Sophie Baldwin

Sophie Baldwin

University: Universidad Cardenal Herrera

Course: Medicine

Home town: Birmingham

Year: 1st year

1. Why did you chose to study in Spain and at CEU-UCH University?

I finished my A-Levels in 2013 and at that point I was convinced that I wanted to study Pharmacology so I applied for a Pharmacology course in Bristol.
 

Over the summer I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer in a hospital in Tanzania for one month.

It was a revelation to me… I had the opportunity to do so many things such as surgery, laboratory practice, labor section, and even to be part of the pediatric world and a lot more  … such as being in charge of new born babies, HIV cases… and I loved it!


I realised then that I wanted to be a doctor.
Back in Birmingham I started to look for a medicine course in England but everyone said that I didn’t have a chance. I started my Pharmacology course in Bristol, but two weeks later I left it because I a realised it was not for me.


I was planning a year out and even thought about doing some travelling but then I saw an advertisement for the Medicine programme at CEU-UCH University on AStar Future’s website.

Initially I thought I’d definitely need to take a year out and start the following September but with the help of ASF and CEU-UCH it was organised so quickly that I was able to start immediately even though I had missed the first three weeks of lectures.


I did not consciously choose to go to Spain or even to go to CEU-UCH, but clearly, its academic programme, its sunny location and the possibility to study Medicine in one of the best Spanish university for Medicine made my decision easy - even though I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish!

2. Was it hard to settle in and catch-up when you’d missed three weeks’ of classes?

Yes! It was a complete rush and rather daunting! I had never even been to Valencia before!

I arrived with very little time to organise myself – I had to find a flat, manage all the administration paperwork and adapt to a new city, study environment and a different rhythm of living.


In actual fact it much easier than I thought it would be; I found a very cheap flat in Moncada, five times cheaper than a flat in England, and five minutes’ walk from the University.

I’d missed the opportunity to meet other international students in the activities organised by the University at the beginning of the year because I arrived late but it didn’t really matter because I met everyone in my class. All are Spanish except a girl from Sweden.

Everybody made me feel very welcome - they invited me to so many parties and events, sharing their culture with me with great pleasure!

I didn’t meet any other English students, but it hasn’t bothered me.

I love the fact that I am really immersed in the Spanish culture and it has given me the best opportunity to learn Spanish.

3. Has the Spanish language learning and understanding been the most challenging issue since you arrived?

Yes but there aren’t too many problems!
In Moncada  the vast majority of the population does not speak English at all but there are more English speakers in Valencia city centre and at the University.


I have found people are so welcoming that they help you as much as they can even when there is a language barrier. Moreover, when they discover that I’m English they try to speak English to improve their own language skill, so yes it has been easy and also very funny!

4. Are there many differences living in Spain in comparison to living in England?

Yes …  the weather is probably the most shocking difference. It is sunny all the time here and it really has changed how I choose to spend my days and I spend more time outside.

The lifestyle is different. In Spain people are much more relaxed than in England and have more time for enjoying life rather than working all the time! From what I have seen, the Spanish are generally open-minded, welcoming and ready to help.

5. Is there a big difference between studying in Spain and in England?

It is very different studying in Spain.
In England there are some very good universities that offer a high level of quality and competency.

But at CEU-UC, even with a high level of education quality, there is also a relaxed ambiance that changes everything.


I realise now that it’s unlikely that I would have been able to complete the Medicine course at Bristol… not because of the academic level but because Medicine can be an extremely stressful subject to study due to the working environment in the UK.

Indeed, in Spain, even though I’m working hard and studying all day long, the general relaxed ambiance of the city and the University has helped me with the pressure of study.

Also I think I have more productive relationships and contact with my classmates, Professors and Deans.
Indeed, this is because people are welcoming but also because we are working in much smaller groups.


For example I remember that at Bristol University, I went to a practical session and there were 120 students in one laboratory whereas at CEU-UCH there’s usually a maximum of 15 students in a practical session. So, it’s far more beneficial as there are more opportunities for interaction and 1-1 advice from professors.

6. So far does the University and the course fulfill your expectations?

The beginning of this academic year was a rush for me so I didn’t have any specific expectations.

During the face-to-face interview I had in London, the Dean, the Secretary and other staff members to me what the Medicine Degree would entail, how the University would support me and gave me other helpful information.

Now I’m here it’s even better than what they described, I’m glad I chose this University and Valencia!

Even though hospital internships don’t start until year 3 I’ve had the opportunity to attend seminars, workshops and conferences in order to get more practical experience.

7. If you could describe your experience so far with one word or expression, what would it be?


Inspiring!!

8. Do you have any advice to give future students?

My best advice for future students would be to just dive into the Spanish culture, to spend all your time with Spanish people who will welcome you as a friend and will be happy to share typical Spanish activities with you. Although it’s an easy option don’t just mix with international students.

9. Is there any other experience or advice you’d like to share?

Yes - when I arrived I didn´t speak any Spanish so I attended free Spanish Lessons organised by the University. Through these lessons I had the opportunity to teach English to primary school students and also to an eleven-year-old boy – it was very fun!


So being a native English speaker in Valencia is a real asset as many people want to learn English and it’s given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had at a UK university.

To make the most of the study abroad experience it’s essential to take a step into Spanish life and seize every opportunity that comes your way!