My Oxford Experience

AfOx Reuben College Scholar Bothaina Eltigani from Sudan, shares her experience studying for her MSc International Health and Tropical Medicine with Reuben College.

What activities have you participated in so far, and how was the experience?

I enjoy running, but surely not more than my academic, who encourages me and a few classmates to run at 8 am every Saturday. It is a wholesome experience where we run a 5K through Jericho to pass by the long canal where the view of the beautiful geese and floating boats make you enjoy the run a little more! After that, we go to Gail’s bakery and eat delicious croissants, have a lovely chat, and debrief over a soothing cup of Coffee.

How are you finding your academic work?

Having practised medicine in Sudan for three years, in public and private hospitals, rural and urban, has opened my eyes to many realities. This has enriched my clinical experience and made me comprehend the volume of structural disadvantage deeply rooted in my country’s health system. I decided to apply for International Health and Tropical Medicine, and I could say that was the best decision I made. This course is undoubtedly intense and fast-paced but incredibly nurturing and rewarding.

The first term (Michaelmas) is entirely theory work where we mostly attend lectures on paradigms and tools of global health, international development and epidemiology and statistics. By the end of each week, we present problem-based learning presentations in groups that consolidate what we learned.

In the second term (Hillary), we get to apply theory into practice by starting with a debate at the Oxford Union, preparing policy briefs discussing critical global health issues to be presented at the House of Parliament, and much more group work on exciting projects spanning from health management to monitoring and evaluation.

In the third term (Trinity), we sit for final exams, which precede the golden opportunity of travelling to different parts of the world to complete our master’s dissertation for two months. After that, we return to Oxford to write up a 10,000-word dissertation to be submitted by the end of the Trinity term.

What has been your highlight so far?

Travelling to Cape Town has been one of the most significant highlights of this term year. The city has a lot to offer, from the mesmerising nature to the white sandy beaches. I remember spotting Table Mountain, which overlooks the whole city and I felt like this could be the most beautiful city in the world. However, one cannot unsee the steep line of gradient inequality, segregating people by colour, status, and assets. The disadvantaged communities suffer from high rates of crime and violence. Fortunately, I have been granted the opportunity to conduct my dissertation researching violence against adolescent girls and their risk for HIV. With the help of a friend working in the humanitarian sector, I was able to meet with 40 adolescent refugee girls and was honoured to give a talk about reproductive health. It was a valuable experience, as engaging with the girls and chatting to them made me love what I came to do even more.

What challenges have you faced so far?

I believe the most significant challenge which is shared by most students here in Oxford is the perpetual crisis of “Imposter syndrome”. As soon as Michaelmas term starts, and the work stress starts to build up, an internal voice starts speaking to you, implying ideas of self-doubt and incompetence. However, the good news is that you will get the chance to talk this out with your housemate when you are cooking dinner, with your tutor after a class lecture, or even with your friends and family back home. Oxford might be a place of high expectations that might push you to think negatively, but it is also a place with many wonderful and supportive people. Being an AfOx scholar, I can say that I was fortunate to have people like Kevin, Anne Makenna, and David, who were always there for me and provided me with overwhelming support that pushed me through the hard times. They made me see potential in myself that I never knew existed. The AfOx family has made this roller coaster smooth and enjoyable.