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5 Relevant Tips for Surviving Medical School in Bulgaria

5 Relevant Tips to Survive Medical School in Bulgaria

A Guide For International Students

Studying medicine is daunting, but studying medicine in a foreign country is absolutely terrifying. You’ve worked hard all the way through school and that has served you well so far, but you’ll need a lot more than high-school study methods if you are going to survive medical school with your sanity intact.

You have already made the right choice by choosing Bulgaria as the place to embark upon your medical journey. The country is rich in cultural heritage, amazing food and very affordable for students. Keep reading to find out the five most important tips for international students to not only survive, but thrive while studying medicine in Bulgaria.

Stay Active and Explore

You’ll hear it time and time again while studying medicine, and eventually you’ll be preaching it to your own patients – Exercise is good for you!

Incorporating exercise into your routine is actually pretty easy, and can be immensely satisfying. The easiest option is to add regular walks into your routine. Try walking to campus a couple of times a week, or exploring a new park every weekend. For those seeking something a little more intense, try hitting the local gym or joining a university sports team. Not only will it help you stay fit, it’s also an excellent way of making friends.

If you really can’t find the time to go for a walk, then consider getting a small elliptical trainer that you can easily fit under your desk, you can buy one for under €30 and you can mindlessly use it while you study. If you already own a smart watch you’ll be happy to hear that many of them contain hourly reminders to stand up and have a stretch.

If you are studying medicine, then you already know having a healthy body is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind.

Make Studying Fun

You’ve obviously gotten really good grades so far, good for you! You are surely already familiar with techniques and tools for studying efficiently.

  • Personalise your study space with items that inspire and motivate you.
  • Attend study group sessions with your peers. Sharing knowledge and quizzing each other will keep things engaging for you.
  • Take a 15 minute break every hour, or a longer break every 90 minutes to avoid burnout. Bonus points if you go for a short walk on your break to clear your head.
  • Experiment with different study locations, such as a coffee shop or a quiet park.
  • Use YouTube and other streaming platforms. Medcram is an especially useful YouTube channel for visualising and understanding complex medical topics.

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Embrace Student Life

It is very easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of a medical degree and making friends might be the last thing on your list of priorities, but don’t be so quick in dismissing the importance of friendships.  One of the biggest complaints in hindsight among medical students is loneliness.

The diagram above is a simplified version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and it includes everything that we need to survive and thrive as humans. Much like the food pyramid, the most important human needs are at the bottom, things like eating, drinking and breathing. Love and belonging are right in the middle, this includes friendships and relationships, intimate or otherwise. Lucky for you, medical students are divided into smaller groups early on in the semester, making it easy to talk to people on-on-one.

If you struggle to make friends then try:

  • Joining a study group – you can help each other understand the course content better.
  • Be social and friendly – Attend social events, orientation programs, and club activities.
  • Join student groups or societies related to your interests.

Managing Your Homesickness

Time is precious for medical students, but scheduling regular calls with your family will help you feel connected to everyone at home. Plus it will give you something to look forward to during the week.  Try video-calling your family while you are cooking dinner, that way you are fully utilising your time, and your mother can stop hounding you with the age old question “are you sure that you’re eating enough?”

You might already have packed your favourite teddy or blanket, but have you considered bringing food? Nothing reminds me of Sunday’s at my mothers house like mashed potatoes and gravy. So I always bring a tub of bisto gravy back with me. Consider bringing a few packets of your favourite crisps, your mothers signature spice blend, or whatever food is the taste of home for you. You’ll be surprised how much of a pick-me-up it can be.

Seeking Support Services

Your brain truly is your most important organ, and looking after your mental health whilst in university is vital. You might not feel amazing all the time, perhaps at times you’ll feel like you need a little guidance.

There are a plethora of systems in almost every Bulgarian university that will ensure that you get the help that you need. Connect with international student support programs for guidance, and to discuss your options. They’ll be able to help you identify and utilize all of the available academic support services.

Universities like Varna University go one step further and offer a free counselling program for all medical students, no matter what their income is. Never be afraid to ask for help.