Studying Dentistry in Valencia
My experience studying abroad has been an extremely positive one. The length of time that I have spent living here, has enabled me to slowly become more immersed with the culture of Valencia each year. That is not to say, that you cannot have the same experience if you are just studying here for a term or a year. Valencia is small enough that you can learn your whereabouts pretty quickly while still having a city – feel. There are obvious downfalls to studying in a foreign country, such as being far away from family and friends, along with having to get used to a completely new culture. However, (prior to Covid) the short flights meant that it was always easy to go home and I often had lots of friends, who would beg to come for a weekend during their time studying in the UK. The excellent weather cannot be overstated, it is lovely to be in a place that’s default weather is bright blue skies and sunshine. It hardly rains and you can wear summer clothes right through until October and then again in March.
Dentistry is a very practical degree so COVID did disrupt the course a lot. The university has been quick to adapt to the new circumstances. By making a lot more classes online and making the clinics a safer environment. Spanish culture, I didn’t find too shocking or different from the UK, the only difference that requires some getting used to is that everything is a little slower and disorganised. In conclusion though I would definitely recommend anyone wanting to study dentistry to consider coming to UCV.
I never contemplated studying abroad until my last year of School, when a company called Astarfuture came to my school and explained how European universities are more likely to have lower grade entry boundaries than those in the UK. It was through this talk that I found out about studying dentistry at Universidad Catolica de Valencia. One of the three universities in Valencia that offer an English speaking dentistry course. I have always wanted to study dentistry but knew that I did not have the required grades due to the very competitive entry grades needed to go in the UK. UCV was providing an international course in Valencia that would be taught in English and would enable me to study dentistry with lower grade requirements. When I started, in 2017, it was the second year that they had completed the programme.
The university provides the course through another company called GDC education that is in charge of the international dentistry course given at UCV. I contacted Astarfuture during my A-level summer and then informed them as soon as I had received my A-Levels grades, as places are given on a first come, first served basis. I was always going to take a year off between school and University, so I was applying a year before I was intending to go to the University. I do know that you can apply for UCV independently without going through a company, such as Astarfuture. I went out to visit Valencia that September and met with the head of GDC education, who is in charge of the international dentistry course, for a meeting. I showed them my A-level and GCSE certificates and was secured a place by the following January. My personal experience was that the university informally offered me a place on the dentistry course in September for the following year. However, it wasn’t until that coming January that I was officially guaranteed a place on the course. In stark contrast to the application process in the UK, I did not have to go through a gruelling interview process nor did I have to write a personal statement.
Once I arrived in Valencia, I met my year group of 30 people, who were all studying at UCV and taking the english speaking dentistry course. This is clearly a lot smaller than if you were studying at most universities in the UK and enabled me to get friendly with my year a lot quicker. It has a lot more of a school feel to it because you are strongly connected to the other years (probably because of the size of individual year groups) and I found that you develop personal relationships with the lecturers. The layout of the university is very hands-on, with a lot of in person lecturing, at least prior to Covid. The year is divided into two semesters with five modules per semester and exams at the end of each. A large majority of the exams are completed as multiple choice questionnaires, with a practical part to pass as well. One of the best things about studying at UCV is that if you fail an exam, you get an opportunity to sit it again and even if you fail that exam, you are given the option to take the module again the next year with a fee. Attendance for the lectures is important as it is counted towards your end of module mark, in which you need to achieve a five or above out of ten in order to pass and receive the credits. As you go up the years, attendance becomes increasingly more important, and now in fourth year you have to turn up for all the laboratory’s sessions and clinics if you wish to take the exam at the end of the semester. I personally have found the teaching very good at UCV, however sometimes it is a little tricky to understand the Spanish accent and some professors do not have the best english. Also in Spain, everything is done slower and with less organisation than in the UK. They are not as coordinated in terms of communication between the students and the staff. However, you do feel that the smaller year groups means that your voice has more of an impact and change is quickly implemented once it has been heard.
I personally have found it quite hard to get to know the Spanish students at the university and make Spanish friends, and I think the main reason for this is due to my inability to speak a word of Spanish before my arrival in Spain. Speaking Spanish is not necessary until the third year at UCV, and then only at a conversational level with the patients. When I arrived I was getting used to a foreign city, making friends and studying a lot, which all culminated in me not giving enough time to learning the language. I had naively assumed that just living in Spain would ensure that I became instantly fluent without any formal lessons, which definitely was not the case!
My advice to other students would be to really try and learn the language during the first couple of years, as your free time gets less as progress through the course. Furthermore it will give you one less thing to worry about when you get to clinics! I would also recommend that even if it isn’t your first choice to study abroad, and you originally had a place to study dentistry in the UK, that you go in with a positive mindset. To be given an opportunity to live in a foreign country for five years is an amazing thing. I would not have chosen to study in the UK even if I had that option, it has definitely exceeded my expectations greatly.
I would watch out for getting too distracted with socialising and not giving enough time to studying especially near the exams. Start early with the revision and stay on top of it, having to do retakes takes away time in your summer holiday. I think you should mention the fact that the instruments are expensive, your fees are more than the UK because it’s a private uni and the applying for a loan is definitely more complicated!! Hard to get work because of visa restrictions… Furthermore having to carry on modules into the next year is not ideal and will increasingly make the next semester more stressful and rack up your overall uni fees. I also think it is important to point out that studying at UCV is not a cheap option, it’s a private university so the fees are higher then if you studied dentistry in the UK. There is also the added cost of all the equipment and instruments you have to buy in for third, fourth and five year. However accommodation in Spain is cheaper and the city is less expensive to live in than London.