Originally from Nigeria, Bosede Oyegbami completed her medical degree at Russia’s RUDN University, and is now a practicing GP in the UK. While noting that much has changed since she arrived in Moscow in the late 1990s, Bosede nonetheless has lots of useful advice for others considering studying medicine in Russia…
1. Be ready to work hard!
First things first. If you plan to study medicine in Russia, Bosede says, you need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. Medical degrees are extremely demanding the world over, and Bosede emphasizes that this is definitely the case in Russia. Ultimately, she says, a strong work ethic is the main attribute you’ll need to succeed – regardless of your background or experiences to date, this will get you through: “You just have to be willing to do the work.”
2. Make use of your university’s support services
While the work itself is challenging, other aspects of studying medicine in Russia don’t have to be. Make use of your university’s support services, and the process of enrolling and settling in should be fairly smooth. Having decided on RUDN University as one of the best in Russia for medicine, Bosede says everything “fell into place” very quickly, and recalls that the application process was very easy.
She also says many Russian universities will have alumni networks you can connect with in your home country, to get some personal advice before you travel. She recalls that her university provided plenty of information beforehand, so she knew what to expect: “Even before you got there, you had phone calls about who would meet you at the airport, that kind of thing.”
3. Take the initiative for your own learning
Studying medicine in Russia is not just about working hard, Bosede says. It’s also about taking responsibility for your own learning. “You have to know what you want,” she advises. “You have to study before the class. Nobody is going to spoon-feed it to you.”
You may even have to decide when to take your exams, she says. In her program, students had the responsibility of asking their professors to test them on a particular topic when they felt ready – and all exams were verbal, not written. While this could initially be a daunting experience, Bosede says this student-driven approach ultimately meant each individual had the opportunity to excel: “You really got a chance to prove yourself.”
4. Immerse yourself in the language
While Russian universities now offer a growing number of programs taught entirely in English, when Bosede enrolled she faced the challenge of studying in Russian. During her first year at RUDN University, around half of her classes were dedicated to the Russian language, with the remainder focused on getting students up to speed in a range of basic science topics.
This foundation year helped her master both colloquial Russian and the specialized terminology needed in the medical field. Even for those studying a program taught in English, Bosede recommends making a real effort to learn Russian – which means taking a leap and getting outside of your comfort zone. “If you’re willing to immerse yourself in the culture and the language and practice – go out and learn it – you’ll be fine,” she says. “If you just stay in and expect your Russian to get better, well it’s not going to is it?”
5. Get the balance right
Based in Moscow, a city she says “never sleeps, it’s fantastic”, Bosede soon learned the importance of getting a good balance between studies and socializing. “There’s parties everywhere!” – which can mean it’s all too easy to get distracted from academic commitments. In fact, she recalls many occasions when she had to say no to social events, even though her friends from other courses were all going.
In the end, she believes, it’s possible to make the most of the city and student life, without compromising on your studies. “If you get the balance right with enjoying your party scene and your university scene, then you’ll be fine.” In short, learn to say “no” when you know you need to!
6. Pack the right clothes!
The conditions will vary depending on where you study in Russia, but in general you’ll need to be prepared for exceedingly low winter temperatures. While venturing outdoors in -30°C might sound pretty terrifying, Bosede says you’ll adapt sooner than you think. “You get used to it. After about minus 10, it doesn’t really matter how much colder it goes. I don’t think your body can tell.”
She adds that the university buildings, student accommodation and other parts of the city are very well heated, so as long as you invest in some sturdy outdoor clothing, you’ll be fine. “And then come summer, it’s boiling hot! Get ready for the extremes.”
7. Expect to get out what you put in
In summary, Bosede says, if you study medicine in Russia you should expect to get out as much as you put in. The more you take responsibility for your own learning and experience, the more you’ll develop and take away. “Expect not to be spoon-fed, expect to do the work, and you will grow!” She notes that the challenges encountered are all excellent preparation for future life and medical practice, helping students become more independent, self-motivated, organized and resilient.
In Bosede’s own case, she returned to work in Nigeria for several years, before moving to the UK to complete a master’s degree in public health at Cardiff University. She completed her training as a general practitioner (GP) last year, and is now working at a practice close to her home in Cardiff, a city she’s fallen in love with.
As you would expect, the path has not always been easy, but the strong work ethic Bosede embraced during her medical studies in Russia continues to serve her well. “You can’t moan about it,” she says, “You just have to buckle down and do the work.”
And, proving that she’s soaked up the musical rhythms of speech that characterize her new Welsh home, she concludes, “Good luck to everyone, isn’t it?”
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