Are Your Parents not So Keen About Where You Plan to Study Medicine Abroad?

Updated on 07/07/2024 in

It’s finally happening! You’ve made your choice: you’re going to study medicine abroad! Maybe you’ve even picked exactly which university you want to go to to make your medical dreams come true.

There’s just one little problem: your parents don’t love your choice. It’s not the specific university they’re unhappy with. It’s more like they aren’t too keen on any university outside of your home country. They’re determined to veto any choice you make to study medicine in Europe, from Italy to Bulgaria. 

Obviously, you know as well as we do that there are many advantages to studying in Europe… But how do you convince mum and dad of that?

Don’t worry; we’re here to help you with a battle plan. Keep in mind this really is just a plan. We don’t know your parents, so we can’t tell you the exact words you need to tell them to win their golden approval. However, we can give you a few tips to point you in the right direction!

Acknowledge their concerns meaningfully

Leaving your home country to study medicine in another country is a huge, life-changing choice. Medicine is already one of the toughest subjects to study in a university, and it will require a lot of focus and hard work…

So, on top of that, you’ll need to juggle living on your own for the first time in a brand new country whose language you may not even speak, and you need to keep this up for six years before you can even think about permanently coming home. The thought of their child going through all that could terrify any parent!

You probably know by now that while studying abroad can be a bit tough, you’re a lot tougher and can take it! However, you should also acknowledge that, for your parents, it’s very difficult to imagine their child going through something like that so far from home.

They do not doubt your abilities or claim you’re simply not good enough to study abroad. They’re scared and concerned for your safety, and, in no small part, they also don’t like the idea of having to let you go.

Don’t dismiss their concerns and fears. Acknowledge them. Don’t tell them, “Well, you’re wrong that it’ll be tough without speaking the language; I’ll be totally fine”, and instead try something along the lines of:

“Yes, not speaking the language will be an issue. But the university is taught entirely in English, and there will be a lot of native students there who speak English and will help me out. Plus, the university offers courses in the language, so before long, I’ll speak it very well”.

💡 Take our word for it: acknowledging their concerns and offering a solution instead of dismissing them as nonsense will work much better for you.

Do your research and present the facts

Don’t we all have our “dream business” in mind? Whether it’s a quiet teahouse with good books and comfy chairs, an award-winning videogame development company, a social media channel with millions of followers, or a free medical clinic that helps anyone, each one of us has fantasised about what we would do if we had the funds and opportunity.

Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that you need to “sell” your dream business to an investor who can give you the funds to make it a reality. What would you tell them? You’d probably present them with a detailed plan of how your business will work, research that shows how profitable similar businesses are, some ideas for developments in the near and far future… Any details you can suggest to convince your angel investor that this is a good idea?

💡 Well, think of “selling” your parents the idea of studying abroad as exactly the same as “selling” your business idea to an investor. Just as you wouldn’t tell your investor, “Trust me, bro, it’ll be lit”, and expect them to fund you, you can’t just tell your parents that it’ll be fine and expect them to be on board with you studying medicine in Europe.

You need to do your research and present them with a “business plan” first. Sure, how accredited the university is will be important to mention, but mostly, you should focus on how you’ll be “running” the business, so to speak. What are the tuition fees? Where will you live? How much will the rent be? What support will you have while living there? Do you plan on getting a job abroad, and if so, when? 

Chances are, your parents will ask some, but not all, of these questions. Even so, do your research and present the facts anyway. Make a PowerPoint presentation if you must! Try to be thorough without overwhelming them with an info dump.

Your goal is to convince them that this isn’t some whim that won’t go anywhere, but you’ve actually put a lot of thought into it and are convinced it’s what you want. They need to see the raw information and your passion and conviction for studying in Europe.

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Prove yourself while still at home

One of the biggest fears of any parent who is about to let their child study abroad is that their little boy or girl isn’t ready to live far from home. Can they take care of the household? What if they get sick? How can Mum and Dad help when they’re an ocean away, metaphorically and sometimes literally?

Needless to say, this is really terrifying for most parents. Imagine if you had to be far away from your pet or a very close friend. Wouldn’t you also be really concerned about them? Now, take that feeling and make it ten times more intense. This is how your parents feel about letting you go. Stings, doesn’t it?

💡 While we don’t believe it’s impossible to fully rid your parents of this feeling, there are ways to somewhat soften it. And one of the best is to prove to them you’re self-sufficient while you’re still at home. We’re sure you’re already helping with the housework, but maybe step it up and take over a bigger share of the work?

After all, when living in an apartment on your own, or even just in a dorm room, you’ll be doing much more than vacuuming and washing dishes. So maybe show them that you’re up for doing anything that might need doing around the house and that you’ll be fine maintaining your space even on your own.

Consider taking on a summer job between high school/college and university if possible. We know - this is your last moment of total freedom from responsibility, possibly forever. The last thing you want to do is work! But think of it as an investment in your future. Having a job and taking it seriously will go a long way toward convincing your parents that you’re ready to study abroad. 

Promise to keep in touch

We totally get it; parents can be so overbearing! They need you to text them 30 times whenever you’re going out, call at the worst possible times to say nothing in particular, and are no strangers to giving you way too much physical affection!

It’s a cliche to say it, but it’s true - even though mum and dad can sometimes be a bit much, they only do this because they love you and want to look out for you. They’re not even necessarily concerned about something in particular; they just want to make sure that you’re safe and happy and haven’t made any bad decisions. To you, it may seem silly, but to them, it’s everything.

💡 So… Meet them halfway. Promise to FaceTime them daily, at an hour that’s good for both of you (time zones can be rough when moving a continent away). Keep them involved, even if you might feel that it’s too much. Promise to come to visit whenever you can (for example, during vacations) if it’s at all possible.

Overall, try to keep them involved in the process as much as possible. You’d be surprised by just how open your parents would be to you leaving to study medicine in Europe if they feel like they can still be part of your life.

International medical student's parents

Common questions your parents might ask

Even with all the research in the world, your parents will probably still have many questions for you. That’s pretty normal, overall - they want to know everything about where you’ll be studying, after all! Not to mention, engaging with you is their way of being involved with your future. Don’t shut them down; be prepared to answer whatever they ask you. 

💡 To help you out, here are some of the most common questions we’ve heard from the parents of students and how we’d answer them.

Why study medicine abroad in Europe and not here at home?

There are many reasons, but availability is one of the biggest ones, which ends up convincing most people. For obvious reasons, there are many more seats for medical students available in universities throughout Europe than in just one country.

This is especially true for the UK, where 20,000 medical students compete for a mere 9,000 places. You could ace your exams and still end up without an offer from any medical university just because thousands of other students had slightly better grades than you on their A-levels. It’s ridiculous, and the competition will only grow more fierce with each passing year. 

💡 Meanwhile, you can always find a European university that suits your needs and which would be happy to have you. If all seats in Bulgarian universities are taken, Serbia will happily accept you. If Hungary, for some reason, can’t give you an offer, that’s okay, Georgia will.

Medical education worldwide is universal; everyone studies the same things and passes the same exams (e.g., the UKMLA for those practising in the UK), and all degrees are recognised by WHO, GMC, and many other similar organisations. 

If studying medicine back home isn’t an option, studying it in Europe is significantly better than skipping a year or applying for a different course.

Isn’t studying in Europe crazy expensive?

You’d be surprised! Certain expenses would be minimised or omitted if you were to study at home, especially if you continue to live at your parents’ place. For example, accommodation would be a non-issue, as there wouldn’t be any need to pay rent. Travel expenses, too, would be minimised - no plane tickets to worry about or moving companies to move your stuff across borders. 

💡 However, even when we consider these factors, studying medicine in Europe is more affordable than studying it in a country such as the UK or the US. Of course, tuition fees are one of the biggest money sinks when it comes to education.

Millennials in the United States are currently going through a financial crisis due to crippling student loans, and in the UK, tuition fees range between £20,000 and £40,000 per year. However, tuition fees in Europe are significantly lower than that.

If you decide to study medicine at Bulgaria’s Sofia University, your annual fee will be less than £7,000 per year. Medical universities in Georgia are even more affordable, with its European University in Tbilisi charging approximately £4,500 per year. 

And yes, while you would be paying for dorms or an apartment, it’s also worth noting that the standards of living are significantly lower in many European countries, which means that you’d be spending a lot less on utilities and groceries than you would in, say, the UK.

Living expenses in Romania are about £600 a month. In Poland, they average £500 a month. And yes, dorm rent is included in those estimates, saving you money on transport because your university is always within walking distance. 

Isn’t Europe really dangerous?

On the news, we often hear about horrible things happening in Eastern Europe, especially now with the tragic situation unfolding in Ukraine. This has naturally instilled many fears into people, some of which are founded, others not so much. So, what do the facts say about safety in Europe?

Many statistics are known as “peace indexes”, which account for several variables (crime rates per capita, political situation, terrorist activity, civil division, etc.). These variables are then used to give every country a “peace score, " indicating its safety.

💡 Our favourite is the Global Peace Index, compiled and maintained by the non-profit org Visions of Humanity, but you can look up an alternative if you’d like. According to our research, many of the data and findings are similar.

According to the Global Peace Index, the Czech Republic is the 8th safest country on Earth. Hungary is 13th, Croatia is 15th, and Slovakia is 18th. Moving further East, Bulgaria is 24th, and Romania is 31st. So, where does the UK rank? Probably third or fourth? Try 34th!

Indeed, most European countries are considered safer for international students than the UK. So, studying medicine in Europe is no more dangerous than studying it on the island.

Still can’t convince them? Leave it to us!

Our experts may be known as student advisors, but they advise their parents just as much (‘parent advisor’ just didn’t look as cool on our calling cards). We’ve held countless conversations with concerned parents over the years, and we know what to say to assure them and put their fears to rest! 

So, if your parents still aren’t on board with your trip to Europe, or if you are a parent who doesn’t know how to feel, you can always book a FREE consultation with us. We’re always happy to assist with our expert advice and years of experience.

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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