-för en 'bättre värld'
Well, now I have told you about my adventures in England and Africa; now back to the beginning: Sweden. In the previous posts, I wrote about what I have experienced already, but now I will instead anticipate what is to come. Because, as you know, I have just been admitted to the medical school at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
What can I expect? Well, now on beforehand, from what I have heard and read, Karolinska offers the toughest medical programme in Sweden in amount of work and degree of detail. However, it also has the highest percentage of students failing the intern test between med school and the required 18 months of general practice newly examined doctors must undergo in Sweden. Karolinska does not use Problem-Based Learning to any significant amount, perhaps even the least in the country, which I actually have to say that I, now on beforehand, appreciate, because during real lectures one always knows that one has heard, read, or gone through all chapters while in PBL too much is based on group work and how much effort other students have put into their presentations. I also expect a tough climate during pre-clin, simply because they take in about 150 students while having just over 100 practice spots for students (allegedly, although some sources say they offer, since in Stockholm, the greatest range of practice for the students). The first course, Den Friska Människan (the Healthy Human Person) 1, is very tough, with (again, allegedly) between 30% and 60% failing the first attempt.
There are many more challenges. Since Karolinska is situated in the capital, the largest and most impersonal city in Sweden, there is virtually no student life by Swedish measures. However, the Swedish student life does not suit me at all, it is all about drinking alcohol and partying. It is not like in Britain or the US where student clubs, organisations, and other more serious institutions are the core of the student life. Universities in Sweden of course also have some clubs and such, but not to the same extent like in Britain. I know, I was there and saw for myself… I would have loved to take part in the proud battles between the universities in the UK, because that same rivalry simply does not exist in Sweden, which is a shame. At Oxbridge, you of course have the annual rowing contests that attract great audiences and gives fame and honour to the school that wins. In Sweden, there are mostly only smaller amateur clubs that at most compete with each other at the universities themselves, not between different ones.
But, there are of course more positive things to studying in Stockholm. It is the cultural capital, not just the de jure one, and there are museums, book stores, theatres, and art galleries and museums. I have to admit that I never have been overly excited over art and culture, but lately my love for literature sure does have pushed me into the direction of actually wanting to understand other culture as well. Hence, Stockholm is a great city. The university itself is connected to four hospitals (Södersjukhuset, Danderyds Sjukhus, Karolinska in Huddinge, and Karolinska in Solna) so one does not have to move to other towns during the clinical years (which I know that e.g. Uppsala University forces their students to do because Uppsala in itself is too small to train 150 students). So, if one likes it in Stockholm, one can stay there for the full 5.5 years.
More negatives? Well, the anonymity of big cities will probably be palpable. In a city like London, there is a reverse effect because the students at the respective universities cluster themselves together in order to combat the solitude. However, Stockholm seems just small enough to let students at Karolinska who live in Stockholm already not having to engage with their new classmates, hence the atmosphere at the university is rumoured to be chilling, not necessarily bad but not just as good as in the student cities, viz. Uppsala and Lund. That, I have to admit, is one thing scaring me – that I will find myself lonely and that all my class mates will be pretentious pricks. I have had contact with friends-of-my-friends who have said that exactly that notion made them change schools already after the first semester.
But, the risk is worth it. The possibilities that Karolinska opens up to you, if you succeed and complete the programme, are enormous. 40% of all medical research in Sweden happens at Karolinska and hence it has an over-representation of brilliant professors there to teach us (or to let us in on projects parallel to our courses). My personal hero, and the man who actually made me eventually decide that Medicine was the career to pursue, Hans Rosling, is based there, and a friend of mine from the IB (though one year below me) told me that already during the first week she had engaged in a group discussion with him and a group of students. I would be star-struck… Is that nerdy? I mean, to hold a professor in International Health as a hero? I hope it is a sign that I mature and that I finally start doing something special with my life…
I hope I will find a lot of like-minded (AND different-minded, of course) students there to study with during my 5.5 years. At prestigious institutions there is always the risk that teamgeist is forsaken in favour of intra-student rivalry and competition, but at the same time I know for a fact that completing the course successfully will be impossible without help and without sharing what I know. And obviously it is much more fun if one has great company to share the tough moments with. I hope most people are at least my age, so that they will not only go out and party whenever we have spare time, but at the same time I would not like to be the youngest in the class (to me, having older people around me ignites a sense of being the underdog, the position from which I love to work). I think the mean age at med school in Sweden is around 26, meaning that most people start studying at 23. I will be 21.5 years old. That is perfect. Bloody perfect.
Karolinska, I am coming for you!