Miguel Vella, a 21-year-old medical student, opened up about his experience studying in Canada and explained how the journey helped him.
Vella has always enjoyed working with the Malta Medical Students’ Association (MMSA). He saw it as a platform to help others go on exchanges abroad, meet new friends, and organise several activities. This year, they organised over 100 exchanges all around the world. Therefore, students were able to come from abroad to study in Malta and Maltese students were able to visit countries like Japan, Sweden, and as in Miguel’s case, Canada. With all these options, we wanted to understand what compelled Miguel to pick Canada for his research exchange.
He was placed as a researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, one of the best universities in the world. One of the reasons Vella speaks so highly about this trip is because it was completely free. The MMSA focuses entirely on helping students reach their dreams by allowing them to travel all over the world.
The research conducted was also particularly interesting. Miguel was working in a health centre dedicated to health problems derived from the environment- the only such centre in the country. The area of focus for this research was pollution and how pollutants in the air, soil, and water may cause developmental diseases such as autism in newborns. He was also able to observe a paediatrician work with patients as well as sometimes get involved and help out to gain more clinical experience.
Throughout the research, the students involved compared European regulations to those in Canada regarding pollution and discussed what sort of suggestions could be made to the Canadian government to safeguard human health. This research was also applied to current problems in Canada, which experienced many forest fires in the recent past, especially in the Alberta area. These were discussed during multidisciplinary meetings, where specialists from different fields in the health sector would come together to talk about particular clinical cases.
A highlight for him was definitely the research involving genetic analysis where they learnt about how pollutants can affect the molecular structures of genes leading to certain health issues. The University of Albert values research highly and invested in the best technology available for genetic analysis.
At first, Vella was afraid of travelling alone since this was going to be his first-ever experience leaving Malta by himself. However, the MMSA and many other medical student associations around the world have created a very strong and efficient exchange system which essentially guaranteed that he would meet other such exchange students from all over the world. Upon arriving, Vella was happy to meet many students who made his experience even better than it already was.
The final thing that we asked Vella was whether he would recommend similar exchanges to other students. He says that all medical students can and should take part in these exchanges or other similar international opportunities.
If you aren’t a medical student and an organisation that you are associated with is organising a similar opportunity, you ought to participate.
Vella said that these journeys are like “short lives, where you get to experience all aspects of a culture, learn about a particular subject, meet professionals in the field, and meet new friends.”
Mobility is a necessity if you want to broaden your horizons and make your life unique and successful. We live in a beautiful island but it never hurts to venture out of the borders of this country. Returning back to his motto in the beginning, when life gives you an opportunity, take it, because it can change your life forever.
Finally, we would like to wish Vella luck for any future endeavours. He expressed his wish to participate in another research exchange in Germany, where he plans to further improve his understanding of medical institutions.
Good luck Miguel!