Post by Syafaf Humaira Binti Aman, global exchange student from Penang Medical College (Malaysia) who recently completed a GEMx Exchange at University of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates.
Who knew, a split-second decision of applying for GEMx Electives, and travelling alone to a country which was 5000km away from home would bring such an impact to my life – especially my medical student life. My name is Syafaf Humaira Aman and I am currently a final year medical student from Penang Medical College, Malaysia.
I’ve always known by my friends as a person who would leap into any great opportunities that comes and this was definitely one of those opportunities that I had decided to venture upon. Despite of that statement making me sound all very brave and courageous, there was still a hint of nervousness and anxiety when I got on the plane, heading to the UAE for my electives. This was the first time I solo-travelled, my first time going to a country that I am very unfamiliar with, and also my first time being a part of a new student community – alone.
All the worries and anxiousness slowly started to dissipate away when I was greeted by Fuad, the student ambassador from University of Sharjah (UoS) and his friend Dalia at the airport. Starting from the first meet up, up until the very last day of my stay in UoS, they had definitely helped me a lot – from helping me to settle down in my new dorm, helping the administrative officer to arrange my hospital posting, and introducing me to most of their friends so that I wouldn’t feel very lonely throughout my stay. I truly owe them a lot, as it was so much easier for me to blend in and get used to the new campus life with their help.
One thing I’ve learnt a lot from this experience is actually travelling alone isn’t as bad as I thought it would. It used to be a scary thought back then, but after this elective programme, I’ve came to learn that more opportunities tend to open up when you travel alone. When you’re all alone, you’ll be forced to get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be ‘pushed’ to make a whole bunch of new friends. Without you even realizing, you’ll find yourself meeting new people, making connections with people that you’ve never intended to meet, and getting inspired by their life stories. This includes meeting a fellow Malaysian occupational therapist who had been working in the UAE for the past 8 years. It was amazing to get to hear her life experiences over there.
As for my clinical posting, I was being posted to Al-Baraha Hospital in Dubai under the Surgical Department. Truth to be told, it was definitely one of the best clinical experience I’ve ever went through my whole life as a medical student!
The surgical team consisted of this set of surgeons of different nationalities, with years of experiences working at different regions of the world before. One thing I am truly awed was to see how dedicated these surgeons were, in both healing the patients and teaching the students. Despite their tight schedule during the OT days, they would still make time to teach us in the operation theatre, as well as in between the surgeries. Sometimes they would let us hang around at the surgeons’ lounge and they would share their experiences with us students too.
During this posting too, I was fortunate enough to be given multiple chances to assist in several surgeries, guided by these aspiring surgeons. Even though the tasks that was given were pretty minor, but it was already more than I bargained for, and come to think of it, it was a fair start for me as a medical student. It was definitely a great exposure for me, one that I would never experience back home. I couldn’t help but to be thankful for these surgeons had never failed to make me feel as part as their team. At times, they would even introduce us students to the patients as the ‘training surgeons’ who had made them (the patients) feel better, and it was definitely one of the best feeling to hear the patients thanking you profusely for treating them. All in all, it was never a day that I wasn’t looking forward to step into the hospital as I knew I would be greeted by them with smiles and the day would then be occupied with bed side teachings, teachings at the outpatient department and multiple case discussions with the whole surgical team.
My groupmates in Al-Baraha Hospital were truly amazing too. They were all very friendly and my four weeks at the hospital would have never been the same without them. In between the bedside teachings, or after we’ve all clerked patients, we would then be discussing the cases together, sometimes recalling what the surgeons have taught us by the end of each day. Sometimes these so called ‘hangout’ sessions would be filled with us sharing stories about each other’s families, travel stories, and favourite past times. One thing I find interesting in the UAE is that, all of the students there mostly originates from somewhere else outside of the UAE. Some of my groupmates for instance, were originally from Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt and many more. Although they have stayed in the UAE for most of their live, they would still go back there once in a while and they would then share their stories and how their culture are back home. Not just that, they would also be the ones to prepare a long list for me consisting of interesting places I need to visit, and food that I need to try throughout my stay.
On the weekends, I would then take the opportunity to travel around Dubai, and explore the city as much as possible. The famous Burj Khalifa, Burj Al-Arab, the souqs and the beaches in Dubai were all truly breath-taking. I had even managed to make my way to Abu Dhabi on one of the long weekends during my stay in the UAE. Although it was pretty taxing to travel from UoS to Dubai, it was always be worth it. Taxing, because the transportations were pretty expensive, especially when you’re travelling alone, so sometimes I would need to opt for multiple forms of transportations in order to get to the places that I wanted to go. However, it definitely taught me the value of perseverance, independence and the importance of planning ahead of time.
All in all, not only I had gain ample amount of new knowledge within the medical field, but I had also obtained countless life lessons throughout this elective. It was a whole new level of experience which had definitely built my confidence and I hope that I could emulate all of these invaluable lessons throughout my life as a person, and a medical doctor in the future. I would like to extend my gratitude to GEMx for this once in a lifetime experience, and for encouraging me to step away from my comfort zone, and experience all of this. Not to forget Dr Nabil Sulaiman and Dr Osama Seif for being my supervisors over at University of Sharjah and Hospital Al-Baraha.