IFGH 2012: The Impact of Geographical and Cultural Translocation on Training in a Western Medical School

January 27, 2012

Authors:Lavelle A., McGarvey A, Byrne E., Brugha R.

Author Affiliations: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings

Presented as – Oral Poster


The overall aim of this study is to identify issues impacting on the journey and experience of overseas students studying in a Western medical school. We aim to identify and clarify challenges facing cohorts of students at all stages of the programme and build on existing supportive mechanisms and to assist the College in further development of student welfare policies and provision of support. This study is being conducted in 3 phases and we would like to present the preliminary findings of Phase 1 – the impact on the newly arrived student.


Fifteen trained volunteer Intermediate Cycle students conducted in-depth semi-structured peer interviews with 30 first year students from a range of cultural backgrounds. Students (interviewers and interviewees) volunteered following a presentation to the class by the research team. The study group was broadly representative of the wider student population, in terms of nationality, gender and cultural background.


Initial thematic analysis has identified a number of themes including:

  • Cultural stereotypes exist (though this is not necessarily negative or misrepresentative of the culture);
  • Cultural practices of both overseas students and host country impose challenges to integrating socially;
  • Integration is limited and influenced by language, housing and friends made in the first semester;
  • Homesickness can be severe and impact negatively on the experience of, studying overseas
  • The impact of studying in a multicultural environment is largely perceived positively
  • Within certain groups there is pressure to conform to norms and values of own culture;

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

This study will provide an evidence base on the cultural impact of studying in western contexts to other medical education institutions recruiting international students and others considering training health workers in western higher education institutions. Already, orientation in RCSI has been influenced and considerable support for this study by management and the Student Union has been received.


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