For a South African student, studying in Cuba can be an incredible experience. Cuba pursues medical internationalism, with a high proportion of its doctors now practicing overseas, but there are plenty of reasons why overseas medical students might wish to come and study in this beautiful Caribbean country.
Enrolling in a Cuban medical school makes sense from a societal point of view as well, as the medical needs of Cuba and South Africa are very much aligned. Cuban medical education is heavily weighted on primary care; this approach matches very well with the practical requirements of South Africa’s Universal Health Coverage system, thus meaning that students could return to South Africa very well placed to begin a successful career in medicine. Furthermore, Cuba invests heavily in healthcare which is evidenced through high life expectancy and other well-performing healthcare metrics.
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Cuba’s investment in health care means that it offers a very high standard of medical education, and students in this field are highly regarded by the country. As such, South Africans wanting to go there to learn will not be disappointed. Another focus of Cuba’s healthcare system is the research and prevention of infectious diseases such as HIV or Malaria. South African students who pick up specialist knowledge in these areas will have additional and much sought-after employment prospects once they return home.
Cuba is also hard to beat from an experiential point of view. It is a fascinating country with a rich, long-standing culture; it’s reputation as being somewhat isolated from many other countries and regions means that it is a fun and different place to explore, guaranteeing that you will return to South Africa with many exciting stories and next-level cultural intelligence.
How to get started?
How to get started with finding a medical school in Cuba.
There are two leading medical schools in Cuba, the Universidad de la Havana, and the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Courses and scholarships are most often affiliated with these institutions, which are recognised to provide world-class medical education.
The best way for South African students to study in Cuba is through medical scholarships. One such scholarship is the Medicine Bursary / Scholarship Programme in Cuba, which is specific to the North West Province. If you are selected, after studying in Cuba, you will have to return to the North West province to practice. The Gauteng Department of Health Medicine Scholarship in Cuba is another province-specific scholarship. A full list of scholarships is available here. Most scholarships are pitched at bachelor’s or undergraduate level, but you can also undertake select scholarships in Cuba at masters or PhD level.
Prospective medical students in South Africa must meet certain eligibility requirements to be considered to earn a scholarship and attend Cuba’s medicals schools. In general, these include full completion of high school (and you being in a position to present your certificates, diplomas and transcripts) and a score of at least 4 in Biology or Life Sciences, English, Mathematics, and Physical Science. Entry requirements are specific to each scholarship or point of entry, so it is best to research what is needed carefully before applying.
What to expect.
Cuba has an international reputation shaped considerably by biased or skewed perceptions from outside sources, and therefore simple online research about what it is like to live and study in the country may not be entirely accurate. The best approach is for a medical student going to Cuba is to prepare yourself for culture shock, and immerse yourself in all that the country has to offer. English is not widely spoken in Cuba, and many classes will be taught in Spanish. The heat and humidity in Cuba also take some getting used to. Some of the concepts will need reference to Life Sciences Grade 12 Study Guide.
Scholarships in medical studies offer South Africans the best and easiest way to experience Cuba; this also means that most expenses would be covered, up to a certain amount. South African medical students who wish to experience Cuba must ensure they are plotting out their career from an early age, ensuring they are studying hard and attaining good grades. This will give your chances of earning a coveted scholarship place a handy boost.
Once in Cuba, medical students will find that it is a great place to study. The country offers students from South Africa immersion in a new, very different culture from home, and highly values healthcare professionals, offering students world-class medical colleges and facilities which are priced affordably. Just remember to be take some sunscreen with you!