Meet JCU medical student Helena Xiang

Meet first-year JCU Medical School student Helena Xiang. OzTREKK first spoke with Helena in February 2014, when she inquired about studying medicine in Australia. Still in high school at the time, Helena was determined to stick to her plan of applying to an undergraduate medical degree and begin her studies.

And so she did.

Application process: The starting point
Application processes can get difficult and tedious when you don’t know what you’re doing. When I started my application, I didn’t really know where to begin. Not much information was available on Australian schools, and my high school counsellors sent me away to Google everything myself. If you’re a student who’s thinking of applying to JCU, the following might be worth a read:

Sydney Dental School
Study medicine at JCU

Apply through an agent
I applied to James Cook University through an agent. There are many agents out there that provide services to Canadian students, but the one I personally got in touch with was OzTREKK. These people were friendly, provided information sessions, and were quick to respond to conundrums and queries. They made the entire process that much easier for me. They saved me so much time and effort! I didn’t have to worry about sending my application all the way to Australia, or have to worry about the time zone differences when contacting for more information. Plus, all these services were free!

Check all requirements
I’m a high school grad who just entered university this year, so this was the first time I applied to a university. It was extremely confusing when I was looking at the course requirements. I kept thinking, “What in the world is Maths A, ATAR, OP?!”. Needless to say, I was looking at the wrong section. Make sure you check the requirements for your country. Don’t freak yourself out unnecessarily like I did. (This is where your agent comes in!)

Don’t be scared to apply
That was something I wished someone told me. I wasn’t confident when I was applying to my program at JCU. I didn’t think I would be able to get in as medicine is a very competitive program. But, you never know right? Don’t belittle yourself, and even if you lack that confidence, it never hurts to try.

First impressions
I actually knew very little about Australian universities before I applied to JCU Medical School. When I was looking at my options during university application season, the undergraduate program offered at JCU seemed really appealing to me. It was different from other universities. Not only was it because it was a program I could enter straight out of high school, but also because of its focus on rural, remote, and Indigenous health—these are the places and people that have inadequate access to health care.

I can’t compare really compare JCU’s teaching and facilities to other universities because I’ve never attended one, but it has everything we really need. The cohort size is smaller than other schools, and I really like how the university incorporates the clinical portion with the science. Right from first year, medical students get the opportunity to do short placements at different clinics with different doctors, and apply the science part in real-life practice. The amount of clinical exposure will gradually increase over the years as well. Years 4 to 6 are the “clinical years” where students are predominantly in the hospital, and attend the occasional lecture on the side.

Tips for future students
Things in Australia generally cost more—especially their imported goods. If you can buy medical equipment in Canada, I would recommend that you do. Stethoscopes are much cheaper back home and online. Get to know the people around you who are studying the same degree, both in your year and upper year levels as well. They can be a really good support network and great to study with to keep you on track. The library is also quite a nice place to study if you live somewhere with lots of noise.

Homesickness
I think the most difficult thing would probably be living so far away from home. This doesn’t just apply to med students, but to all students. The start of an adventure seems exciting at first, but feeling homesick will hit eventually. Bring some things that remind you of home, and be sure to call home when you start missing it!

JCU Medical School MBBS program

Located in Townsville, JCU Medical School offers the MBBS medical degree and aims to produce graduates of the highest academic standards who can progress to medical practice and to further studies in medical specialties. Graduates will be uniquely qualified in the fields of rural, remote and Indigenous health, and tropical medicine.

The James Cook University medical precinct is opposite the Townsville Hospital, the largest teaching hospital in regional or tropical Australia. In later years, students have a base at one of the James Cook University clinical schools that include Townsville, Cairns, Mackay or Darwin. 

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: Generally the end of August each year


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