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Journey of an IMU Pharmacy Student: International Student Exchange Programme and Hospital Attachment

07 Jun 2018

So I have finally finished 4 years of the university life. Gone are the days when I was forced to complete assignments, speak in front of the class and burn midnight oil to study for tests. And I found myself asking, am I ready enough to brave the working world? Even if I get that dream job, make loads of money and be successful in life, I believe someday, at some point, I will miss the university life. I will definitely miss all my friends, lecturers, food, IMU, and assignments and examinations that I used to complain so much about.

Well, yes, the main reason for going to university is to get an academic qualification, but it is not just that. Ironically, the good thing about university life is that we are left to our own devices where independent learning is the key. Beyond academic, university is where I improved personal development and enhance personal and intellectual maturity. I am extremely honoured and appreciative to be an IMU student as during the pharmacy programme, I was exposed to syllabus that equipped me with adequate knowledge to venture into the pharmaceutical industry, clinical practice in hospital or community pharmacy in the future. As I venture through the journey of pharmacy programme, the realisation of the importance of developing soft skills has encouraged me to participate actively in organisations both nationally (Malaysian Pharmacy Students’ Association – MyPSA) and internationally (International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation – IPSF). I also had the chance to discover my interests in designing all publications and materials related to the organisations using computer software. The experience obtained was precious and valuable to me as it has broadened my social circle, sharpened my communication skills and allowed me to become a more responsible person. Furthermore, working closely with IPSF members has really piqued my admiration and curiosity towards culture and the healthcare system outside Malaysia.

Elective at Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan
During Semester 6, I had an elective placement at the Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan for 3 weeks. I was rotated to three different departments: Clinical Practice, Outpatient and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Department. Pharmacist plays an important role in clinical settings in the hospital as the pharmacist in Taiwan participated actively in discussions with other healthcare professionals during ward rounds. The doctor respects and trusts the pharmacist’s professional decisions in dispensing of medication. While I was rotated to clinical settings, I was asked to determine the presence of pharmaceutical care after a patient’s case study. When I was at the outpatient department, I learnt that patient’s safety is of utmost importance. Pharmacist ensures that medication is of the correct name, dosage form and strength. Patient can also pay less for medication with their health insurance card in the hospital. In addition, I learnt a lot at the TCM Department especially the medicinal benefits of herbs. The most challenging part during the entire placement was that every information was written in Chinese words. As I was so used to seeing and reading in English, I find it hard to interpret the Chinese words. I was also struggling with differentiating the TCM herbs as some look similar and smell similar!

Student Exchange Programme (SEP) at Zagreb, Croatia
Right after the elective placement at Taiwan, I participated in Student Exchange Programme (SEP) at Zagreb, Croatia for another 3 weeks. I would like to thank my senior for introducing Croatia as the ideal place for SEP. Ever since I got accepted to participate in the SEP in Croatia, I knew that I was going to embark on an exciting and unforgettable journey. Honestly, it was my very first time flying overseas alone for such a long distance and long hours. Feeling thrilled and nervous at the same time, I was excited to take the challenge to travel abroad on my own and explore a whole different culture of the European countries. During the attachment, I was placed in a community pharmacy called ‘Ljekarna Joukhadar’ at Zagreb. I was grateful as the pharmacist was kind and willing to explain Croatian Pharmacy System to me, making sure that every practice session was productive. The pharmacy students in Croatia learn a lot about herbal products and take several difficult classes to learn to identify and name 250 different types of plants. During one of the practice session, I had my vitamin and mineral levels checked by a representative of a supplement company using a device called Vitastiq. I was amazed by how quick and easy it measured the body’s statistics with merely a skin scanning pen. I also had hands-on experiences during the daily operations of the pharmacy where I got to make extemporaneous preparations and arrange inventories. I met a Polish girl who was also an exchange student at this exchange programme. She became my companion in Croatia. Besides practicing at the pharmacy together, we also took the chance to explore Zagreb and the neighboring countries of Croatia such as Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Austria. With an open mind to immerse in a different culture, I tried out the traditional Croatian cuisines, discovered architectural and historical buildings, hang out with new friends and I even started to pick up the Croatian language!

3 weeks of SEP ended in the blink of an eye. Zagreb is one of the most beautiful cities that I have visited. To be honest, I had a minor culture shock when I first arrived as there was no Chinese almost everywhere in Croatia. However, I felt extremely lucky to have met friends and colleagues who were so friendly and made me feel at home. In my opinion, SEP is definitely a unique form of learning, as it enables student to expand knowledge and broaden his/her social network while learning to become more independent, confident and mature. For me, I learnt how to acclimatise myself in a foreign country, embrace and welcome the unexpected. Leaving my comfort zone to explore the world is a challenge that I have been anticipating for a very long time.

 Weeks of experiential learning of the pharmacy profession in both Taiwan and Croatia have been an eye-opening experience that will greatly change my perspective in life and improve my personal development in terms of competency to bring forth a positive change in my future career. I would like to sincerely thank my family who have supported me through ups and downs, and thank everyone that I have met for making my university life memorable.

My university life was an amazing experience. As the saying goes – Life is like a blank canvas. It is up to you how you want to paint it. So, let’s make it colourful!

Written by Er Jia Lin, IMU’s Final Year Pharmacy Student

Related article on another student’s experience at IPSF Student Exchange Programme: Wonderful Opportunity for IMU Pharmacy Student at Croatia via IPSF Student Exchange Programme

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