My international experience at the NUI Galway School of Medicine can be summarised as one of hardship to humility, and resilience.
Leaving my home in Toronto, Canada was by far the most challenging experience I had faced. I was overwhelmed, lost and felt uncertain how to navigate a new culture and the unknown world of healthcare.
For the first time, I began to question my choice to enter medicine, and this really scared me. Yet, I later realised I could be vulnerable and accept that I did not have to face my fears alone.
Along the way, I was inspired by individuals who demonstrated empathy, understanding, and compassion towards me. One such person was Dr Peter Cantillon, a Professor of Primary Care at NUI Galway, who once said to me: “There is a very fine line to walk between humility and self-belief. If you do not have self-belief, it is hard to act. Yet, if you unleash too much self-belief, you might find yourself marginalising the patient perspective and act in a paternalistic fashion.”
His statement resonated with me, as I began to question my presumptions, and preconceptions; allowing me to normalise my doubts and fears and discover courage that I did not know I had. In short, I began to reflect on how seeing the world through another’s eyes could be a catalyst to transforming myself and the way I viewed the world.
I met many people who mentored me along the way, both formally and informally. Teachers and friends alike provided me emotional support and a safe space to make mistakes. Previously, acknowledging that I made mistakes almost paralysed me. But through accepting mistakes, and perhaps even feeling a bit foolish and lost occasionally, I came to value a newfound sense of determination and humility.
Indeed, Galway and the School of Medicine presented me with an unfamiliar world, full of responsibilities that were all too unnerving at times. Henry David Thoreau, a poet and philosopher, once said, “not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
I learned that feeling lost is not comfortable, but it is okay – even necessary.
I believe if we can trust ourselves and others to help along the journey, we can make mistakes, and in doing so, succeed in ways we never imagined.