I am a Kiwi-born, Melbourne based doctor studying the MSc Public Health. In the coming months I hope to inform, inspire and ultimately entertain you about my experiences at the school, living in London and my journey figuring out what this whole Public Health thing is about! My first blog is about something a little less tangible: What the brochure doesn’t tell you…
Quite vividly, I remember walking into the John Snow lecture theatre first day of school. Outside was cool; a typical grey London autumn morning. Inside, the auditorium was permeated by a warm but reserved ambience. As I looked out among the sea of strangers, I began to wonder who all these people were? An unsettling intimidation began to brew inside me. Were they all as accomplished as I was led to believe? Where would I fit in? Have people even heard of New Zealand?
While all this was hamster-ing around my head, I made (somewhat unintentionally) eye contact with one of the strangers next to me. The smile spread from his eyes to his mouth, and a sensation of: “I did make a good decision moving to London” spread over me. Extending his hand, he introduced himself. He was a doctor from Central Africa who had moved to the UK a few years back and was now on the Public Health training scheme. His Masters would form a part of his training requirements.
Intrigued by the stranger’s backstory, the debris of the first-day panic dissolved and in its place emerged a genuine curiosity. Questions popped up in my mind like mushrooms: I don’t know anything about Central Africa, what are the countries there? What kind of food and music do people like? What is medical school like in your country? What was your motivation for applying for the Public Health training scheme? In the moments before the start of Professor Peter Piot’s welcome, we touched on a few of these topics. In return I addressed some of my new friend’s questions about living and training in New Zealand and Australia, what it’s like to work with Aboriginals in the Outback. I even confirmed the All Black’s back line for their up and coming test. Things I didn’t even know I had to offer!
This process of diving into a multinational swimming pool of experience, is something that would repeat itself almost daily. These moments between lectures are where I feel a lot of the learning and unique LSHTM culture arises from. The encounters are countless. Off the top of my head I now know about the colonial history and medical politics of Kenya, The sometimes ridiculous ways that medical school interviews are conducted in the USA, and have been fortunate to spend time with a once stranger and now close friend in Geneva; testing theories from policy class at an exceptionally rambunctious dinner party hosted by some of the architects of the very policies we were discussing.
While the brochure will tell you about the world-class modules and degrees on offer at the London School, what it doesn’t tell you is that so much of your learning happens outside of the classroom in the context of a truly international and multicultural student cohort. A PowerPoint slide from the first day, highlighted close to 100 nationalities represented at the School. For a group of like-minded, dedicated individuals passionate about improving health worldwide, this presents a unique environment and opportunity, not easily replicated anywhere in the world.