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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Apeksha's Final Thoughts on Her European Experience

It doesn't seem like it was too long ago that I flew into Europe to start my study abroad experience, but now it's almost time to leave. On a whole, these six weeks have been absolutely amazing since I've been able to study a subject of great interest to me and have traveled to places like Paris, Ireland, Venice, Cambridge, London, Longleat, Stonehenge, and more.

Medical Ethics
I didn't really know what to expect when I came to the UK to study medical ethics as a one-on-one course with an Oxford professor. I had already been in contact with my professor, Dr. Paula Boddington (5th picture), before leaving UTD and was definitely a bit nervous since I was coming from more of a research related background than an ethics related one. However, that's exactly why I chose to study this. It was to become more aware of issues that I don't necessarily come across in my science heavy curriculum. A look into the topic of consent to treatment allowed me to examine patient autonomy and circumstances in which patients may not be competent enough to consent to treatment themselves. Although consent in research (my next topic), was in some ways similar to consent to treatment, it also involved another dimension which went beyond the scope of just participant autonomy since different forms of research involve their own unique set of ethical concerns. In genomics research, for example, advancement of technology makes it harder to determine whether principles such as broad consent are more acceptable since the original terms under which consent was obtained may not apply to other possible future uses of the data. The third topic, which was probably my favorite subject this summer, was decision making in medical ethics since I looked into the importance of ethical reasoning and use of emotions in moral arguments in medicine. There was a great emphasis on aligning one's moral responses with his/her moral principles and beliefs. The final topic I chose to write about was resource allocation in healthcare which allowed me to look into an array of interesting questions when deciding how to fairly distribute scarce medical resources in a society. For example, to what extent should individuals be held responsible for the conditions they're suffering from such as lung cancer due to smoking or liver failure due to alcoholism? Should this affect resource allocation? Overall, this course really gave me the chance to look into a variety of issues concerning four main values in medical ethics including autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice.

Apart from the course, the best thing about studying abroad was being able to travel to places within and outside of the UK with friends. I traveled to Cambridge and London with other students in the program (the program organized these two trips for us). Maybe it's just because I've been studying at Oxford, but I must say that I liked Oxford more than I liked Cambridge (although Cambridge was just gorgeous). Along with these trips, a group of the girls and I made plans to travel to Paris from June 3rd to June 5th. The weather was great and it was a good bit warmer in Paris than in Oxford which was definitely a nice change. We visited the Eiffel Tower (went to the top), Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and the Louvre. Since we really spent only one whole day in Paris (June 4th) and walked around a great deal, we were pretty exhausted by the end of the day. After dinner, some of us decided to take a walk so we could see the Eiffel Tower at night from afar but we ended up walking straight up to it (grabbing delicious macaroons on the way of course). The tower would sparkle every hour (I think) so we were able to see it sparkle at midnight and then at 1...beautiful would be the right word to describe it. On our way there, it started raining pretty heavily so we were soaked by the time we got back but since it was warm, it was actually a nice walk in the rain. Completely exhausted but content with our day in Paris, we fell asleep as soon as we got back to the Westin in Paris. After coming back and submitting my third paper on decision making in medicine, my next trip was to Ireland from June 11th to June 14th. Once again, this trip was similar to the trip to Paris, in that a bunch of the girls and I planned it just a few days before leaving. We stayed near Dublin and were able to check out the coast, the city itself, Glendalough (a glacial valley in Wicklow), and Dollymount Beach. Although Dublin itself was nice, my favorite part of the trip to Ireland was taking a four hour hike around Glendalough since the scenery was breathtaking. Also, our trip to the valley itself was amazing since while on the train, we could see a beautiful view of the water on one side and a great view of Ireland's massive green hills on the other side. Definitely a much more relaxing trip than the one to Paris (since we were there longer), Ireland was a different experience for me and I'm glad to have visited. Unfortunately, we weren't able to travel to the Cliffs of Moher but I guess that'll have to be for another time. After gettting back from Ireland, I worked on and submitted my final paper about resource allocation in medicine and enjoyed my time at Oxford with the other girls since they were unfortunately going back to the U.S. in the next few days. Meanwhile though, I was getting ready for my next trip (which unlike the rest of my trips, was actually planned before I came to study abroad) to Venice from June 22nd to June 26th. I was especially excited about this trip because not only would it be my first time in Venice but I would also see a bunch of familiar faces. Over the course of my stay in Venice I was able to see Anna, Sachin, Josh, Grace, Kayla, Lauren W., Matt, John, Ben, Greg, and Monica (since they were all studying abroad in a castle in Italy and took a trip to Venice from the 22nd to the 26th as well). Like in the case of Paris, it was much warmer in Venice than it was in Oxford so I was fairly pleased with the weather. On our first actual day there, we visited the Rialto Bridge, the Basilica, and the Doge's Palace (the prisons were actually pretty cool) at San Marco and then Anna and I visited La Fenice (the opera house) where we were able to see a choir rehearsal. We ended the day with a really nice Vivaldi concert (Four Seasons) and headed back to our hotel. The next day, we went to the islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello (definitely my favorite), San Michele, and Lido (where we watched a beautiful sunset). The last day was also fairly relaxed since we checked out the Biennale, a contemporary art exhibit in Venice that occurs every two years, and then chilled for much of the rest of the day (of course, we went back to Lido to watch the sunset again since it was so beautiful the first time around). It was a great trip to Venice and I'll definitely miss the time that I spent taking rides on the Vaporreto, navigating through the city and it's narrow alleyways, and just having a good time relaxing with people I already knew from UTD. When I came back to Oxford, I spent the rest of the week checking out various museums on campus (including the Ashmolean, Natural History Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Museum of the History of Science), visiting the botanical gardens, and going punting with my friends (which was a pretty awesome experience).

When I look back at my study abroad experience, I just keep wondering how I was able to take a medical ethics course at Oxford and travel so much in a span of just six weeks. It has been an intense six weeks mainly because there was always something to do but I absolutely loved it! I was asked whether I've been through any change of persepective after studying abroad and quite honestly, I don't think I'll completely know until I'm back in the states. In some ways, I've been able to take a step back, take a look at the big picture, and be a lot more calm and relaxed about things than I usually am which is nice. Although I wanted to be able to meet up with familiar faces while abroad (and I'm glad that I did in Venice), I knew that I wanted my study abroad experience to be fairly independent on the whole and it worked out nicely for me. I was lucky enough to make friends with a group of girls I was comfortable enough with to make trips to Paris and Ireland. It's been a great study abroad experience for me and I hope that all the other scholars are having a great time abroad as well. The amount of time that I've spent at Europe seems just right -- I'm very satisfied with what I've learned and seen here, but I'm equally ready to go back home and start shadowing a doctor in pediatric emergency. Then I shall see everyone when I'm back in Texas!