'Even if I got the points, I don’t think I’d change where I am now' - Meet the students leaving Ireland to follow their medical study dreams
- 'Not too late' for those who did not receive enough points to study medicine, veterinary, pharmacy, dentistry and other medical disciplines
- Irish students tell of their experience of college life in Poland
- 'It’s a great experience, it’s not just about doing medicine'
An Irish student has offered hope to Leaving Certificate students who may not have received enough points to follow their dream of studying medicine in Ireland.
Andrea Glennon, from Longford, is one of 12 Irish students in her class of 44 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
It is expected that another 30 Irish students will travel to Poland to study a medical discipline through English this year.
Andrea (19) said she "has always been fascinated by medicine", but considers herself a realist and knew she was not going to achieve the CAO points to study medicine in Ireland.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Andrea said she "couldn’t be happier" after completing her first year of the six-year course.
"My granny got a stethoscope when I was five and I’ve been obsessed by anything medical since," Andrea said.
"I did my Transition Year placement in Temple Street Hospital and it was so amazing, that’s how I definitely knew I wanted to do medicine."
The former Wilsons Hospital boarder said studying medicine in Poland was her first option for after the Leaving Cert.
Andrea was offered a preliminary place in the course based on her Leaving Cert mock results and her secondary school teachers’ predictions. She said she had to achieve certain grades in the Leaving Cert exams and also had to do an interview in Poland for the university place. She was also tested on her knowledge on biology and chemistry.
"It’s a different process. I definitely did still feel the pressure, but it was different. The worry began at the mocks, the pressure was earlier in the year," Andrea said.
“My parents were very supportive, it was never a surprise to them that I wanted to study medicine.
"I think they would have liked for me to have had the opportunity to do something in Ireland, but when they saw the university’s facilities, they knew they were the same as Ireland, if not a better standard.
"I’m an only child so they were sad to see me go, but they were delighted I got what I wanted."
The medical course is "full-time" and "full-on", according to Andrea, who has just completed her one-month placement in an Irish hospital.
Life in Bydgoszcz is sociable and budget-friendly, according to the young student, and Andrea now says she "would absolutely recommend" studying in Poland. She credits Medical Poland, an application support service for medical universities in Poland, with helping her achieve her course.
"I was talking to my mum the other day and I was saying even if I got the points for Ireland, I don’t think I’d change where I am now," Andrea added.
Stephen Keller (19) said he moved to Poland last-minute after starting a course in UCD he knew he wasn't going to fully enjoy.
The young student, from Drumcondra, advised this year's batch of medicine hopefuls to consider options abroad if they don't get enough points to study their discipline through the CAO.
"I always wanted to do medicine," Stephen said.
"If it's something you know you want to do, you have to do it and you have to take the chance.
"I would say don't let you doubt yourself, if you can't do medicine because you don't have the points, that doesn’t mean medicine is not for you."
Stephen said studying in Poland was not his first option, but it was always "in the back of [his] mind."
"It was great to have a back-up plan," he said.
"I would now say if you know what you want to do and you don’t get it in Ireland, don’t settle for less, go for Poland."
Stephen said he spends his weekends like any students in Ireland; sometimes he needs to study for tests, while other weekends he is able to go out and socialise with his college friends.
He said the cost of living is "very cheap."
'Not too late'
Student Advisor with Medical Poland, Artur Banaszkiewicz, said it is not too late for those who did not receive enough points this week to study medicine, veterinary or other medical disciplines through the CAO.
"There are still places to offer this year, it is still possible to apply up until the 31st of August. We have a number of interviews already scheduled and we’re expecting at least another dozen, or even two dozen, applications," Artur told Independent.ie.
He said studying in Poland will require tuition fees, but explains that the cost of living is very low.
"Student fees are approximately €10,000 a year for medicine and they range up to €16,000 a year for some programmes. Most students go for veterinary which is €8,000 a year. This is just tuition fees but you need to remember the living costs in Ireland are much higher.
"We estimate in all of the cities that our students need €450 a month which is sufficient to cover the costs of living, including accommodation and transport."
Artur represents Nicolaus Copernicus University's Collegium Medicum (CM) in Bydgoszcz, Poland that runs a 6 year MD program through English. Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy are also on the list.
Medical Poland are holding their Dublin Open Day on Thursday, 31 August at the European Commission Representation in Dublin, 5:30pm. There will be a chance to meet student advisors, academics from Polish universities, the Polish Ambassador and an Irish Department of Foreign Affairs representative.