Although holidays are often considered to be a good opportunity to have a break from studying, I decided that I would use the time to further my education. This was mainly because I learnt about the summer school ‘European Health Care and Social Systems in Transition‘, which is organised annually as a part of Forum Alpbach in Austrian Tirol and which, I thought, would perfectly fit into my medical studies.
As the UK is not my home country (so being abroad is a part of my daily life), I cannot remember having too many worries before leaving Edinburgh. Being able to speak German and having checked all the necessary train and bus schedules, I confidently made my way down to Alpbach on time. However, it was only after arriving at the place that my first worries appeared.
I have to admit that I expected the rest of the participants to be, such as myself, medical students, mostly my age, or maybe 2-3 years older. The reality though was a bit different. I was confronted with a group consisting of some recently qualified economists, public health specialists, doctors and also PhD students, many of whom already had some professional experience.
Was I the youngest in the group? Most probably. One of the very few who did not have a degree, let alone job experience? That’s for sure. But at the same time, maybe I was also the one who could gain the most and learn from my experienced colleagues? I spotted my opportunity and I was not wrong.
During a week of a very intense programme consisting of lectures, discussions and seminars, I discovered that the experience and knowledge gained at summer schools can be very different from what the university routine has to offer. Firstly, as the group consisted of only 20 students (as opposed to 200 during medical lectures), everyone was encouraged to ask many questions, which often progressed to very interesting discussions. Frequently, the discussions continued even after the sessions- in pubs or restaurants, where we gathered in the evenings to get to know each other better. The mixture of educational backgrounds, nationalities and experiences within our group turned out to be one of the biggest advantages of the summer school. Working in such a diverse environment is extremely inspiring and it really helps to look at the discussed problems from many different angles.
Similarly, a wide range of topics covered (combining the elements of social sciences, economics, statistics, law and IT) facilitated a deeper understanding of the underlying issues, which often extend beyond the scope of just one science. For me it was a unique opportunity to learn about the things which are at the heart of successful healthcare provision, but are rarely discussed as a part of the medical curriculum.
There are far more things which made my stay in Austria an exceptional experience, not only in terms of education. However, I hope that this short summary showed that summer schools can be very different from university classes and this is why they are really worth adding to your holiday schedule.
Thank you to GoAbroadFund for making this trip possible.