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France for the Pre-Med

By Elizabeth Olson ('10)
French/Pre-Med Major

Elizabeth with two French doctors

Elizabeth with her French family

     I spent 5 weeks in Nice, France this summer on the "France for the Pre-med" trip through Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. I was accompanied by 23 other students from various universities including Johns Hopkins, Yale, Berkeley, Ursinius College, St. Louis University, Tulane, and Washington University. There were also two professors with us. One was a professor at Washington University, and the other was the coordinator of the trip from Nice, France.
     I stayed with a host family in the suburbs of Nice which provided all of my meals. They were all delicious and gave me a taste of Nice and French food. I also had a daily opportunity to be in a hospital observing French physicians. At the Hospital Lenval, I was in four different stations including neonatal, smaller children (1 month – 3 years), older children (3 years – 18 years), and pediatric emergency. I learned and observed first hand the differences between American and French medicine. I also took two different classes entitled "Civilization" and "Maladie et Société." "Civilization" included learning about French civilization and the French way of life. "Maladie et Société " included learning about the history of medicine and how it has affected society. This class also included different doctors who would come in as guest speakers and discuss different topics with us. These classes and lectures were all in French, helping me to improve my French comprehension.
     A typical day for me was going to the hospital from 9-11:30, going to the beach from 11:30-2:00 to eat the lunch that my French mom would pack me, attending class from 2-4, then time in the evening to do homework, eat dinner and spend time with my host family, and explore Nice. Nice is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean with many things to see and do. On the weekends we had time to travel to surrounding places. My travels included Cannes; Monaco; Florence, Italy; and the French Alps with my host family in their vacation home. This program was truly an amazing experience filled with meeting new people, complete immersion in the French culture, getting first hand experience of the French medical system, and classes that expanded my knowledge.
     Since it is so hard to study abroad for a semester when one is a Pre-med student, this is a great opportunity not only to travel abroad, but also to get experience culturally different ways of doing medicine. This trip can also work for those interested in becoming a physician's assistant. This is what I hope to do, and I am assured that this experience will definitely help me in applying for graduate schools. I hope you all consider going on this trip.