“The thing I most like about studying here,” says Grace Jung, the Korean born, Indian-raised, MSIH student, “is the community environment of the class. We’re a small group and although many of my classmates are Type A achievers, there’s not the usual med-school competitive atmosphere. It’s actually the opposite – we look out for one another and help where we can.”
Grace and her Ghanaian classmate Wentiirim Annankra have just entered their second year at the Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. Although they both came to MSIH straight from undergraduate studies at Calvin College – a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids – neither is a US citizen.
Grace chose MSIH because she’d been looking for a school that combined Global Health studies with medicine. Her Google searches came up with programs that offered an elective or two, but nothing that incorporated Global Health into the whole curriculum.
“That’s when I heard about Dr. Jennifer Bhunpaen, a Calvin graduate who had attended a med school in Israel that specializes in Global Health. Out of curiosity, I searched online and came across MSIH…the rest is history. Later, I met Dr. Bhunpaen, who graduated MSIH in 2008 and today lives and works as a physician in Thailand. I was very impressed not only by her vision, but also by how she went out of her way to meet with me and share her experiences at MSIH.”
“And Grace told me about the school,” interjects Wentiirim. “I wanted to study in a place that would equip me to practice everywhere, even a low-resource setting. Also, because I’m hearing-impaired, MSIH seemed to be able to offer everything I needed – it was small and intimate where my hearing difficulties would be more manageable. I hadn’t fully decided where to go and decided to begin writing my application essay to see if it felt right. When I was subsequently interviewed I was impressed by the personal approach.”
Wentiirim, know as “Wentii” to her classmates, is the first Ghanaian student at MSIH and has had some interesting experiences trying to buy products in Israeli supermarkets where labels are in Hebrew. “People do go out of their way to help,” she says, smiling.
“Jennifer put me in touch with the Israeli family she’d been friendly with,” continues Grace. “They’ve adopted me, just like they did Jen, and my visiting parents even attended the Passover meal with them this year.”
Both women admit that studying medicine in a foreign environment isn’t easy. Language, culture, climate, food, they’re all different. Wentii has the added disadvantage of her hearing impairment – but seems unfazed, taking it all in her stride.
“If I had to choose now,” says Grace, appearing a little surprised by her own thoughts, “I’d choose MSIH again.”