It’s that time of year again. Nervous students are wandering around campus dressed in suits, frantically re-reading their personal statement and trying to remember they are at Imperial not UCL. They know the prospectus off-by-heart, have learnt more about the NHS than anyone working in it knows and are clued up on all sorts of ethical dilemmas. Yes, it’s interviews!
So as I am reminded of my own application to Imperial and interview now 6 years ago, I thought I would write a few words on things at college that the prospectus didn’t prepare me for:
So, yes of course I realised Imperial was in South Kensington, but what I hadn’t appreciated was how utterly amazing it would be to live and study there! Every day wandering past the beautiful buildings and museums along Exhibition Road, being a stones throw away from Hyde Park and living in zone 1! I will never afford to live anywhere near Zone 1 or South Kensington, so to live there as a fresher was great fun. Although despite all it’s good points, nothing can prepare you for the tube station at half term- think mums, screaming children, buggies and tube barriers…
2. Hospitals all over West London
Before I started my clinical years I had some dreamy idea that my placements would be at various sites across central London. The prospectus probably did outline some details about hospital placements, but I (like many) never paid much attention to it. As there are lots of medical schools in London, the hospitals are divided up between them; Imperial (being in West London) gets the North Western hospitals. These range from Chelsea and Westminster, St. Mary’s at Paddington, right through to Hillingdon hospital and St. Peters (check out my previous post for more details). Most students find that this is really helpful as they get to experience a range of hospitals (sometimes living on site) and there are less students at each site so they can get more involved. However it’s worth remembering this if you are planning to live at home… commuting from East London to South Kensington may be okay, but over to Northwick Park might be more challenging!
3. A BSc year
Again, yes the prospectus did say about this, but I simply didn’t understand what a BSc was! I signed up not really knowing anything about it, but it turned out to be a great decision. All medics at Imperial automatically do an intercalated degree in their 4th year (making it a 6 year course, instead of 5 years long). Simply, you get to study another subject for a year. This is usually an area of Medicine in more detail (e.g. haematology, global health, respiratory) or an area relevant to Medicine (e.g. Management). It also involves a research project, or an opportunity to study medical humanities, ethics & law or the history of medicine in more detail. Great fun and very interesting!
Obvious, but it’s useful to practice how to cook and use a washing machine before you arrive. I managed okay, but my husband Sam ended up with many kitchen disasters, quite a few pink T-shirts from washing accidents, and needed to ring his mum for advice every time he had to use the washing machine. Be prepared!
5. The Keen-ness
If you work hard enough to get to Imperial you are usually a little bit of a keen-been worker! I found it was very refreshing arriving at Imperial to find that everyone was slightly geeky and worked hard too. It’s pretty easy to fit in here whoever you are, which is quite unique.
6. Being a small fish in a very large pond- actually, a very large ocean
Everyone told me this again and again before I started at university, but it wasn’t until the end of my first year that I realised just how true this was. I cannot write anything that discusses this better than Izzy’s fantastic blog earlier in the year- a must-read before starting at Imperial.
7. Pre-clinical lectures
Imperial is a traditional medical school, so the first 2 years are mostly lectures with very little clinical contact. This does prepare you well, and the short bursts of placement are great as an encouragement. Just remember not to despair in first term after hours of lectures on cells; I promise you, it gets better and better every year!
8. The encouragement I would gain from the amateur transplants
Ex-Imperial medics, this duo have recorded a number of parodies of pop songs related to Medicine. Their song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ got me through many tough revision periods with a smile (or maybe just a grimace…).
9. The large amount of hard work
We really do ‘work hard, play hard’. The work is worth it, but honestly at times it is tough. This is universal to all courses- for example it’s usually hard to find a free desk in the library anytime after 10am, and we have a very big library!
10. How much I would enjoy it here!