Pursuing Your Dreams: A Young Medical Student in Canada

“Why waste time when you can take every opportunity life gives you to improve yourself academically, emotionally, and socially?

Going to Canada on this research exchange helped me so much and I owe it all to the Malta Medical Students’ Association.”

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. 


“I’ve always loved Canada. It’s a beautiful country with a rich culture even though I still experienced a bit of a culture shock when I arrived. Despite this, the family I was placed with was extremely generous, taking me around the city, showing me all the local food, and introducing me to people. I integrated very quickly and to this day I am still in contact with the friends I made there. Beyond that, the natural scenery in the region was stunning. I got to see massive mountains and even wild bison!” said Vella.

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.

“The most touching experience was when two children with severe, almost life-threatening, asthma were brought to the clinic. Due to forest fires in their area, they had inhaled too much smoke and this affected their lungs very badly. Because they were from a rural part of the region up north, their mother had to drive for over eight hours to bring them there. She wanted to help them at all cost,” said Vella.

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!

By Timothy Vella interviewing Miguel Vella
Young Reporter Eurodesk MT

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