By Ms Rebecca Bugeja, 3rd year medical student & National Exchanges Officer for MMSA Malta
As I watched most of the establishments closed indefinitely for the first time in my life, I turned to the things that did not give in during these times: technology.
I must admit that social media was one of the coping mechanisms that helped me through this time. On one app, I could get informed about the COVID-19 situation, both locally and internationally. On another app, I could find both educational and entertainment videos to pass the time. Just an app away, I could text my friends, or better still, video call them.
With the rise of video-calling apps, I am glad that the university has conveyed online teachings.
I find that this is more convenient for both parties because you can give/listen to the lecture wherever you are, if you have a good internet connection. This means that as students, we can attend the lecture whilst at the comfort of our own couches. Aside from giving online teachings a go, I was grateful at finding additional material to help with the assimilation of the content using both videos and apps.
Apart from the conventional social media and video calling apps, I made use of emails more frequently than before the pandemic started. As a board member in charge of exchanges, I had to inform the officers in charge of their countries’ exchanges about our decision to cancel the exchanges programme for the next few months.
As we exchange officers are all connected through an email network, enabling us to share information by sending one email to the whole entire network. Apart from sending and receiving emails regarding exchanges, I was able to receive notifications on additional international opportunities. As a medical student looking for ways to refine my CV, this pandemic gave me the opportunity to go through these emails and apply for a few of these opportunities. This allows you to work with people on an international level, aside from your current role. This can further expand your expertise and skill set along the line.
Life between the 4 walls of a house does not stop there. Even though we live in a technology-run world, I try to leave some time free to disconnect from technology. Whenever I need a break from the screen of my laptop or at least, from my studies, I go over to the other rooms of the house to catch up with my family. Outside of the realm of technology, I can satisfy my need of physical contact with people. Despite having the possibility to video call friends, interacting with them through a microphone and a screen creates a different atmosphere to a normal conversation.
This pandemic was dominated by feelings of uncertainty and pending cancellations and postponements of events.
This started with the cancellation of the all the scheduled events organised by MMSA for the rest of the term. This led to the decision of cancelling summer exchanges, both for the local students going abroad and foreign students coming here. Aside from the students’ association aspect, I was worried about my exams. Considering that I am facing a semester where we have 8 exams, the sooner the decision regarding our exams was finalised, the better for us because we could focus on our studies. In the meantime, online teachings were not being delivered to us with enough time to prepare ourselves well for the exams. We would not have managed to get everything done in time for the June exams. As it was announced that the exams were to be split into 2 sittings, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. This meant that would not experience 8 exams in 1 sitting. It felt like a ray of light against the pitch-black world that the pandemic created.
With the seemingly extra time that this lock-down gave me, thoughts of chasing new opportunities quickly rushed into my mind.
Considering that I will step down from the board in a month’s time, I realised that this would leave a huge void in my life. I thought of how much this role defined me as a person or at least, how these roles have shaped me into the person that I am today. This motivated me enough to think about opportunities both within medical student organisations and outside them. It encouraged me to think of applying for international roles, both as an assistant or to work along other international medical students on policy papers on current topics such as medical education and open access.
Apart from the added international roles that I sought, I thought of other clinical opportunities in foreign hospitals, since my plans for this summer have been forcibly cancelled. Before the pandemic was never on the radar, I planned to do a month of clinical attachments abroad. This encouraged me to look for international opportunities for next year so that I can book things in ahead, whilst keeping my fingers crossed that things are back to normal by the summer of 2021.
Disclaimer: Opinions and thoughts expressed within this article do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Malta.