For me there was never a second option career choice. I have known that I wanted to be a Dentist from a relatively young age, inspired by work experience. Therefore on A level results day when I hadn’t quite achieved the required grade in Chemistry, I felt like my future had been taken away from me.
However, whilst researching my options, I discovered a Dentistry course offered at Universidad Cardenal Herrera CEU in Valencia, Spain. As I was taking a gap year at the time to consider my future plans, I visited the university on an open day and instantly knew it was the place I was meant to study. The flight to Valencia is a short 2 hours and 15 minutes from the UK, making it very accessible, and quick and easy to pop home if the need arises!
The university is similar to a campus based setup, with the majority of faculties located on one site, around 15 minutes outside the centre of Valencia. There is a metro service, with a stop directly outside the campus, making travel to and from university incredibly easy and cheap – one journey costs just over 1 euro! The Dentistry building has top quality dental equipment in both the preclinical laboratories (phantom head labs) and the clinics, and the building itself is currently undergoing a large expansion, with brand new clinics opening up in 2016.
The course is taught entirely in English, with the exception of the clinical practicals as the majority of patients speak only in Spanish. Clinical practicals with patients don’t start until the 3rd year of the course though, which gives you plenty of time to pick up Spanish before then, and the university offers free Spanish classes and subscription to Rosetta Stone, in order to aid with the quick learning of the language. For me personally, there has not been any issues with the language barrier, and I am now bilingual, an invaluable skill which I would not have acquired studying Dentistry in the UK.
The degree itself is a tough degree, and you are pushed to achieve to the best of your abilities. This being said, Dentistry is not an easy degree anywhere you study it, and the professors at CEU will always go out of their way to aid you in your learning and ensure your complete development as a dental professional.
For the final semester of my final year, I will be taking part in an exchange programme, which is giving me the opportunity to go and study at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. The Karolinska Institutet has been ranked the top university in the world to study Dentistry by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015. If I had not been studying in Valencia, I probably would not have had the chance to attend such a prestigious university and develop my professional skills in such a highly accredited academic institution.
One of the main things that differs from UK universities is the accommodation. There are no halls of residence at the university, meaning that all accommodation is private apartments which you have to source yourself. At first this can be quite a daunting prospect, especially if your knowledge of Spanish is limited, however there are so many flats to choose from and so many current students who are willing to lend a hand, that the process is actually relatively painless.
Another difference is that the university itself does not have a students’ union. When I first arrived I thought that this would be a problem, as a lot of the social side of university that I’d seen in the UK was based around the students’ union. However, as there is a large group of international students in Valencia, it has been quite the opposite and we have relished being able to organise our own events, such as an annual Dental Ball, Christmas parties, free bar social events, Halloween boat parties and much more!
I am lucky to have the financial support from my family to make my education possible, as there is currently no student loan available and the course is privately funded. The course fees are in Euros and therefore subject to the prevailing exchange rate, which is currently working in our favour, but this may not always be the case!
I have never once regretted my decision to study abroad, I genuinely feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to experience something which not everyone gets the chance to do. Not only has studying abroad enabled me to do the degree I have always dreamed of doing, the development I have experienced on a personal level is immeasurable. Moving away from home to study abroad at the age of 19 has eliminated any reticence I had previously, and in the future I will not hesitate to grab any opportunity that is offered to me, no matter how daunting it may appear.
Valencia is an incredible and diverse city that will always feel like home, and when I graduate in the summer, I will not only come away with a top quality Degree in Dentistry, I will also take with me lifelong friends and cultural experiences that would not have been possible studying anywhere else. If anyone is considering going abroad to study Dentistry, I cannot encourage you enough to seize the opportunity, it will be an amazing experience that you will not regret!
Charlotte Allen, Dentistry Student
Universidad Cardenal Herrera CEU, Valencia