Welcome to the 9th week of the Virtual Medicine Open Day: giving you an insight into each of the UK medical schools and the opportunity to ask current medical students about the realities of studying there!
This post is written by Tara Benson , a 1st year medical student at Swansea University.
I’ve only been a Swansea Medical School a year, but in that time, both the uni and the city have completely stolen my heart. Not only is uni in a stunning location (you can see the beach from our clinical skills suite), the course is packed full of so many incredible opportunities and experiences right from the word go – I’d like to give you a little insight into life as a Swansea medic!
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Swansea
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Swansea
An Overview of How We Are Taught
At Swansea, we’re taught with case based learning. This means we start the week off with a clinical scenario, and we talk through it – history, presentation, investigations, etc. The rest of our learning that week is all based around that case, and we have sessions on pathology, physiology, anatomy, clinical skills, pharmacology – everything we need to know. Lectures are always large group, but anatomy and clinical skills sessions are always split into much smaller group teaching, and we often have seminars and workshops which are also small group. Swansea gives you a lot of clinical exposure from very early on in 1st year, so half day and full day placements (and one 5 week placement) take place throughout the weeks too. The curriculum is designed in spiral format, meaning that topics taught are continually revisited throughout the course, helping build long term learning.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
NB – CBL = community based learning (GP practice placement we get once every few weeks)
The Non-Medical Stuff
Swansea has the benefit of both campuses being situated right on the beach front, so there’s always time for a sandy stroll during your lunch break! The uni itself is campus, and handily, the hospital in which we have a lot of teaching/placement is right on the edge of campus! As a city, Swansea is small, cheap, and busy but not too busy, and it really does have something for everyone – hills, sea, woods and parks for all the outdoorsy people, and some really great bars, cafes and shops for the more relaxed of us (i.e. myself, I can confirm there are some wonderful independent coffee spots for caffeinating and studying)! We’re right next to the absolutely stunning Gower peninsula, so there’s miles and miles of beaches that look like they come from a holiday brochure. The uni has a huge range of both medical and non-medical societies and you’ll definitely find one to suit you – everyone is super welcoming. As Swansea is only graduate entry, most people tend to live in shared houses, usually a max 15 minute walk from campus – but if you do want to live in halls, accommodation is literally a 2 minute walk from the med school building!
Pros of Studying at Swansea
• As previously mentioned, even first years get a lot of clinical experience. We have 10 days a year at a GP practice which we are attached to, and we’re allowed to get really involved with patients there. We also have something called LOCS, which are basically half day placements in a huge range of medical related areas – this year I did things like attend an autopsy, join a psychiatric clinic at the local prison, watch surgery, and take part in an early morning ward round! I think it’s one of the best things about Swansea, as it means that when we start our fully clinical years, we feel really prepared. It also allows us to experience areas of medicine that we may otherwise not have much access to. There is a 5 week placement in one specialty halfway through first year, too, so you get to see what a rotation is like!
• Another great point of Swansea is that the vast majority of our lecturers are either currently practicing, or retired, clinicians or medical staff. We also have a different ‘week lead’ each week who is a specialist in the particular specialty or area we’re being taught about, so we get the best knowledge possible about our topics. It also really helps with the networking side of things, and meeting clinicians to help you pursue any particular area you find yourself interested in.
• One big pro of Swansea is the smaller year groups – in my cohort, there’s around 100 of us, and we’re the largest yeargroup yet! It sounds like a lot, but it’s still small enough that all your tutors, main lecturers etc know who you are and can build a relationship with you, and you also get to know most of your class mates really well too. This is one of the things that really helps towards the sense of community and friendliness that Swansea medicine has.
• From the moment I interviewed, I felt an overwhelming vibe of support, kindness and friendliness from other students and staff alike, far more so than I felt at the other unis I interviewed at. Could just be personal experience, but others I’ve spoken to have agreed that Swansea has a REALLY friendly environment.
• Finally, being one of only 2 med schools in Wales, we get a lot of opportunities to do things like Welsh national conferences, and Welsh-based research, which is definitely pretty cool!
Cons of Studying at Swansea
• Sometimes it can feel like we are quite separate from the main uni. This is probably quite a common thing in medicine, especially graduate entry when there’s 1 less year to fit everything in, but because of our longer term times, fuller timetable, and different exam times, I personally feel like we don’t get as much chance to be a part of uni events as most students. We have a whole host of medical societies (including the newly formed healthcare choir) so the social life is still great, but it can be a bit separate.
• Sometimes, I also feel like the medical science aspects of things aren’t always the best taught, such as histology and physiology. A lot of emphasis is placed on clinical aspects of teaching, which is great, but occasionally I feel like there’s scientific parts of a case or condition that haven’t been well explained. We have basic science lectures run in first year, aimed primarily at non-science graduates but open to all; these are great, and really useful. However, I feel like some of the science side can sometimes be glossed over or omitted, which can be frustrating, as it really helps to understand the whole process of an illness or condition.
• One final downside is that your long placements can be realistically anywhere in North or West Wales – we cover a huge area, so you can be a really long way away from your home and friends for a while, which seems quite daunting. However, this could also be a positive, as it means you get a whole new place to explore and new experiences to have!
3 Top Tips For Applying to Swansea
1. Whilst clinical/healthcare work experience is important, Swansea value all forms of work experience and volunteering, as long as you can reflect on it and show what you took from it. Pretty sure during my interview I reflected on an example from when I volunteered at music festivals! Self-reflection is very important, so try and think what you’ve learnt from your experiences, how they made you feel, etc.
2. Know a little about the course, and why those things make you want to study at Swansea. It’s ok if it’s not your first choice, but you should have some reasons why you want to be there, and there should be things about the course or the city that attract you.
3. Keep vaguely up to date with current medical news and affairs (have a feeling next year’s interviews will have a lot of covid-related stories) – it’s always great if you can refer specifically to something that caught your eye recently.
Thank you Tara for writing all about Swansea and providing such a detailed insight! Find out more about her on Instagram:
Your Turn To Ask Any Questions!
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