Leaving for medical school in Australia – a big step!


There’s no doubt that Australia is a huge draw for international students, especially for those who like to “think outside the box.” As host to more than 250,000 international students, Australia is one of the world’s most popular foreign study destinations. And why not? With its wonderful climate, enviable outdoor lifestyle, and multicultural cities, the thought of studying in the Land Down Under resembles something close to a vacation.

But Australia is also home to some incredible world-renowned universities, tempting many Canadians to reconsider their future in higher education.

Meet Alain. He’s a former OzTREKK student who pursued his dream all the way to medical school at the University of Queensland in Australia. Now a Junior House Officer at the Royal Brisbane and Woman’s hospital in Queensland, Alain doesn’t regret his choice to study in Australia. In fact, he enjoyed his experience so much that he recently reached out to help other students who were getting ready to take the big step.

Even though it’s been more than five years, Alain vividly remembers his “predeparture stage.” Here’s his advice to anyone getting ready to go, and perhaps, his inspiration for those who are considering studying medicine in Australia.

Am I ready?

Yes, you are ready. You’ve been chosen from a panel of specialists. You’ve attained the necessary benchmark test grades and GPA scores, and you’ve likely completed an undergraduate degree. These milestones, which may seem trivial now, are tasks that you should be proud of. These experiences have shaped you to be the future doctor you aspire to be. Although medical school is a daunting and imperceivable task at this point of the journey, know that you can get through this program. Your life experiences have prepared you for this.

Do I belong?

Yes, 100% you do. Whether you’re coming from a completely different career, have been chasing this dream and have been unsuccessful in Canada or have just decided to plunge into a new adventure, you will find that the Australian medical cohort is the most welcoming in the world. Although you may be plagued with negative thoughts—“I couldn’t make it back home. How will I cope in Australia?”—trust the process. Trust the support network that surrounds you and work hard. You will make it. I have made friends from around the globe who share the same medical career aspirations. The University of Queensland medical program has a varied cohort, which includes students from the US, Canada, and Singapore to name a few. If you stay humble and remember the intrinsic reasons you decided to go down this path, you’ll find a helping hand and smiling faces along the way. I guarantee it.

Is this the right move for me?

I remember debating about this one for a while. It’s no secret that leaving for Australia is a huge financial and educational risk. Talking to friends and family made me doubt it even more. “But you will be so far from family.” “That tuition is insurmountable!” Yet one key factor eased my mind: Canadians have been choosing to study in Australia for decades.

If you want to practice medicine in Canada after completing your studies, it is 100% doable. If you want to stay in Australia instead, then you have that option as well. The debt is large, but you will pay it off eventually if you’re smart with your money. One of the pros about Australia is the sheer number of Canadians who have already walked this path. A wealth of alumni is at your disposal if questions arise. We’ve been helped, and now we are more than willing to lend a hand (or an ear) to those following in our footsteps.

What should I take with me?

Nothing special, to be honest! You figure out what makes you miss home once you’re away for those first few months. If you’re anything like me, you start to make a mental list of things you’ll indulge in when you’re back home (the first Montréal poutine after a year away is the best!).
I won’t lie. I find that the Australian cost of living is higher than in Canada, so take your essentials and top up once you’re here. If you have the privilege of going back home between the semesters, gather whatever you really missed and couldn’t acquire while in Australia.

Where should I live?

This question stumped me for a while. As for many things in medicine and in society in general, everyone will have a different opinion about accommodation. Take in everyone’s advice, but also keep in the back of your mind that you’re an individual. Something that works for one person (however successful they may seem) may not necessarily be appropriate for someone else. This is relevant to your studies as well.
The best advice I could give to you is this: What’s important to you? If saving money is priority number one, maybe live farther away from campus and commute. Maybe convenience and time efficiency are what you want to focus on, so get a place on campus that allows you to walk to class. I got a six-month lease on an apartment adjacent to campus, so if I didn’t like it, I could change at the end of my six months once I figured out what and where the different suburbs were.

All in all, these were some of the questions that were running through my mind predeparture. Life isn’t about getting things right the first time; it’s about figuring things out along the way. To be able to study medicine in a country as beautiful as Australia is a privilege, one that we sometimes take for granted.

Enjoy the journey, doctor.

Contributed by
Julie Reynolds, OzTREKK educational services

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