This story is part of a series of articles from our University Counsellors highlighting the stories of alumni and the paths they have taken after graduating from SMUS. This first article of a three-part mini series focuses exclusively on pathways to direct-entry medicine, not offered in Canada. You can find links to other stories in this series at the bottom of this post.
Fay Hoefer is in her first year studying medicine at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. After four years in SMUS boarding, this native of Germany was looking for a European medical school in English. She fixed her sights on The Netherlands, which had two options: either Maastricht or Groningen. She chose Maastricht, a vibrant student town on the border of Belgium and Germany, having enjoyed visiting her brother, also studying there.
Applying to Maastricht is not for the faint of heart. First, there is the portfolio, where applicants are selected based on their written responses to five questions on leadership, stress management, and other topics. Those who make the cut then have a short window to write two lengthy research essays on topics. Fay wrote a paper on the pain reception of the human body and another on Artificial Intelligence and the future of medicine. After this, selected applicants are invited to attend “selection days” at Maastricht University, where they are tested on personal attributes, such as grit, and also on their scientific knowledge. At this point, every applicant still in the running is ranked. If they are offered a spot, they have two weeks to accept.
The six-year program at Maastricht University consists of a three-year bachelor degree in English, called the BaMED, followed by a three-year Masters degree, in Dutch. The Dutch language requirement may be waived in the future, but with her fluent German and English, Fay is not daunted by the Dutch language requirement. “Maastricht sets up students for success with all kinds of career preparation,” she emphasizes, starting with Dutch language support during her undergraduate degree. There are also exciting opportunities for medical internships and patient contact. Fay’s European medical degree will give her a wide array of options about where to practise medicine. She might stay in Europe, move to the UK, or even move to Australia. For now, she’s focused on getting through her first year.
Now well into her first year, Fay describes her experience at Maastricht University as ”perfect.” The program is very fast-paced and busy, but her group of students is small (40 people) and she feels well supported by professors and doctors. “Everything is very personal, like at SMUS.” Since her program focuses on real life experiences, she has started practising medical skills “from day one.” She is already working with patients, giving injections, taking ultrasounds, and other types of physical examinations. “In my opinion, the program is a dream for any medical student.”
The housing situation in Maastricht is quite difficult (like anywhere in the Netherlands) but Fay has found a good place to live. And she loves Maastricht. The city offers everything from small boutiques to hundreds of delicious restaurants and she often meets other students when she’s in town.
Fay gives a shout-out to SMUS teachers for preparing her well, “Especially the AP program. It made the first few months a little bit easier for me than for some of my classmates.” Fay’s advice for other SMUS students reflects her trademark optimism: “Give everything your best shot and try something new and out of your comfort zone. You will definitely end up loving it, wherever it brings you!”