Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sanchita Gupta, UVA '17, Shares Her Study Abroad Story

Which study abroad program did you participate in? How did you learn about it and what made you select this program instead of others?
I participated in the Medical Practice and Policy Program at Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS) in spring 2016. I first learned about the program through one of my friends who completed the program a year before me. I mainly chose this program because it was one of the very few pre-health study abroad programs. One of the biggest deciding factors when picking a program was the safety and the language of the country. Denmark is one of the safest countries in the world almost everyone speaks English.

How would you compare your coursework and study methods at DIS to your academic experience at UVA?
The coursework and study methods at DIS were more hands on than at UVA. My core course, Human Health and Disease, took place at a hospital and was taught by practicing Danish doctors. We learned about many different kinds of diseases, treatments, symptoms and diagnostic tools throughout the course of the study. We were also required to do four case studies throughout the semester, which involved a patient coming to our class and the class asking medical related questions in order to figure out the patient's health condition. After class, we were required to do a case report describing the patient's history, symptoms, and complaints while reasoning through why the symptoms and complaints direct us to this diagnosis. As a class, we also traveled to Western Denmark, Budapest, and Vienna to examine their healthcare systems and critically compare each system.

In addition, I was also doing Cardiology Clinical Research at one of the largest hospitals in Denmark, Rigshospitalet. This was different than the Cardiology research I conducted before studying abroad because it involved working with coronary arteries. Another distinguishing factor about the research I performed in Denmark was that was barely any security training or online modules needed to be completed before starting research which was contrary from all the research experiences I was involved with in America.

The other two classes I was taking: Health Beyond Borders and Epigentics and the Environment were more similar to the classes at UVA in the way they were taught but both classes incorporated two field trips each within Copenhagen which was unique. With Health Beyond Boarders, our class went to the Red Cross and the United Nations Office in Copenhagen. With Epigentics and the Environment, we went to two different universities, Roskilde University and the University of Copenhagen, to learn more about the research conducted at the Universities.

Describe a typical day or week for this semester.
Each day was different. On Mondays and Thursdays, I would eat breakfast, go to class, come home eat lunch, go to class again, eat dinner and do homework, talk to people in my dorm, or explore Copenhagen. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I had one class in the morning, would go back to my dorm and eat, and then go to research for the remainder of the day. On Tuesday nights, I was required to attend culinary events where I learned more about the culinary cuisine in Copenhagen. This was mandatory as part of the Learning and Living Community dorm that I lived in. Wednesdays were reserved for field studies which were pre-scheduled. The Wednesdays where I was not required to go on a field study, I would either go to research or do homework. On the weekends, I either stayed in Copenhagen or traveled to other countries within Europe.

What has been your most valuable experience thus far? In what ways do you expect this experience will benefit you as a whole?
My dream of becoming a physician was inspired by a heart surgery I saw in 9th grade with my Biology class. My dream dwindled a bit due to a lack of clinical exposure. I was volunteering at the hospitals and joining pre-med clubs that gave me little or no exposure to what it actually meant to be a doctor. This all changed when I started shadowing and interning for a Cardiologist, who was also a UVA alum, the summer and winter break before I went to Denmark. (In fact, I found this alum connection through the UVA Career Center's online database, Handshake). My dream in 9th grade was once again reaffirmed and my passion for the medial field began to grow again. This experience gave me insight into scientific knowledge, medical diagnostics and tests, patients with diverse backgrounds, and the day-to-day experiences of doctors.

My experience in Denmark with the Medical and Practice Policy Class at DIS in combination with the research allowed my passion for the medical field to grow immensely. What made this combination extremely valuable to me, personally, is through the class, I was able to learn how much is discovered in the medical field already and through the research, it made me realize how much is still yet to discover in the medical field. It made me realize being a doctor is about dedicating oneself to a life-long journey of learning and growing which is exactly what I hoped for in my future career. It was also amazing to see how much of the knowledge I gained from my pre-med courses, biology, physics, chemistry, and organic chemistry was applied in the medical field. While taking these classes at UVA, there is often not a lot of opportunities to see the principles and knowledge you learned applied in a clinical setting; therefore, it leaves many students thinking that the knowledge gained in these pre-med courses has nothing to do with being a doctor. My experience shadowing and researching both abroad and domestically has proved to me otherwise.

Overall, when I started college, I was doubtful about being pre-med; however, through shadowing and interning with a physician last summer and my study abroad experience, I am no longer doubtful and am confident in my decision of becoming a physician.

What might make this program a good fit for other UVA students? Why?
This program is a good fit for anyone who is looking to gain more insight in his or her field of interest in a different country. DIS offers so many different programs for so many different fields. A UVA student would be bound to find one of interest to them. This program also makes it really easy for you to explore the Danish culture in a way that is customizable to you. You can choose to live with a host family, a dorm with Danish students, or a dorm with American students, a "Living and Learning Community (LLC)" dorm that allows you to explore the Danish culture within a certain theme (I was in the Culinary LLC), or in an apartment with other Danes. The program also allows you to have a host family without choosing to live with them and provides money for transportation to and from their home. There are also tons of activities and clubs that one can get involved with to meet more Danes and learn more about their culture. The city of Copenhagen itself also makes traveling anywhere within Copenhagen easy through its bike lanes, its metro, and train systems.