When i embarked on the long journey to become a doctor, i was 19. At 19, i did not really think too much about studying overseas or even Medicine. I was only excited that i was finally in medical school. I did not consider any other profession because my application to medical school has been accepted and by virtual of the environment i came from, professions such as being a marine biologist, a physicist, a detective or an army personnel were unheard of. Let alone a female considering such career choices. You have two paths in Life; you either become a lawyer or you become a doctor. My parents were fortunate; my interests were aligned with their expectations.

I have constantly reflected on the events in the past few years as a student in a foreign land living alone. I would say that my years in Medical school has taught me more about Life itself than Medicine per se. I have grown, matured and changed. I have met people who changed my life – inspirational, damning and downright appalling. One thing i can’t help but notice (with some bitterness i suppose), is how this country neglects its large population of international students. It has been one obstacle after another as we fight to survive in this society. We gain the respect of our fellow white collar peers and patients we meet, yet on the outside, without our stethoscopes or any signs to mark us as healthcare professionals; the general public regards us as second class citizens who blemish their society; foreigners who fumble with the English language and who are dumb enough to be ripped off.

I have lost count of the throngs of people who assume that i cannot understand English and try to baby-talk me. I used to get annoyed, now i just let it pass. Sometimes i find it darkly amusing and ironic; after all the international students who come over to study either hail from wealthy families who can fork out the insane amount of tuition fees and it is their money that powers a third of this country’s economy or they are the cream of the crop of their countries (how else can they qualify in the top universities here?), or we come from both categories. Aside from basic decency and courtesy, i think it makes even more sense to treat us a little better.

Rent is exorbitant. Agents and landlords mistreat us and raise the rent mercilessly – they know we don’t have any other choice. The government makes it difficult for internationals to own a house. Some of the stringent regulations decree that we can only buy brand new houses in the city which easily come up to a million dollars. In addition to that, we can’t take a loan because we are students. Tell me, what else can we do? A few weeks ago, my agent left a message to demand why my rent was late. Five years of punctual rent payments and now they turn nasty? I checked, the payment had went through. I called the agent up, couldn’t get her, left a couple of messages. None was answered. I finally caught hold of her, and she was livid. She yelled that it was a mistake and she did not have the time to let me know that. Wow. Not to mention that part of the roof is leaking (laundry room) and i am starting to hear dripping sounds in my BEDROOM. The tradesman that was sent around said that the back roof had slid in, and required repair. That was almost a year ago. Nothing done. Is this place even still safe to live in? I don’t know. But i am staying because my housemate and i have no time to look for a new place, and they are fortunate that rainy days are far and few.

Customer service is appalling. My computer was sent for repair more than six months ago. The company lost my CPU, and they have yet to refund me. I can harass them, but that means i need to have the time to do so. When you are in the hospital clocking an average ten hour shift, and the customer service here only extends to 5pm, it makes things really really challenging. I don’t know how one can survive without any spare cash floating around. Speaking of which, i can’t hold down a part-time job simply because i don’t have the time. Medical school is so hectic that i can’t physically work even if i were to cut out all my studying time. Employers demand a minimum 16 working hours. I can only spare 8.

Late last year, we also found out that internationals can no longer be guaranteed a job. Yet, the University does not make that known to new applicants. They admit that without us, their programs can’t run. In medical school, an international student pays up to $70 thousand per year. By comparison a local student pays only $7 thousand. Is this fair? How did this happen? Why do we let it happen?

The list goes on. I can only say that i am very very exhausted and frustrated.

I can’t say i regret coming to this place to study because honestly i know that i have learnt to become a much stronger and independent person. It shows. I go back to Potato Land, meet my friends, work with the other healthcare professionals, and the difference in mentality and attitude is striking. But i don’t know whether there was a need to make my college years so daunting. Do i need to grow up so fast? I could honestly do with some slack. But it doesn’t matter now i suppose. I have almost walked to the end.


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