I also quoted for 4 people earlier on. If 4 people had went with me as planned, then it would’ve cost only RM500. Maybe RM2-300 if we rented a nearby apartment. Finding an apartment is tougher, and I had no luck looking at gumtree.co.za. I think you need a local friend to sort that out for you. So I went for Green Elephant for RM700 and it turned out to be a great place. (I will write about it this weekend!)

It can be a student’s hostel (cheap), a staff hostel, a proper hotel room (if you’re a trust fund baby, which means I hate you) or an apartment/rent house.

STEP 6: Pass your exams. (If you must fail, fail only one posting.)

Yup. Forget about the electives and the pressure you have to pass in order to go for your electives. Believe in yourself. Don’t let lectures fool you into believing you’re as stupid as they say. Take it as contructive criticism and positively improve yourself. Find out how YOU learn best, not how others learn best. This involves a lot of self-reflecting, learning about learning and keeping calm amidst unbearable stress and anxiety. I learn best by learning with images and getting a general guide or a big picture. So I make mindmaps, mnemonics or if you’re too lazy as I am, google them and combine the best ones. Some people prefer rote learning. Do what suits you and keep at it.

That’s about it. Do it, go travel. You might not get another chance.

3 thoughts on “For my juniors: How to go overseas for your electives

    • Elective posting is required in all medschool. In what academic year and the duration depends on the medschool. Mine was in end of 4th year for 3 weeks. Some even have electives for 6 months.

      My flight ticket was sponsored by UPM. But the fees, lodgings, expenses, I had to pay myself.

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