Report 1

Reporter: Emily Orr (5th year King’s College London)

Contact at Destination: Monsieur Gilbert Vincente (Chef d’administration medical school Uni Strasbourg)

Year of Visit: 2011

Country: France

Region: Alsace (Strasbourg)

Institution: Hopitaux Univeistaires Strasbourg

Department: Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Work/ Study undertaken: I was taken on as an ‘externe’ equivalent of 4th-5th year medical student. Medical students in the hospital in Strasbourg are really considered as part of the team, so when I was timetabled for the birth centre, it was my duty to be the assistant for any cesareans or if I was in the emergency gynae clinic I had to clerk in each patient before the doctor came to see them.

It was quite stressful at first, especially as my French isn’t perfect, but it was the best way to learn and by the end of my placement I felt confident with my language and the jobs I was doing. I got a lot of hands on experience in theatres and using the ultrasound for dating scans and gynae investigations.

All the doctors were friendly and enjoyed having and English student as it is quite a rarity in Strasbourg they said! It was nice being part of the team and I made friends with the other externes as we were all in the same boat.

Food is important in France and we always found time to have a good hour for lunch and enjoy the amazing 3 courses layed on plus cheese! I did work hard from 8-7pm often and I was expected to do a couple of on calls, but it meant that I felt part of the team and really got to know all staff.

Description of Destination: Strasbourg is the capital city of Alsace. The centre of the city is surrounded by water and is filled with beautiful old medieval buildings, cobbled streets and a wonderful gothic cathedral. Parts of the city are classified by UNESCO world heritage. The city is very student rich as it has a large university. It is also the cycle capital of France so everyone uses bikes to get around and it is very accessible. Strasbourg is in the border with Germany and the city has a lot of Germanic influence as it used to be part of Germany. The black forest or Vosges Mountains are nearby as well as the famous Alsacian wine route. TGV to Paris 2 hours.

Were locals friendly? Yes, I thought so. Very easy to meet other young people as a lot of Erasmus students study in Strasbourg so lots of events etc..

Was it safe? I felt safe, especially in the centre of town. I lived a bit further out and cycling back late at night was the only time I sometimes felt uncomfortable but never had any problems. Good tram system if you don’t hire a bike (although I recommend hiring a velohop bike…brilliant!!)

What did you do in your spare time? Cycles rides and walks in nearby Vosges mountains, meeting with Erasmus students in the evenings for a drink or meals, cycling across the river from Strasbourg to Kehl (Germany), trip to black forest, trip to Paris (only 2 hours on TGV), Lots of Alascian food – tarte flambee, choucroute, vins d’alsace!!

Time of year and climate? September. This was a nice time of year, still warm enough to sit outside but not boiling hot. Very little rain (was told it is one of the driest regions of France)

Accommodation? I lived with a French family as I could not find student accommodation. This was great for my language and to get a taste of the French way of life. Strasbourg is a very Student rich city though and it was easy to make contact with the Erasmus students so I found other young people to join in with for some evenings. .

How did I get there? Eurostar London St Pancras-Strasbourg via Paris

Medically useful? For hands on experience it was very good, as I was allowed to scrub in a lot in theatre and use the ultrasound machines. The cases I saw are similar to UK. History taking and management of patients depended on which doctor was supervising me as some were more helpful than others and also would depend on language barrier.

French Improved? Enormously. First few days I could not follow the meetings or simple conversations by the end I could keep up and even take my own consultations. Useful to have a French/medical dictionary to hand as many of the medical terms are actually different. I had only done A-level French and one course at Uni before I arrived. It was tough but if you are willing to make and effort you can get by and improve a lot!

Overall Cost? Travel=£100, Accommodation = £400 Food and leisure = £200