Dr. J. I Michelle Benedict
VSMU batch of 2012
It is my great honor to write few words about the most amazing place that I’ve been and look forward to go one day in the near future....
Vitebsk......! Well, studying in schools and learning about the world gave us diverse knowledge about the countries and their cities. But, I’m sure that someone out there did a great mistake by not providing information for the rest of the world to know how amazing this country and especially this city is.
My journey of enrolling at VSMU was a memorable one. Since childhood, I always dreamt of becoming a doctor and serving people who are helpless and in need of medical support. I was motivated to make this dream a reality with several personal experiences that I had to go through. Completing my advance level examinations, I was wondering where my next step will be. That’s when I stumbled on a news paper article about VSMU. Obviously, like I mentioned earlier...that was the first ever time I even knew that there is a country named “Belarus”. I browsed through the internet and found beautiful pictures on the country and also few reviews and comments that people have made. I was inquisitive to obtain more details and therefore, proceeded in contacting the agents who were responsible for the advertisement. They provided me with all details and even gave me contacts of the students who were studying at VSMU that time. I met few people and made my decision that THIS IS THE PLACE for me.
Goodbye for just 365 days even is a huge task since we were always with our families. I and few more people started our journey of a med student leaving the shores of Sri Lanka and everyone we love. Minsk international airport was not the busiest when we arrived there in 2006 and I’m positive that things would have changed majorly at present. It was almost Autumn and we knew that facing all seasons of the year would be a challenge since in Sri Lanka, it’s always summer!The cold breeze sent shivers down spine and it was devastating. Not knowing Russian language was a challenge but we finished all documentation and set out for a 3 hour journey to Vitebsk. I am a person in love with nature and beautiful sceneries. With the busy like back at home, we hardly had time to travel but the journey of 3 hours to Vitebsk gave me a glimpse the beautiful nature in Belarus.
Once all formalities were done, we started our student life in a university as future doctors. Settling in was a tough challenge. But however, like I mentioned earlier....facilities now are far more than what we had and what we had to put up with. And I’m glad that students have more facilities now to make their lives easy and comfortable as possible.
We had so much of work to be done in the first few years and it was a tough task. The weather did not make our lives easier. Geez! -30 or -35 and yet we had to go for classes. We even had our semester exams during that extreme cold weather. Nothing or no one was stoppable by this freezing weather conditions. Morning 8 o’clock in Belarus was like 8 o’clock in the night in Sri Lanka. We set out for lectures when it’s dark and we come back when it’s dark. Nights were longer and days were shorter during winter. 1st year was a rather challenging one but we couldn’t say neither anything nor it was an excuse for us to be under a blanket. We had to be like everyone else. But yey! We pulled it through. 2nd Semester was all about getting ready to go home most of the time because we all missed our families. However, life at VSMU was an amazing experience.
The university was very culture friendly and gave us equal opportunities like their own students. We had the opportunity to practice what we believed in and blending with different religions, cultures and nationalities gave us experiences beyond any book in the world could describe in a million words. We had our cultural food festivals, concerts, religious functions and much more. Time to come, we hardly missed anything back home except our loved ones because we had the exposure and opportunity to have everything. We even had cricket tournaments organized and that gave us to go out and cheer and do all the fun activities. All these combined; never made us feel that we are far away in an unknown place.
It was almost all about university in the 1st three years but then we had all our classes in hospitals for the remaining years. We had opportunities to access patients and talk with them and understand in depth what the books had described in thousands of words. We had the exposure to talk with patients of different medical conditions in all hospitals. Our peers were supporting us in examining a patient and completing a case report etc... We were supported and guided throughout in making our dreams a reality. I’m proud to say that I completed 03 researches under the guidance of amazing professors and doctors who always backed me up to reach my goals. All 03 researches were recognized, published and presented in international conferences. I can write hundreds of pages as to how the teaching and university life was... But it’s an experience that one has to gain more than reading.
We all have our share of ups and downs in life with different people and reality is such which we can’t change no matter what. Likewise, we too had people who did not like us but then there was also a majority of people who always greeted with a smile and helped us. It was always the good that outnumbered the bad and therefore, the bad days and the bad moods of people did not affect us to a greater extent. We pulled it up everything as a group be it going for classes, going on an outing, studying in groups or even celebrating each other’s birthdays which we definitely managed to do in royal style!
I’ve penned down every possible detail about my experience in brief. Like I mentioned earlier, life is an adventure. And to witness it, is to gain experience in exposing yourself. I have no regrets in making the choice of going to Belarus to complete my degree in Medicine. My choice gave me the opportunity to expose myself to things that I have read in books and dreamt of. The country side is to die for. The nature and the seasonal changes bring so much beauty and adds color to your life. My parents also visited for my graduation ceremony and they were astonished as to how beautiful this place was. All they heard were my words describing the beauty and the experience I had and they were so happy to witness all those in person.
In mentioning my current activities; I’m currently a Medical lecturer and clinical researcher in my hometown Colombo, Sri Lanka. Research has given me the ability to understand the most impossible tasks could be achieved if one believes in themselves. Our lecturers guided and taught us everything and made us who we are today. I find immense satisfaction and joy in molding and guiding tomorrow’s leaders today!