Medicine and Health Sciences

Testimonials of exchange students

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences welcomes exchange students from all over the world. Find out what they think about our programmes and what they have to say about their experience in Antwerp.

Enrico Tamburini (Università degli Studi di Padova, Padova, Italia)

Enrico spent an entire academic year Antwerp. The interview below was published in "dwars", the student magazine of the UAntwerp. More testimonials of exchange students can be found on their website.   

The Homo sapiens studentus is a special species. Next to the typical activity of studying, the members of this species are known as real lovers of (night)life. But do they have other secrets to unfold? dwars finds out in their natural habitat, the student dorm.

Enrico is currently in his fifth year of Medicine. “In Italy we don’t distinguish between bachelor’s or master’s degrees, we just get our degree at the end of our entire course.” He really wanted to come to Belgium and Antwerp was his first choice. “What I like about the Belgian approach in Medicine, is that it is very clinical in comparison to the rather theoretical way of studying in Italy.” He would love to specialize in Anesthesiology and he’s thankful he passed the entrance exam in Italy, where more than 5.000 students apply for only 600 vacant places. Just like in Belgium, Medicine is a very serious degree. “There’s a lot of pressure, but we usually help each other out. We take turns in recording the classes and taking notes. It’s competitive but we still work together. It’s a little bit easier to get the maximum score of 30 points in my home country. I passed all my exams here, but no 20/20!”

Enrico does not speak Dutch because he missed the crash course at the start of the year. But he claims English is perfect for his life in Antwerp, as a lot of his friends are Erasmus students. “I’m having a great time here, having dinner, going out with my friends and drinking Belgian beer. Westvleeteren is my favorite, but that’s only for special occasions. Another great thing here are the cantussen. The first time I didn’t go, but every time after that I had a great time with my ESN friends.”

Apart from the nightlife, Enrico enjoys participating in parkour, with the Sportsticker. “Don’t think of me jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper. Everybody can exercise at their own level, mine currently being ground level (laughs). It’s just a nice way to see different places in Antwerp.” Photography and playing guitar keep him busy when he’s alone. “And of course staying in touch with my girl Maria Elena.” They started dating just before he left for Antwerp. “But you know when it’s worthwhile.”

Enrico is from Padova, where his grandmother makes the best tortellini. “I think I’m going to miss Antwerp when I go back home, especially living alone there. But man, that tortellini …”

Text: Maxene Willems
Picture: Maxene Willems

Taavi Punsár, Riikka Kettunen and Katri Holappa (Finland)

Taavi, Riikka and Katri are students from three different universities in Finland. They came to Antwerp in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme. All three completed practical trainings at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Taavi (Turku University of Applied Sciences) and Riikka (Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences) did traineeships in the field of rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy.

Taavi: “I spent three months in Antwerp and did two practical traineeships. One in the field of sport physiotherapy in the University Hospital (UZA) and one in neurological physiotherapy in RevArte, the topnotch rehabilitation hospital situated right next to the UZA. All this practical experience will be very useful in my future career. After I graduate I would like to start a private practice and specialise in sport rehabilitation or pediatric rehabilitation.”

Riikka: “I worked with elderly people in Hof ter Schelde and also with people with neurological problems in the hospital AZ Monica. I found it really easy to communicate with the staff and supervisors because everyone spoke English. On the contrary, most of the patients only understood Dutch. This made it quite a challenge for me to explain the exercises. I have become an expert in communication by gestures!”

Parkour and other ways to make new friends

Riikka: “I find Antwerp a fascinating city. I regularly discovered new shops, statues or buildings in streets that I walked down each day. Big parks such as Middelheim and Rivierenhof are the perfect havens to escape from the daily hassles. Because I did fulltime traineeships it was not so easy to meet new people, but fortunately enough there is ESN Antwerp. For the first time in my life I participated in a real cantus during the ESN Introduction Weekend!”.

Our advices to future exchange students? Start looking for accommodation well in advance, try to learn Dutch before you come to Antwerp and definitely attend the Orientation Days!

Katri Holappa (University of Helsinki) did advanced lab work in the Laboratory of Medical Microbiology

What I particularly liked about the lab was the international context: I was literally surrounded by researchers from all over the world! I am not too sure about my plans after I graduate. I am thinking about starting a PhD in the field of microbiology, but I can also see myself teaching at my home university.

Online friends

You know what is funny? Before the semester started I got to know two girls online via the ESN Antwerp Facebook page and we randomly decided to meet in town. They, an environmental scientist from Estonia and a political scientist from the States, turned out to become my two best friends. I lived in Wilrijk, together with a bunch of other international students and staff from the University. The upside of Wilrijk is that is is close to the Drie Eiken Campus. The downside is that you are further away from the hustle and bustle of town.

I highly recommend everyone to do a practical traineeship abroad. It is an unforgettable experience and it looks really good on your CV! 

Davide Lavista (Università di Roma "La Sapienza", Roma, Italia)

Davide studied at our Faculty during one semester as an Erasmus exchange student. He took classes of the Bachelor and Master of Medicine.

Administrative paperwork: a surmountable obstacle

I started the application procedure well in advance because I knew that Antwerp is a popular destination among international medical students and because I expected a lot of administrative paperwork. To future Erasmus students I would like say this: do not let the bureaucracy discourage you! This is the hardest part of the experience and the reward is well worth the struggle.

I combined courses of the 3rd Bachelor of Medicine and the 1st Master of Medicine and I really appreciated the emphasis on clinical cases and the interactive approach during the classes. The professors were really flexible and willing to help the international students. In Italy medical students rarely get the chance to put theory into practice in hospitals. That is why I chose to do two clinical internships here: one in surgery and one in anesthesiology. These gave me a first glimpse of life as a medical doctor. Interacting with patients and helping to solve complex cases was so instructive that I decided to come back to Antwerp to do a third internship. I must also mention the interesting and well-organized Summer School on Vaccinology. This was an unforgettable and invaluable addition to my programme.

What to do upon arrival and how to meet people

I arrived in Antwerp in January and I immediately enrolled in the Dutch language course ‘Survival on Arrival’. This course is designed for exchange students and it is a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world right from the start. Knowing the basics of the Dutch language helped me a lot during my stay, especially in my interactions with patients in the hospital. The Orientation Days, organised by the International Relations Office, and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) are also excellent ways to meet new people. Finally, I used the UAntwerp Plus Pass, which gives you access to many sport facilities in the city, to maintain my passion for hip-hop in Antwerp and to meet fellow dancers.

Two kisses on the cheek

Antwerp is the perfect city for a student. It is possible to get everywhere by bike or by public transport, and there are ample opportunities to sit down with friends in a pub or restaurant. The architecture is overwhelming and there are parks everywhere to relax in. My favorite spot in the city? The rooftop terrace of the MAS museum. What a spectacular view over the city and the harbour! Antwerpenaren are really easy-going and I did not need to adapt to local habits much. Except for this: people do not know how to react when you hug and greet them enthusiastically by kissing them on the cheek twice!

Mariana Abreu de Andrade (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, Brasil)

Mariana, a future medical doctor, studied at UAntwerp for a year with a Science Without Borders scholarship.

Internationally oriented and high-quality medical education in Antwerp

From September until January I studied at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. During the second semester I attended classes at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. I was impressed by the advanced and state-of-the-art theoretical courses I took. These included the latest technologies and techniques used in medicine. During these classes I realised how different the health care is in Belgium, a country where access to technology for diagnosis and the latest treatments available is relatively easy. For example, I learnt how handy the insulin pump is in the management of children with diabetes compared to the multiple daily injection that is a more traditional treatment plan.

I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, an internationally renowned institute providing education, research and services in tropical medicine and health care in developing countries. Every day was different and my responsibilities were really diverse. My major project was a literature review on immunotherapy for leishmaniasis and HIV. I also assisted in case report forms for a clinical trial and followed different types of consultations (pre-travel, sexual health, international adoption). I did all of this in collaboration with scientists and researchers from all over the world. Later this year I will graduate as a medical doctor in Brazil and the internship definitely had a positive impact on the professional I want to become and on my future decisions. 

Friends for life

I met so many different people while being here. I became close with the eight other Brazilian students who were doing the same programme, but I also made many Belgian and international friends – not only from the UAntwerp. I enjoyed their company a lot and we shared Brazilian specialties such as brigadeiro, a chocolate dessert, and cachaça, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice.

Because I grew up in São Paulo, a metropole of more than 21 million inhabitants, I really enjoyed walking around in the beautiful city of Antwerp. The area around the MAS museum is truly breathtaking! I will also remember the impressive city hall that I visited with the other exchange students, and especially the fact that I tasted beers with the municipal legislator for education. Besides the rain I also had to adapt to shops not being open 24/7 and to Belgian food habits. I am so looking forward to eating arroz e feijao, rice and beans, for lunch again instead of smoskes!

Looking back, studying abroad was quite an experience. I missed my family and friends and in the beginning I had a hard time adapting. On the other hand, I grew, not only as a person but also as a medical student. My mind is much more open than 11 months ago and I have a better insight in the cultural differences between people. This will undoubtedly make me a better medical doctor. Finally, not to forget, I had the pleasure of making new friends for life. And what is better than that?

Stefano Grotto (Università degli Studi di Padova, Padova, Italia)

Stefano is a future medical doctor. He stayed in Antwerp for 10 months as an Erasmus exchange student.

My application ran very smoothly. That is mainly thanks to well-organised and efficient International Relations Offices, both at central and faculty level. Emails were processed almost instantly and the online procedure via Mobility Online was transparent and straightforward.

Studying Medicine in Antwerp is highly recommended

I am very positive about the Medicine curriculum for exchange students. Some courses are entirely taught in English. Other courses are offered in Dutch but with study material in English, e.g. slides and handbooks. My feeling was that the teachers were used to having international students in their classrooms. They provided me all the information I needed to complete their courses successfully. I should also mention that the Faculty has its own buddy system for exchange students. My local buddy answered many of my questions and was a godsend during the examination period!

My four-week clinical internship in the Surgery Department of the UZA was the highlight of my programme in Antwerp. Especially because it was hands-on; I was actively involved in all surgical procedures and techniques. I am also glad I took the Dutch language course of Linguapolis. It helped me a lot in my interactions with the patients.

Gastronomic and social impressions

Did I have difficulties adjusting to the Belgian culture? Not really. Belgians are internationally oriented and most people speak many languages. I only noticed that it can take quite some time to connect with locals. As an Italian I did miss my homemade coffee and sitting outside with friends in the evenings. On the other hand, I will miss the traditional fries and the americain preparé when I am back home. Real delicacies! 

I did not travel a lot before I started this experience, but during my stay in Antwerp I visited Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and I even went on a camping trip to the beautiful Ardennes. I made friends from Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Canada and Oezbekistan. I am sure I will visit all those people at some point in the future. 

Antwerp is unquestionably a great city. I especially love the singularity of the different districts: the vibrant and multicultural Sint-Jansplein, the student area near the Ossenmarkt, the shops and boutiques in ‘het Zuid’, and the bars and touristic hotspots around the Groenplaats. Everything is very close by and reachable by bike. I rode my bike from the city centre to Campus Drie Eiken every day!

In brief, I would definitely suggest Antwerp as a destination for international medical students. Make sure to move before the semester starts though. It will allow you time to settle down, learn the language and participate in the many social activities that are organised for you!