Stepping up – Students go beyond their comfort zone

December 11, 2023

When I heard about the Jimma Exchange Program for undergraduates, it immediately caught my interest. I found the idea of an exchange program where the students organize everything themselves exciting. Perfect match – The Study Buddy Program Enlarge The LMU Buddy Program is a mentoring program for exchange students. The social engagement of medical students is the lifeblood of this program, so we are always happy about anyone who want to take part! In most cases, there are more medical students than Erasmus students.

"Grow - beyond" is the programs’ motto. It accompanies medical students as they gain international experience and incorporates four dimensions: academic, intercultural, social and individual growth.One example is the tried-and-trusted Jimma Exchange Program, which facilitates gets undergraduates from Ethiopia and LMU into direct dialogue with each other. Another is Incoming Opportunities, where foreign students familiarize themselves with the study of medicine at LMU and can attend fascinating courses with a practical focus. Meanwhile, LMU’s Study Buddy Program makes it easier for European exchange students to feel at home at LMU – but also to get to know the city and its people.

“A tremendous experience” – The Jimma Exchange Program

The core of the exchange for students from LMU Munich and Jimma University in Ethiopia is a structured clinical experience in a foreign cultural context and the opportunity to work together on an international project in medical didactics.

Annika Brandi-Dohrn is studying medicine in what is currently her tenth semester. In the last winter semester, she took part in a program that brought together medical undergraduates from Ethiopia and Munich. The highlight of this exchange was her stay in Jimma.

When I heard about the Jimma Exchange Program for undergraduates, it immediately caught my interest. I found the idea of an exchange program where the students organize everything themselves exciting. We helped our eight visitors from Jimma apply for visas. We showed them how to find their way around the city with the subway system. We cooked Ethiopian dishes together and went on excursions. Discovering how much you can actually do was a tremendous experience! We made sure the students from Ethiopia were able to get to know different disciplines at LMU, which was really exciting for them.

The highlight of the program was obviously our stay in Jimma in January. Ethiopian people are so open and hospitable – that really impressed me right from the start. It was strange to find that plans can constantly change; but that was nice if you could accept it and adjust to it.

The study course in Jimma has a much more practical focus. In the gynecology and obstetrics department, we were even allowed to help remove a placenta! For me, it was the fact that a lot of diagnostic tools were not available was emotionally challenging. You see patients whose conditions have reached such an advanced stage that there is little medical help can still do. You see children suffering from severe cases of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria. Failed attempts at resuscitation are an everyday occurrence. My time in Jimma gave me a fresh appreciation of the medical facilities we have here.

“Staying abroad is good for your personal development” – Incoming Opportunities

LMU offers students from European universities the chance to apply for an exchange semester via the Erasmus or Swiss-European Mobility Programme.

Italian undergraduate Annalisa Musola is likewise in the tenth semester of her medical studies. Thanks to an Erasmus scholarship, she has been studying at LMU since last October.

I decided to spend time studying in Germany to get to know something different. Studying medicine here lets me gain far more practical experience than in Italy, where everything is very theoretical – there is no practical year.

Applying for an Erasmus scholarship was very easy. Everything is well organized. The only difficulty is that you need a good command of German, and you have to be able to prove it. Studying abroad is tough in some ways. This semester, we have combined an exceptionally large number of modules, so there has been a lot to do. And I obviously need a little more time than the others when learning and sitting exams. But I have also learned a lot.

Of the courses I have attended at LMU, I particularly enjoyed “History Taking”, which was held in English. It involves simulating doctor-patient interviews. People who are sick often find themselves in difficult life situations, so it is important to speak slowly and clearly and to ask the right kind of questions.

I think staying abroad is really good for your personal development. You don’t just learn for your career: You also get to know a different culture. I, for example, have become a huge fan of käsespätzle (a southern German cheese noodle specialty), which I will take with me back to Italy. I learned to go hiking and climbing, which is a big thing here. I really enjoyed it. My fellow students are ever so nice. And what I also really like is that people are careful about their leisure time in Germany. They work efficiently. But if someone is on vacation, they are simply not available.

When my Erasmus scholarship comes to an end in September, I will go back to Siena and stay there for a year. After that, I would like to train in Munich to become a medical specialist – maybe in internal medicine, oncology or ophthalmology.

Perfect match – The Study Buddy Program

The LMU Buddy Program is a mentoring program for exchange students. An LMU student will help international students with things like getting your LMUcard, finding your bearings in the city, or figuring out your way around campus.

Alexandra Andrea Castro Silva, 22, is studying medicine in her eighth semester. For the past year she has led the LMU Study Buddy Program, a mentoring initiative that helps exchange students get used to life here at the university.

I came to Munich in 2019 to study medicine. I already knew a bit of the language and culture because I had attended a German international school in my home city of Lima in Peru. Although some of my schoolfriends also came to Germany, it was difficult at first being alone in a new city. Fortunately, I had a MeCuM mentor whom I could ask everything I needed to know about my studies.

In 2021, I myself then signed up for the LMU Study Buddy Program. I wanted to help make it easier for exchange students to get started in Munich and at LMU. I have now been leading the program since 2022. The program is a cooperative arrangement between LMU’s European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) and the International Office. There is a form on the website for anyone who wants to get involved. Fill it in, send it off – and mentors are then matched to students. Ideally, the buddies who come together will speak the same language and be in the same semester, so they can answer questions or even study together. I have had five buddies so far. During the pandemic, we mostly met online, but we have also occasionally met for coffee over the past few semesters. I developed friendships in particular with two buddies from Spain and Switzerland. It makes me happy if they enjoy their time in Munich. If that happens, then I have achieved my goal.

The social engagement of medical students is the lifeblood of this program, so we are always happy about anyone who want to take part! There is usually brisk demand for the program. In most cases, there are more medical students than Erasmus students.

In the future, I would like to be able to organize more events than in the past: meetings with buddies at a restaurant or doing tours of Munich, for example. That would help the Erasmus students get to know the city even better. If you are interested in helping out with this organization, please write us at [email protected].

Further information on studying medicine abroad and the "Grow - beyond" campaign can be found here:
www.med.lmu.de/studium/international_campus/grow-beyond