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Intercalating During Medical School

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Hi there! I’m Aysha, a 4/5th year medical student at Manchester. I decided to take a year out from my medical studies to intercalate – this means, I’m spending a year at Imperial College London to study another specific degree before coming back to Manchester to finish my final year of medical school.

There are many reasons why people want to Intercalate in medical school. For me, it was the opportunity to take out a year from Medicine and focus on something else I’m particularly interested in. I decided to study a BSc in Surgical Design, Technology, and Innovation, which encompasses my current interests in Surgery and Medical Technology – a field I find fascinating and would one day want to be involved in. The year has been very different from my medical degree, involving assignments rather than exams and being very research-focused, which is another reason I chose to study it. This year, you have the opportunity to develop many skills which are useful as a Doctor but aren’t necessarily taught within medical school - for example how to write and critically appraise scientific papers. Already, we have learnt so many transferable research skills which I know will be immensely useful for me in the future as someone who is interested in research and academia. I have been thoroughly enjoying the course and lectures, being able to learn about the applications of technology within different surgical specialties is a plus for me.

I chose to intercalate at Imperial specifically as I admired the research focus at this University. I also wanted to spend my intercalation year in London, to have a change in environment but also experience life here in case I’d like to work in this city in the future. It’s been a great experience so far, and studying a BSc – although sometimes heavy with assignments – means I have a bit more time on my hands to have fun and explore the city in between my studies. This has been an amazing experience and I’d highly recommend it if you want some time away from Medicine!

There are a few things to think about however before committing yourself to an intercalated degree; it is one extra year at University which means another year of tuition fees and money to pay for your living expenses. It is something which is manageable – student finance is still available although at a minimum level, and if you’re intercalating after your 4th year, you’ll be eligible for some funding from the NHS Bursary. You might also be eligible for some bursary from the University you’re planning on studying at – make sure you research this before applying if money might be a worry for you. Additionally, if studying a BSc especially, you’ll likely have some free time in which you can earn money through a side job, which can help you to pay for living expenses for the year. Ensure you’re passionate about the degree you’ll be intercalating in before making the decision to do so, as at the end of the day it does come with its expenses. It’s also an extra year at University, which for some people isn’t ideal as they’d like to graduate and start working. Other people don’t want to intercalate as they aren’t 100% interested in any particular course, which is also absolutely fine.

For me, the combination of being interested in the degree I’m studying, being able to have a break from Medicine (a more relaxed year), learning these important research skills and exploring a new City as well as meeting new people and forming more connections all makes this year worth the extra work. I have been able to work on some hobbies and even pick up a language during this year, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I gone straight into 5th year. If it’s something you’re passionate about and really interested in, I’d highly recommend going for it – you won’t regret it!

By Guest Writer Aysha

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