This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Alina Mizul…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? When did you graduate?
Alina: I was born in Romania and moved to Quebec, Canada (the French province of Canada) when I was two years old. This is funny and unique, but I don’t have an undergrad. In Europe, you go straight from high school to university. And I started my medical journey in Europe, where I did three years before getting accepted to medical school back in Canada. So you can say that I have an undergrad in medicine!
Accepted: That sounds like an interesting path. Can you tell us how you made that decision?
Alina: I decided to go to medical school in Europe because I didn’t have the prerequisites they were asking for here in Canada. To be eligible to apply to medical school, I had to go back and take some classes at a high school level. But when I started looking into universities in Europe, I saw that I could apply with the schooling I had without doing anything else. So that’s what I did! I’m sure you heard this before: “the hardest thing about medical school is to get into medical school.” So I did what I had to do to get in! Going there I always knew that I wanted to come back home to Canada one day to practice medicine. At first, I intended to finish my medical education in Romania and then do my residency in France. There’s an agreement between France and Quebec regarding doctors. So that’s the path I wanted to take. But after reading more about it and getting the necessary information I realize that it would be a long and complicated way. By that time, I had enough credits to be considered a mature student back in Canada and with the medical background that I had acquired in those years, I finally qualified as an applicant. So I took the chance and applied– and it worked!
Accepted: Where are you currently going to medical school? What year are you?
Alina: I am currently attending Sherbrooke University in Quebec, and I am wrapping up my first year.
Accepted: Can you share a little bit about your previous experience studying medicine in Europe?
Alina: My first year of medical school in Europe was a big challenge for me because I had no prior knowledge of science – like seriously, none. I had to work harder than all my peers to learn some of the core subjects that they had already seen. For me, that was the biggest proof that I could get through medical school and become a doctor, because I found something that I was dedicating myself to and was ready to work as hard as I had to get there. I had moments when I was comparing myself with some of my classmates that had more knowledge and had it “easy, ” but I learned from “my first med school round” that it’s not a competition and that people are always open to help you when you ask. One other thing that I have learned is that your study techniques will change all the time and that’s okay.
Accepted: You share a ton of great information and experiences with your followers on your Instagram, Coffee and Anatomy, as well as your blog. What inspired you to share your story with others?
Alina: I find that there are still many stigmas and taboos around and in the medical field. When I first started posting about my age, my experiences, my journey with depression and showing my tattoos, I had a lot of responses from people telling me that they could relate and that they felt inspired to pursue their dreams. So I decided to start Coffee and Anatomy the blog. I never thought it would grow so fast. I get messages every day from people all around the world now sharing their experience and difficulties in the field. I feel privileged to be trusted with some of those stories, and it is an immense gratification to know that I’m helping people. I think that when there is a positive outcome, Social Media is amazing!
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, did you experience any bumps in the road? How did you overcome them?
Alina: There were bumps in the road both when I applied to medical school in Europe and again when I applied in Canada. The first time it was a bureaucratic thing because of the international situation, but the whole process was kind of quick. The second time was stressful because I wanted to come back to Canada and I knew that getting into medical school here would be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I wanted. My situation was different than someone who’s applying for the first time. I knew that no matter what the outcome would be from that second application I would be a doctor since I was already in medical school. Going abroad was the best decision I ever made. Anybody that wants to become an MD and doesn’t have the opportunity to do so in North America should consider leaving and coming back one day.
Accepted: Lastly, what are your top three tips for staying motivated and balanced during the school year?
• You will hear this from other med students but shadowing doctors as much as you can is one of the best ways to stay motivated. The first two years you will feel far from your end goal and patients. By shadowing you will get that contact with patients, you will walk the hospital halls, not just the library ones!
• Find something outside of medicine that you enjoy and do it. Because 90-95% of your time will be about medicine. Your classmates will become family; conversations will be around your medical journey even your non-medical school friends will ask you about medical school. So find something that makes you disconnect from medicine. Because in stressful moments you will need to take your mind off the stress factor which will probably be MEDICINE!
• In moments of doubt (believe me, they will happen), remind yourself that you are capable. A tough selection committee selected you. They considered that you, yes you, have everything it takes to get through these years of education and to become a doctor. Through those years, if you need to cry, to scream, to take time off do it. Your mental health is vital. Allow yourself to feel.
Thank you Alina for sharing your story and advice with us – we wish you continued success! You can continue following Alina’s story on her blog Coffee and Anatomy, or Instagram (@coffeeandanatomy). Thank you Alina for sharing your story with us, we wish you much success!
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