Ashni Khetarpal Profile

Ashni KhetarpalI am in my first year of Biomedical Sciences presently. Biomedical sciences is a challenging course, with the first year offering a wide spread of modules to give students a flavour of the different disciplines involved. The first year of this three year course is very pivotal in helping us decide what specialization of the biomedicine subjects we want to pursue further or if we want to continue learning aspects of all the subjects. The practical and seminar sessions involved with each module are very interesting reinforcements to the material taught in classes. From the examples of graduating third year students, I understand that biomedical sciences offers an immense scope of options for students, ranging from careers in teaching, research, pharmaceuticals, patent attorneys, medicine and more.

For me personally, the first year on this degree has gone very smoothly. The professors are very helpful in guiding our understanding of concepts and the teaching office administrative staff is extremely kind in putting us in the right place if we are ever lost. I enjoyed most of the modules because of their strong link to medicine as that is my ultimate career aim. Assessments are mostly in the form of extended matching items (similar to multiple choice questions) and although this sounds simple, it requires a thorough understanding of concepts supplemented with some extra reading of textbooks, journals, etc. In the first year we’re given practise of essay writing (as that is how a lot of examinations in subsequent years will be), graph drawing and excel skills, and presentation delivering. This makes the course much more dynamic and interesting to study. Despite the general view of first year not being essential in the final degree award, one advice a lot of seniors give is that first year grades are key in determining whether students get lab placements, summer internships or admission into medicine through the transfer route.

A lot of people on the biomedical sciences course wish to ultimately study medicine and I am one of them. When we were first given a lecture on how the transfer scheme works, almost two thirds of the students showed interest. This seemed very scary initially because only seven places were available and not all were necessary to fill. The process was fairly straight forward: get above 75% average in semester one modules (with no module being lower than 65%), send a personal statement (saying why you want to study medicine and the work experience you have), be invited for an interview, ace the interview and hopefully receive a conditional offer (requiring above 75% average and no lower than 65% over semester one and two). Although I didn’t receive the highest average grade in the class, it was above the minimum requirements. I wrote a personal statement about my desire to study medicine from a young age supported with why that desire has lasted this long and what I have done to realize what life as a doctor could actually be. I had undertaken various voluntary work in my first year of biomedical sciences at Newcastle along with my previous work experiences in hospitals and hospices. Work experience and voluntary work are very important and interview invites are less likely if this is missing despite high grades.

I was lucky to get an interview invite. I believe luck is when effort meets opportunity and that’s what it was in my case; my hard work was showing some progress. However, after this first battle, it was time for another – the interview. A few days were given to prepare, which mainly involved getting all my knowledge and emotions organized into succinct ways to present to the interviewers. Knowledge of the Newcastle medical school and NHS is important in addition to being honest about yourself. Finally the day of the interview came and although it was nerve racking at first, when the interview began, it was a very friendly chat and the interviewers were very polite and supportive. Although a few questions were unexpected, a few seconds to think usually helped in giving a well reasoned answer. The interviewers were impressed with me and so I was granted a conditional offer.

I thought the odds were very slim and being an international student made it seem even more impossible. However, I proved myself wrong and managed to climb each step in the process. The selection is purely based on individual performance and merit, not fee status. One last step remains; the final semester two exams.

I am so glad I chose Newcastle University because after coming here, I have truly understood how this multi-disciplinary team, including the biosciences teaching office, professors, careers services, student services, accommodation services, etc. work in order to provide us with the best possible experience one could get. This first year in biomedical sciences will always help me in my career as it builds the foundation for what I am to learn in medicine. I have also made some great friends and explored this wonderful university and city to a depth that I may not have been able to with the rigorous course in medicine. In conclusion, follow your dream and work hard for it, because ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.