Have you considered studying Biomedicine at university? Perhaps you’re unsure about what studying first year Biomedicine is really like, or want to know a bit more about what to expect?
There’s no better way than learning from those who have come before you – from previous first-year students reflecting on their own experiences. That’s exactly why we recently spoke with two Biomedicine students from The University of Melbourne to review their experiences. If you’re keen for more, check out this Facebook Live series from the Biomedicine Students’ Society!
Studying at UOM as part of the largest biomedical precinct in the southern hemisphere has been a fantastic experience, and I can’t recommend it more. To begin, the main campus of UOM is located in the Parkville precinct, where it’s closely located and affiliated with some of the top research institutes and hospitals of the entire country – there’s the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Australia’s oldest medical research institute!) just to name a few.
Many of the biomed lecturers are leading experts from these top institutes, which makes for some amazing teaching quality and connections (e.g. for research projects, shadowing opportunities etc.) for students to utilise. Personally, I would say the greatest opportunity UOM has provided me is within its incredible exchange program. UOM is in partnership with some of the top universities across the world, and in my second year I had the privilege of studying for a semester at University College London in the UK. Friends of mine went to University of Pennsylvania in the US, McGill University in Canada, and many other places.
Coming out of Year 12, I knew I had an interest in medicine, but I didn’t know if I was ready to dedicate the rest of my life to a field that I had only a very superficial knowledge of. Studying within the UOM model has really given me the time and opportunity to grow as a person, enjoy life at my own pace, and confirm to myself that medicine is my calling. In the past 3 years, I’ve had the chance to volunteer in hospitals, participate in research projects, work as a high school tutor, study abroad and immerse myself in countless student clubs and organisations – and I wouldn’t trade this for anything else!
While the biomed cohort is statistically one of the smallest cohorts at UOM, it certainly doesn’t feel that way! Personally, coming from a high school of no more than 200 students in my year level, the UOM biomed cohort felt excitingly big, with so many new people to meet, but also homely, because I could quickly familiarize myself with most faces. Thanks to this, I was able to smoothly navigate the whole new environment that is uni, and find some great friendship groups and study buddies along the way.
If you weren’t already aware, the Biomedicine Students’ Society (BSS) is our overarching student representative body, and they organize many social events (camps, pub crawls, cruises, balls) and academic resources (subject reviews, study groups, external revision lectures) which can help you both ‘work hard, play hard’. Of course, being a biomed student doesn’t mean you’re stuck within your cohort, and personally, I’ve maintained and explored my non-biomed interests of foreign languages and the not-for-profit sector through taking French breadth subjects (more on this later!) and being part of student clubs such as 180 Degrees Consulting.
One of the best aspects of the UOM model is its breadth program – as part of your degree, you are able to take any subject you want to that is outside your degree, and the best part is there is literally an unlimited selection out there! That means, as a Biomedicine student, there is nothing stopping me from taking International Investment Law, Greek Philosophy or Music Psychology. Personally, I’ve used my breadth slots to explore one of my biggest passions outside of science, which is languages – I’ve been able to improve the French I learnt in high school through taking French at UOM, and I’ve picked up Australian Sign Language along the way too. My breadth subjects have allowed me to breathe beyond my biomed degree, and I am incredibly thankful for them.
Of course, studying biomed doesn’t mean you have to pursue Medicine – and UOM’s breadth program is the perfect opportunity to explore your interests outside of science. I’ve had friends in biomedicine who, through their breadths, have realised their passions for arts and commerce, whilst others have decided that allied health (physiotherapy, optometry, audiology etc.) are their callings instead.
There are lots of benefits to studying biomed at UOM. There are so many opportunities for people to take that can really help to extend their studies and gain experience in various biomedical fields. This comes from a multitude of research opportunities given by the university, as well as information nights where professionals discuss their work and their study paths to enable us as students to open our eyes to the different routes we can take.
As well as this, the lecturers are specialists, and many of them are doing extensive research on the content they’re presenting or are professionals from the hospitals and research centres opposite the uni. This means that instead of having only one lecturer per subject, you may have up to 6 different lecturers with different specialisations.
I’ve found the course has pushed me and I’d be lying if I said the course wasn’t a little competitive – it really does extend your knowledge. Don’t let that be a deterrent, because the subjects are a lot of fun, and the content that you learn is really beneficial when completing medicine entry requirements.
I personally absolutely love studying at Unimelb. For me, it isn’t about prestige. It’s about having access to what I believe are the best lecturers and program to ensure I can find something that I’m passionate about to pursue. The environment has been supportive, in that lecturers and subject coordinators understand that 2020 has been a very unprecedented year and a challenge for so many. One of the best aspects of this has been the Unimelb WAMnesty, meaning that people can elect whether their subject results from this year count towards their average marks or not.
While it was challenging making the shift to online learning, and completing practicals and general content online, it was better than not having anything at all. I found that biomed has been quite supportive and has listened to people’s issues and concerns to ensure everyone has the best experience possible and get the most out of the content.
One of the advantages of being part of a smaller cohort is that you end up getting to know people really well during first year. Having all of the same core subjects, you see familiar faces in almost all lectures, tutorials and practicals, which makes the typically-difficult social component of entering university a lot easier.
This means that not only do you have people you can spend time with outside of university hours, but it means you can create revision groups with people who are studying all of the same things you are. Hearing from people in other courses, there are rarely people who find themselves doing multiple subjects together, and this makes it difficult to form solid friendships that can last all the way through university. Being part of a small cohort where everyone has the same core subjects made forming friendships and study groups much easier.
When choosing breadth subjects, definitely choose something that you enjoy doing and are passionate about. The breadth subjects I have explored so far are psychology, law and Auslan, and some others that my friends have studied are choir, criminology, history and language subjects, meaning there are heaps of opportunity to explore heaps of different subjects and topics.
Doing biomed really doesn’t mean that you’re destined to study medicine afterwards. Coming into biomed, I thought I would complete the three years and then apply to law school, which is why I took an immediate interest in the law breadths. A lot of other people have also considered completing other courses than medicine post-grad, such as physiotherapy and optometry, and so there isn’t any pressure to do medicine straight away, and you aren’t in the minority in that regard. At the moment, I found that my passion for health sciences is greater than my passion for law, but that doesn’t mean that the opportunity to apply to law school isn’t still there in the future.