Abdul Haider, a South African medical student who has just completed his first year of medicine at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston, UK, is an embodiment of determination, resilience, and the will to excel. As he enters his second year of studies, Abdul reflects on his journey from a matric student at Mitchell House in Polokwane, South Africa, to becoming a medical student in a renowned UK university.
Abdul's passion for medicine and an aspiration to study abroad sparked his decision to pursue the Northern Consortium of UK Universities (NCUK) bridging course after matriculation. "I had my sights set on studying abroad, and I discovered that the NCUK’s IFY programme helps you to study in the UK,” he says.
The NCUK’s International Foundation Year (IFY) programme was launched in South Africa in 2021 in collaboration with the Inspired Education Group. It opens the door for matriculants like Abdul to apply to renowned universities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. "It seemed like the key to studying medicine abroad, bridging the gap between an IEB matric and UK university requirements," explains Abdul.
A year into his medical studies at UCLAN, Abdul recalls his experiences fondly, crediting his IFY training as instrumental in preparing him for university life. In his own words, "the medical Maths taught by NCUK was so helpful. It was lovely to see that come in handy. Biology, Biochemistry, and English all helped set me on the right track for university academia. I’m proud to have excelled in the intense seven-month course, and I owe much of this to the amazing lecturers and resources provided by NCUK."
His academic achievements during the IFY were coupled with a steep learning curve in his first year at UCLAN. Abdul speaks highly of his experiences thus far, "We dove deep into everything in the first year - anatomy, physiology, radiology, pharmacology. The workload was intense, but I felt prepared thanks to the foundation of my matric year and the NCUK course."
He recounts his first-year experiences vividly, including practising clinical skills with simulated patients, reporting back to GPs, and assisting in the care of patients from end-of-life care to a 101-year-old WW2 nurse veteran. I'll never forget my first patient consultation," he said. "It's these experiences that are shaping my medical career, and I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me."
Abdul's journey hasn’t just been about academics. It’s also taught him to embrace a new culture, and learn to cook. Despite missing home and the South African weather, he quickly found a sense of belonging. "I made lots of friends in different fields - from aerospace engineering to motor sports engineering," Abdul revealed.
Abdul is one of over 40,000 international students who have benefitted from the IFY course since 1987. The programme offers guaranteed entry into many degree courses at 45 universities. With a curriculum and examinations provided externally by NCUK, students receive full guidance and support in their university applications, visa acquisition, and scholarship applications.
As for the future, Abdul is keeping an open mind. Initially drawn to cardiology due to personal experiences, he plans to explore a myriad of medical fields, including neuroscience. “The field of medicine is constantly evolving. I’m still in the early years of this beautiful journey and open to change my speciality depending on the demand and evolution in the field.”
His advice to aspiring medical students is unambiguous. "If you're impatient like me, you'll have to cope with the delay in starting university, waiting until September while your friends start their tertiary education in January. However, the extra time spent is worth it. IFY, in addition to your NSC certificate, opens doors.”